Unlike coal – the most likely primary source of most of your home’s and EV’s/PHEV’s electricity – solar energy does not create any emissions at the moment it produces electricity. The zero emissions aspect of solar energy makes going solar extremely attractive, environmentally speaking.
True, for now, solar panels are manufactured primarily with energy generated by fossil fuels – although more and more solar panel producers are powering production with renewable energy.
The typical so-called “energy-payback” time for a solar panel — or the time it takes for a panel to produce as much energy is was consumed in its manufacture — is between 18 and 36 months.
Of course, the life of a solar panel is at least 25 years with some estimates projecting that today’s modern panels could potentially last two, three or even four times as long.
The emissions-free energy production of solar panels is a huge environmental benefit. Not only does this reduce global warming, but it solar-produced electricity produces no toxic particulates locally.
Solar & Denver’s ‘brown cloud’
That means if SCD.Com’s vision of a solar-powered grid, and solar-charged EVs comes to pass, that, for example, the infamous “brown cloud” which envelops Denver in a toxic haze, especially in the winter, would be significantly reduced.
Indeed, in an ideal scenario — near 100% solar-charged automotive travel, with large trucks, busses, etc. running off of natural gas, biodiesel, etc. – Denver’s “brown cloud” would be almost completely eliminated!
Here is not the place to reflect upon the huge detrimental impact of coal mining (most notably, mountaintop removal, which, quite literally, involves shaving off an entire mountaintop to get at coal seams underneath), or drilling for oil.
Nor is it the place to focus, in depth, on the an environmental impact of the mining of raw materials for solar panels and lithium-ion batteries for EVs and PHEVs, or of the environmental impact of their production and disposal.
We will do these things on other pages at SolarChargedDriving.Com, where we are likely to continue to revisit these questions and issues.
Suffice to say: The environmental impact of solar-energy production is substantially less than that of fossil fuel production, especially in terms of the issue of global warming. Furthermore, in contrast to fossil fuels — which owe their existence to sun energy — solar-energy is a direct and renewable form of energy.