Solar panels don’t come falling out of the sky – they have to be manufactured. As is the case in any production of electronics and computer chips, this is a dirty and energy-intensive process. Raw materials have to be mined, transported and treated, i.e. quartz sand for silicon cells and other metal ores for thin film cells. Treatment requires different steps, e.g. purification, crystallization and wafering, also deposition). Upgraded materials have to be manufactured into solar cells, assembled into modules and transported. These steps brings with them air pollution, heavy metal emissions, and they consume energy and add more greenhouse gases to the atmosphere.
How electricity from solar panels is generated (existing three scenarios of energy mix), in which part of the world (solar insolation), and for which purpose (energy generating or energy guzzling equipment) solar panels are being used, these factors allow more appropriate assessment of the ecological burden of solar panel technology. Additional relevant factor for full assessment are how solar-technology is likely to develop in future and manufacturers warranties of life expectancy versus existing consumers laws/incentives. With these factors more realistic conclusions can be deduced what concerns “energy-ecological assessment” of solar panels.
Now What is New and have to be taken in consideration. First, solar cells are far from a zero emission technology, they do add pollution and carbon dioxide to the environment, and with considerable amounts. Solar panels can be a doubtful choice in less sunny regions and solar panels mounted on gadgets are completely insane. Solar cells should be recycled but who would do it, would the huge amount of waste be transported all the way around the world to the manufacture? Also, some law or incentive should be introduced to guarantee longtime of life expectancy so as the technology can survive. If possible and as an important conclusion, solar thermal power should have priority over solar PV power.
These facts mean that ALL SUSTAINABILITY factors should be taken in consideration for the best promotion of solar technology. For example, it’s much better using solar panels to make energy generating equipment instead of energy guzzling equipment (like computers, mobile phones and car electronics). It should be realized that solar panels first raise the amount of greenhouse gasses before they help lowering them. If the world collectively would embark on giant deployment of solar energy, the first result would be massive amounts of extra greenhouse gasses, due to the enormous production of the cells. Rush using a technology that is still developing and to accept it as universal solution anywhere and for anything wouldn’t be the best eco-friendly optimized solution specially that the recycling-technology of used solar panels is not yet in place. Recycling-technologies and handling of waste and pollution of all types of industries are IMPERATIVE for conservation and protection of natural resources and the environment.
Solar planels can be only used as energy resource but petroleum “oil” is not just a fuel but thousands of products can be processed and produced from petroleum (http://www.ranken-energy.com/Products%20from%20Petroleum.htm). About 54% of petroleum is used for the processing of these products and their production doesn’t necessarily yield carbon dioxide and/or pollution and recycling technologies of these products are already in place.