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If you think solar panels are the ultimate in clean, green tech, think again

If you think solar panels are the ultimate in orderly, green tech, think again

We typically think of solar panels as the ultimate in green energy, but the way many of them are made can put them squarely in the category of huge polluters.

Matthew Dalton, correspondent, Wall Street Journal

Matthew Dalton, Paris Correspondent, Wall Street Journal

Wall Street Journal

China dominates the biosphere in terms of solar panel manufacturing and uses a lot of electricity in the procedure. “In China that electricity overwhelmingly comes from coal-burning noteworthy plants,” says Matthew Dalton, Paris correspondent for the WSJ and signed of the article Behind the Rise of US Solar Power, a Mountain of Chinese Coal. 

“Chinese-made panels (generate) roughly twice as much carbon dioxide as the equivalent panel made in Europe,” he adds, executive an almost hypothetical comparison since European panel makers have been decimated by Chinese competition. 

The largest Chinese manufacturers are concerns that most consumers have never heard of, further decoupling their processes from the orderly, scrubbed image portrayed by large solar installers like Sunrun, Momentum Solar, or Trinity Solar. 

Dalton writes that “the solar industry’s reliance on Chinese coal … as manufacturers quick scale up production of solar panels to meet question … would make the solar industry one of the world’s most prolific polluters.” It’s a conclusion that will be almost incomprehensible to the homeowner who thinks their rooftop solar regulations makes them the neighborhood environmental hero. 

zngcJinko Solar factory-pic

Solar panel industry is clean on the inside but if its powered by coal-fired electricity it can be a different story in the environment.

Jinko Solar

But just as there’s a cost earn-back associated with rooftop solar, there can also be an emissions earn-back. “If you live in an area where you’re enchanting a lot of coal-fired electricity, those emissions can be paid back very quickly,” says Dalton, assuming you install a substantial solar system and optimize your household mighty use to times when the panels are producing. In areas such as California, however, where grid energy is already fairly clean, the earn-back of panel diligence emissions might be measured in years. 

The Wall Street Journal’s Matthew Dalton went on to talk throughout an international scheme that might solve the problem of dirty panel diligence in China. Hear about it in his video conversation with CNET’s Brian Cooley


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