Busting the Anti-Solar Myths

April 26, 2022

Getting busy around here – again.
I’m spending a lot of time traveling to sites of potential solar projects, to bust the Facebook-fomented myths about solar energy.
The same folks that told you wind turbines cause cancer, are telling folks on social media that solar farms will create all manner of mischief. I’m getting strong feedback from the landowners, mostly farmers, who really want to see solar deployed, and not just because it helps them diversify income. More and more are telling me they understand their obligation to their children, and future generations.

Above, the myth that solar farms are somehow “toxic” or contaminate soil. I asked a panel of experts, including Annick Anctil of Michigan State U, one of the foremost experts in the country on that topic, and Josh Pearce of Michigan Tech.

Below, Patricia McGarr is Chair of the Illinois State Board of Real Estate Appraisal, and the National Director of Valuation at Cohn-Resnick, a top ten accounting firm. She’s worked with an 8 person team evaluating 26 solar sites in 15 states for possible impacts on property values. Her finding? No impact.

These videos and much, much more are available at my Sun101 website, and they are meant to be shared – so don’t be shy. This conversation is taking place on social media, and we won’t win unless those with access to good information are willing to push back on the crazy.

Below, an Iowa TV team looks at the misinformation they are seeing from anti-solar operatives. The formula is: Fossil funded think tank spreads nonsense on Facebook, local groups pick up and amplify in local echo chambers, fearful misinformed locals show up to angrily intimidate local boards into passing restrictive ordinances. Rinse, repeat.

11 Responses to “Busting the Anti-Solar Myths”

  1. John Oneill Says:

    ‘In fact, China dominates all sectors of the world’s PV solar panel production. Globally, China accounts for 97 per cent share of silicon wafers production, 79 per cent share of PV cells and 67 per cent share of polysilicon, as stated in a 2019 report released by Bloomberg NEF.’ Any toxic chemicals released will be in China, not Iowa. So that’s OK.

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      After externalizing the cost for oil exploration and development for a century I think it’s time that solar gets a shot!


  2. The issue is not that solar farms are contaminated, but that at the end of their useful life solar panels have to go some where. A significant amount of solar panels creates a significant amount of waste which does contain heavy metals. Over the long term they do leach out. This is the issue that needs to be addressed. It also needs to be addressed for other electronic waste. Right now lots of electronic waste is clearly going into landfills. I would argue that a lot of the resources spent on recycling or just separating plastic and glass could be better spent on separating electronic waste and batteries.

    • Gingerbaker Says:

      “A significant amount of solar panels creates a significant amount of waste which does contain heavy metals.”

      I notice you did not say they contain significant amounts of heavy metals. Because they don’t.

      • John Oneill Says:

        About five percent of the world’s PV panels, but about half of the thin-film ones, use cadmium telluride – cadmium is extremely toxic. CdTe panels are also supposedly cheaper than standard silicon. Perovskites have recieved a lot of attention as potentially a very efficient, and even cheaper to produce, solar chemistry, but their durability is suspect, and they definitely contain lots of heavy metal – lead. The world hasn’t yet recovered from the environmental disaster of tetra-ethyl lead anti-knock additives in petrol. Spreading it over large areas of the countryside for a part-time power source would be a similar folly.

        • greenman3610 Says:

          Here’s where a little education can go a long way. On my sun101.org resource page you can find a link to a useful document from North Carolina State University – Health and Safety Impacts of Solar Photovoltaics
          https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/health-and-safety-impacts-of-solar-photovoltaics

          “Questions about the potential health and environmental impacts from the use of this PV technology are related to the concern that these panels contain cadmium, a toxic heavy metal. However, scientific studies have shown that cadmium telluride differs from cadmium due to its high chemical and thermal stability. Research has shown that the tiny amount of cadmium in these panels does not pose a health or safety risk. Further, there are very compelling reasons to welcome its adoption due to reductions in unhealthy pollution associat- ed with burning coal. Every GWh of electricity generated by burning coal produces about 4 grams of cadmium air emissions.”

          • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

            I remember one geology class exercise involved looking at the levels of toxic metals extending out in different directions from an old coal smokestack. By noting how much Pb, As, etc. was in the soil in different directions you could recreate the dominant wind directions over the life of the plant.

    • greenman3610 Says:

      again, see
      https://content.ces.ncsu.edu/health-and-safety-impacts-of-solar-photovoltaics

      “Like many sil- icon-based panels, CdTe panels are reported (as far back ask 199831 to pass the EPA’s Toxic Char- acteristic Leaching Procedure (TCLP) test, which tests the potential for crushed panels in a landfill to leach hazardous substances into groundwater.32 Passing this test means that they are classified as non-hazardous waste and can be deposited in landfills.33,34 For more information about PV panel end-of-life, see the Panel Disposal section.”

  3. Gingerbaker Says:

    Just so you all know, SunPower has announced their new line of PV panels now have a 40 year warranty.

    The graph on their webpage shows degradation over time, and by my crude approximation, it indicated that these panels will still be putting out 80% of their rated output at year 100.

    https://sunpower.maxeon.com/int/solar-panel-products/warranty

    • rhymeswithgoalie Says:

      Time will tell, of course, but here’s hoping the engineers didn’t overlook some ancillary weak component in the design. 🙂

  4. redskylite Says:

    A neat solar panel upgrade available shortly ?

    “Solar cell keeps going after sunset”

    https://physicsworld.com/a/solar-cell-keeps-going-after-sunset/


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