The net impact of solar panels actually temporarily increased carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions due to how much energy is used in their construction, a new study by Utrecht University concluded.
Researchers looked at 40 years of CO2 emissions from solar panels, including those caused by their production, then subtracted that by the amount of CO2 they prevented from being emitted. They found many older solar panels would take a decade to lead to a net emissions reduction, which can be longer than their lifespan. They also concluded that the current generations of panels will probably only just reduce net emissions over years.
The study concluded that the solar industry has been “a temporary net emitter of greenhouse gas emissions” and more modern solar panels have a smaller adverse environmental impact than older models. Scientists estimated that by 2018 at the latest, the solar industry as a whole will have a net positive environmental impact.
The research was financially supported by the Technology Foundation STW, which is a governmental agency of the European Commission.
“Solar power has a number of inherent issues, namely that it’s unreliable and expensive,” Chris Warren, a spokesperson for the pro-industry Institute for Energy Research, told The Daily Caller News Foundation. ” If your goal is to reduce CO2, then adding more solar power can actually hurt your cause. Not to mention it makes electricity more expensive for consumers.”
America’s CO2 emissions have fallen by more than 12 percent since their high in 2005. U.S. CO2 emissions likely declined by 2.6 percent in 2015 and are expected to fall an additional 1.7 percent this year.
Fracking is the primary reason for the decline in American CO2 emissions, and not solar or wind power, according to reports published by the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). Natural gas emits about half the CO2 of coal power, and is already cheaper than coal in many locations due to fracking. The EIA estimates roughly 68 percent of the falling CO2 emissions are due to power plants switching from coal to natural gas.
Research published by The Manhattan Institute shows solar power is responsible for 1 percent of the decline in American CO2 emissions, while natural gas is responsible for nearly 20 percent. For every ton of CO2 cut by solar power, fracking cuts 13 tons.
Some environmental groups already oppose the solar project due to other environmental impacts. The Center For Biological Diversity (CBD) has pursued legal action to block the creation of solar-farms out of fear that they would encroach on 32 endangered desert tortoises and that sunlight-concentrating panels act like super-heated death-rays for birds, killing tens of thousands of them per year.
Government officials have also blocked solar plants due to local environmental impacts as well. California officials blocked a solar power plant from being built in the Mojave Desert, because they would inconvenience a species of sheep that wasn’t even endangered. The project had previously been approved by federal authorities and would have pumped about $30 million into the local economy.
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