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  • Tuesday, September 25, 2012


    'Hidden Costs' Revealed: Where Does Solar Rank Among Energy Sources?

    20 September 2012 (Solar Industry)

    “Solar power's detractors frequently describe solar as "secretly" non-environmentally-friendly. They point to the PV module manufacturing process, utility-scale arrays' potential impacts to land and wildlife, and concentrating solar power (CSP) plants' on-site water usage as examples of attributes that negate the environmental benefits of deploying this renewable energy source.

    “But when all of the impacts are considered and all the costs are tallied, how does solar compare to other common energy sources? … The Hidden Costs of Electricity: Comparing the Hidden Costs of Power Generation Fuels suggests that the indirect or externalized costs of fossil fuels, nuclear power and biomass still outweigh those of solar power…[D]emands on increasingly scarce water are a major hidden cost of a business-as-usual approach to American electricity generation that needs to be more fully understood…”

    “Solar power, however, did not rank as a prime offender in this critical water-usage category. Rather, nuclear power, coal-fired power, biomass and natural gas (obtained via fracking) were called out as particularly water-intensive energy sources. Open-looped coal-fired power plants, for instance, use between 20,000 and 50,000 gallons/MWh. Although most of the water is reclaimed, it is returned at a higher temperature and lower quality…[W]ind and solar photovoltaic power require little water…[and CSP] requires water for cooling purposes, but new technologies are placing greater emphasis on dry cooling…

    “Solar's subsidies and tax incentives, as well as land impacts, are rated as moderate. Although distributed-generation rooftop PV occupies no land, some utility-scale plants have caused concern…”


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