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  • Get unplugged and stay active to save energy and improve health and well-being!
  • Try daylighting your home by turning off the lights and opening the blinds.
  • Try preparing “energy-free” meals and avoid using appliances when not necessary.
  • Utilize power strips and smart power strips to reduce the “vampire energy” phenomenon.
  • Hang dry clothing on a clothesline and wash clothes in cold water to save energy doing laundry.
  • When shopping for new appliances check “Energy Guide” labels and look for “Energy Star” rated products.
  • Save on energy bills by getting rebates back from DTE Energy and Consumers Energy.

 

The Great Solar Debate - Is Solar Panel Production Bad for the Environment?


There is a complaint about solar power that goes something like this, “Generating solar energy might not pollute the environment, but the manufacturing of solar panels does.” Indeed, solar panel production currently requires the use of some hazardous chemicals plus an abundance of energy, the source of which is often fossil fuels, and these both have a negative impact on the environment. However, steps to mitigate solar energy’s impact are going in the right direction.
 

The Great Solar Debate
By Gabriel Toth
 
Is Solar Panel Production Bad for the Environment?
There is a complaint about solar power that goes something like this, “Generating solar energy might not pollute the environment, but the manufacturing of solar panels does.” Indeed, solar panel production currently requires the use of some hazardous chemicals plus an abundance of energy, the source of which is often fossil fuels, and these both have a negative impact on the environment. However, steps to mitigate solar energy’s impact are going in the right direction.
 
The hazardous chemicals used for solar panel production are being mitigated by a financial incentive that encourages manufacturers to safely recycle chemicals, as opposed to throwing them away. So while it would certainly be ideal if the materials used for solar panel manufacturing were not environmentally harmful, it’s possible that in the future it will no longer be a concern.  As for the present, manufacturers can ensure that the chemicals used are handled in a safe, responsible, manner to have the smallest possible impact on the environment.
 
Currently, solar panel production is energized by fossil fuels, which produce greenhouse gas emissions. The potential impact of solar energy (0.08 to 0.2 lbs. of CO2/kWh) on altering the planet’s climate pales in comparison to the impact of natural gas (0.6-2 lbs. of CO2/kWh) and coal (1.4-3.6 lbs. of CO2/kWh).
Solar energy is not perfect, but from an environmental standpoint, it is better than the alternatives by a mile. This is made especially clear when you consider that as solar panel technology advances, ideally they will be able to power their own production, paving the way for a future where solar power has no carbon footprint. The same cannot be said for fossil fuels, whose very existence involves contributing to carbon emissions. While one energy source works to move away from fossil fuels and towards a net-zero environmental impact, the other is inextricably linked.
 
Hopefully you have found this to be another informative edition of The Great Solar Debate and as always, I thank you for reading. In the next debate, I will discuss concerns over land use requirements for solar energy.
 

 

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The Great Solar Debate - Is Solar Too Expensive?


One of the most common arguments against the expansion of solar energy is that solar power is just too expensive. People feel that there is no good reason to financially support solar energy when there are other perfectly good options that supply the same amount of energy for a lot less money. To be fair, these individuals make a good case with evidence to back it up.

The Great Solar Debate
By Gabriel Toth
 
Is Solar Too Expensive?
One of the most common arguments against the expansion of solar energy is that solar power is just too expensive. People feel that there is no good reason to financially support solar energy when there are other perfectly good options that supply the same amount of energy for a lot less money. To be fair, these individuals make a good case with evidence to back it up. The average production cost of fossil fuels per megawatt-hour was roughly $100 last year, compared to $200 for solar. Critics are certainly right to argue that solar is currently more expensive than other options.
 
The price difference between solar and fossil fuels can understandably be seen as a negative. However, when you consider that solar power production costs are down from $500 just five years before, it can be viewed as a positive, especially since prices will only decrease as technology progresses. Meanwhile, fossil fuel costs will theoretically increase at some point as resources become scarcer. In fact, Green Tech Media predicts that by the year 2020, it will be more economical in 42 states to use rooftop solar panels than it will be to use fossil fuels. It is already the case in 20 states.
 
