From what I read, it appears that there are many people, including politicians in our federal government, who believe that electricity produced by solar panels should be a substitute for oil and gas production. However, there are a number of aspects of energy produced from solar panels that don’t appear to be considered:
- studies have indicated that solar panels may actually increase global warming. The reason is that solar panels only convert around 15% of the sunlight that hits them into electricity. The rest is given off into the environment as heat. For small installations of solar panels, that may not be a big deal. But large-scale installations, the kind that would be needed to produce large amounts of electricity, would emit a large quantity of heat, thus potentially raising global temperature. You can read about one study published in 2018 in the journal Science here. Another study that reaches the same conclusion was published in 2016 in the journal Nature and can be reviewed here.
- many of the parts used to build solar panels and the batteries in which the electricity produced by solar panels is stored come from China exclusively. To the extent energy production in the future relies on solar energy, we are going to be at the mercy of China unless we can come up with domestically produced alternatives.
- the batteries in which solar energy is stored prior to its use rapidly cease to function in cold weather, like all batteries. That suggests that solar energy will be of limited use in areas subject to cold weather or incur substantial cost to build lines to transport the energy elsewhere. Keep in mind that when energy is transported over lines there can be substantial energy losses.
- every solar energy company begun over the last decade has either gone out of business or filed bankruptcy, despite huge federal subsidies to these companies. There has been no accountability regarding where the money went when these companies went out of business. As taxpayers, we deserve to know what has happened to these taxpayer funds. We also need to ask why each one of these companies went out of business despite these subsidies.
Solar energy may very well be an important part of future energy production. However, we can only proceed with construction of solar facilities when we have, as a country, realistically analyzed the pros and cons of this energy source.