Is solar so great?

It seems like everytime we think were making progress someone smarter than all of us comes along and points out the big dumb flaw in our plans. Solar panels, they’re good right? They use the sun for energy instead of wasting non renewable resources, yay! I’ve seen them on  houses, cars, cell phone chargers, even sunglasses that charge your ipod! For the most part if you asked someone on the street if solar panels would help some of our energy/environmental issues they would say yes. Well, TreeHugger did a post on an article in the Los Angeles Times today about how that is actually not all the way true.

Solar panels, as useful as they are, cause a lot of waste. Manufacturing them and trying to dispose of them are starting to have an impact. Solar panels are built using large amounts of fossil fuel, and the leftover mercury and chromium used cant just be tossed in a recycling bin. According to the article, Asia is showing signs of disposal woes when it comes to the waste caused by solar panels. There is hope though! The post goes on to talk about how we may have caught the problem in time and the steps being taken to keep solar power an eco-friendly option. Check out the TreeHugger blog post or the actual article.

Published by: Ashley (intern)


3 Responses

  1. […] What do you think of the Green Life Smart Life Project? The Green Life Smart Life Project provides an in-depth look at the ins and outs of building a Green Certified Home. Currently, I believe consumers like the idea of building a green home, but the “how to” can be a barrier. GLSL provides a valuable, first-person perspective that’s highly valuable to those who in the trenches, or are about to enter them. Simple things like how to recycle job site waste, decisions about energy sources… for example, solar would seem the most green, but you might reconsider that assumption based on GLSL Blog 1/18/09. […]

  2. I am in the planning stage of a green home project in the foothills of the White Mountains and the site offers all of the conditions to use many of the latest technologies.As with any project of this scope I want to make sure that we get a return on investment in regards to alternative energy resources.
    The home will build out at 2100sq ft and be a one level with full basement
    .Any advice going into this project as to where to best spend your dollars ie,solar panels,geo-thermal,wind turbine Hydro (I have a great year round active stream with the correct fall for hydro) would be greatly appreciated

    • Hi Dave — Before I can answer this based on our experience, you should look at your state tax incentives since they vary by state and can lower your cost on PV, geothermal, or turbine. Then I would get estimates for each system along with what the projected energy generated is. Once you have those numbers, plus your rebates you will have a base cost and from there determine what will be best for you location.

      Our decision to select geothermal was based largely on the fact that we did not want fossil fuel – no gas, no oil. If you don’t need AC, and are looking at radiant floor heat, solar thermal or geothermal with PV may be a great option. One issue for us was that we needed AC due to the wetness and humidity by the water and it was cost prohibitive to run radiant floor and ductwork for AC. The hydro turbine may be a great option based on what you can generate, but if it is electicity only you will still be faced with a gas or oil bill and the carbon emissions they generate.

      If you have somone, work with a really knowledgeable HVAC/plumber company. This affords you the most experience from a single source. We made this decision early on since they are so closely related and I feel they really helped us select the best system for our house.

      I hope this helps. Please keep us updated on your project!


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