As solar costs decrease, federal government rebates are available to promote solar energy use. Until the end of 2019, there will be a 30% tax credit available for investment in solar property, allowing customers to take advantage of an already decreasing cost for solar installations, with an added bonus. Sure, solar power isn’t exactly where everyone would like it to be in terms of price, but it is important that the transition to solar occurs sooner rather than later. The government understands that, hence the existence of the credit. This incentive represents a confidence at the federal government level in solar energy.
 
Nobody said that the road to a society where renewable energy is king would be an easy one to travel. Nevertheless, it is a path we must follow, with expected drawbacks along the way, one of which is the cost compared to traditional sources. With advancements allowing solar energy to make as much sense economically as fossil fuels, as well as existing tax credits that make solar less financially burdensome, the issue of cost will soon be in the rearview mirror.
 
Thanks for checking out this edition of The Great Solar Debate, and be sure to tune in next time, where we’ll discuss the environmental impact of manufacturing solar panels.
 

 

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The Great Solar Debate - Is Solar Power Unreliable



A common argument against solar power is that it’s only designed for areas where the sun shines often, such as the American Southwest, but it’s unreliable in other places. This is an understandable concern, but one that can be assuaged with a bit of helpful information.

The Great Solar Debate
By Gabriel Toth
 
A common argument against solar power is that it’s only designed for areas where the sun shines often, such as the American Southwest, but it’s unreliable in other places. This is an understandable concern, but one that can be assuaged with a bit of helpful information.
 
Solar panels, though certainly most efficient when receiving direct sunlight, are also able to generate electricity in overcast and precipitous conditions. This is because solar panels harness visible and infrared light, both of which are persistent on sunny and rainy days.
 
Germany is one of the world leaders in solar energy use (with 7.5% of their net electricity consumption supplied by solar power) while experiencing relatively overcast weather. The United Kingdom, not known for sunshine, is also able to generate more solar energy over a six-month period than its coal counterparts. Indeed, solar power is not a luxury to be enjoyed only by those in hot, sunny areas, but a feasible energy option for a variety of climates.
 
A study found that some of the world’s coldest regions are the ones best suited for solar panel use. This is the true because solar panels must be kept cool to work at their most efficient level. Similar to cold weather, precipitation can also benefit solar production because rain may wash away dirt particles that keep the panels from operating efficiently. So this proves that solar panels are able to operate in virtually any type of weather.
 
What about at night? The sun isn’t shining then, so how is solar energy generated?  If a solar energy user has a net metering program in place through the utility provider, then that user can offset costs incurred from using energy at times when the sun isn’t shining, like during the night. If the solar panels generate more electricity than the house uses in total, as is often the case, then the customer receives a credit from the utility provider, allowing solar users to save on their energy bills.
 
Weather actually does not have a tremendous impact on the potential for solar panels to generate electricity. As long as the sun shines occasionally, solar power can be an appropriate energy option.
 
In our next debate, we will address issues involving the cost of solar power.
 

 

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The Great Solar Debate - Introduction


The Great Solar Debate is going to delve deeply into the issues surrounding the feasibility of solar power. It is important to have this conversation, considering the present state of our energy infrastructure. Unfortunately, fossil fuels, our current major energy source, are not going to last forever. Alternative energy sources will need to reach their potential soon to ensure that a sustainable global energy system is in place for future generations.
 

The Great Solar Debate
 
The Great Solar Debate is going to delve deeply into the issues surrounding the feasibility of solar power. It is important to have this conversation, considering the present state of our energy infrastructure. Unfortunately, fossil fuels, our current major energy source, are not going to last forever. Alternative energy sources will need to reach their potential soon to ensure that a sustainable global energy system is in place for future generations.
 
Solar power, one of the top prospects in the world of alternative energy, is thought by experts to be the renewable energy source with the most potential. Nevertheless, people have many questions about solar power, ranging from its cost to its effectiveness. We will respond to these concerns in order to show why solar energy truly is the energy of the future.
 
In our first debate, we will address solar energy’s plausibility in a variety of climates. We hope you find it educational and enjoyable.
 
About the Author
 
Gabriel Toth is currently dual enrolled at Oakland Early College and Oakland Community College, where he will receive his Associate Degree in Science at the end of the winter 2017 semester. Following that, he plans to pursue a degree in engineering, so that he can work on improving solar energy systems. His passion for solar energy is driven by his appreciation for the environment and his desire to ensure that a healthy planet with a renewable energy infrastructure is in place for generations to come.
 

 

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