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Is solar energy "clean"?

Rafael Herzberg's picture
Consultant energy affairs, Self employed

Rafael Herzberg- is an independent energy consultant, self-employed (since 2018) based in São Paulo, Brazil* Focus on C level, VPs and upper managers associated to energy related info, analysis...

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  • Nov 15, 2022
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Is solar energy "clean"?

Compared to fossil fuels, the answer is yes!

If the reference is wind and hydraulic, the most important ones of Brazil's power matrix, no!

The reasons are:

1) The manufacture of the film that equips the solar panels is quite "dirty".

It generates emissions that, when accounted for over the life cycle of the solar system, puts it behind wind and hydraulics.

2) Energy production only takes place with the sun, of course

At night there is no production and even on very dark days with sun behind the clouds production is much lower. And then, plants (others) need to be dispatched to meet the demand, which is equivalent to an addition of emissions to be accounted for.

3) Energy production is "low"

Even with all the sunny days, 1 kW of installed power generates only about 20% of this power on a monthly average (720 hours). The remaining 80% needs to be met by other plants and their emissions accounted for.

4) Mitigation of the "duck curve"

A phenomenon that solar created, in the late afternoon, when the sun goes down, solar generation drops rapidly, requiring a big jump in demand (before the grid), which results in additional systemic costs, as has already been observed in countries that have massively adopted solar.

In California, for example, the installation of batteries is required to make this transition smoother. This increases investments and emissions (manufacturing of batteries).

Conclusion: a holistic look at energy sources is needed!

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Thank Rafael for the Post!
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