Aaron Winn

Stacie Weatbrook
English 1010
April 22, 2016

Solar Power the Current Status
Research Question: Is solar power really better?
Several months ago, a local solar power company came to my home and
gave a sales pitch to me about installing solar power panels on my home. It
seemed a decent way to go to save energy, to reduce my power consumption costs,
and to participate in saving energy usage for a better environment. The company
discussed how I could sell excess energy back to the power company when I did not
use what I produced. As a result of this experience, I became interested in the
whole concept of solar power. In researching the topic, I have found that solar
manufacturers and installers do not give a good picture of the overall effect of solar
panels and tend to give a false sense of being green for the environment.
The solar panel financing arrangements being made are usually put on a 20 –
30 year loan. The panels have a life expectancy of 15 – 30 years. Panels
manufactured in China have a shorter life expectancy due poorer quality of the
panels themselves. Panels manufactured in the United States have a longer life
expectancy and a higher efficiency rating translating to a higher power output. This
means that some homeowners will be paying for their solar panels long after the
electrical production has diminished greatly. Most current panels are around 20%
efficiency. At that current rate of efficiency, the entire roof of some homes must be
covered with panels which still does not produce enough to completely power the

home or business. There are some prototype panels that produce up to 50%
efficiency. These prototypes are years away from production.
The current price of a residential rooftop system is still relatively high priced
for the average consumer even with government subsidies. The net metering
subsidy is that any excess power produced by the solar panels is required to be
bought back by the power company at the current price that the power is sold to
the consumer. This forces the power company to pay three to four times more for
the power than what they could purchase the power for from a larger solar farm. By
doing this, it raises the overall price for power that everyone pays. The Arizona
Public Service Company has calculated “if the current rate of rooftop-solar
installations continues through mid-2017, its non-solar customers will pay close to
$800 million in higher rates to subsidize rooftop-solar customers over the next 20
years”.
The solar companies describe solar power as being green power for the
environment. In my research, it shows that the production of this green power
source is actually very harmful to the environment, to people, and to animals in the
area where the panels are being manufactured. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
scores companies yearly on self-reporting their environmental and health impact of
their business. The Coalition is not against solar power but is focusing the efforts
towards responsible manufacturing controls that improve the industries
environment impact. The solar power industry is rife with allegations of dumping
toxic chemicals into watershed areas. Dustin Mulvaney is a scientist who
contributes to the SVTC. He talks about specific accidents in China that were
particularly harmful “Jinko Solar Holding Co., one of the largest photovoltaic
companies in the world, spilled hydrofluoric acid into the nearby Mujiaqiao River,

killing hundreds of fish. And farmers working adjacent lands, who used the
contaminated water to clean their animals, accidently killed dozens of pigs”. This is
an accidental poisoning. However, there are records of deliberate dumping of waste
that has caused severe problems for humans. In the case of Suntech Power
Holdings, “The reporters found that the company was dumping silicon tetrachloride
waste on neighboring fields instead of investing in equipment that could reprocess
it, rendering those fields useless for growing crops and inflaming the eyes and
throats of nearby residents.” These deliberate acts are an example of the complete
disregard of the impact of the manufacturing processes on people and the
environment.
In conclusion, the current state of the technology and manufacturing
processes is not a green product. It is not as energy efficient as advertised. With
panel efficiency being still low and the cost to manufacture and purchase still very
high, the industry still needs to mature in order for it to be a viable solution versus
other sources of power. Solar power has room for improvement and the capability
to become better than it is now.

Work Cited
Mulvaney, D. (2014, August 26). Solar Energy Isn’t Always as Green as You
Think. Retrieved April 16, 2016, from http://spectrum.ieee.org/greentech/solar/solar-energy-isnt-always-as-green-as-you-think
Potts, B. H. (2015, May 17). The Hole in the Rooftop Solar-Panel Craze.
Retrieved April 7, 2016, from http://www.wsj.com/articles/the-hole-inthe-rooftop-solar-panel-craze-1431899563
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition. (2016, January 14). 2015 Solar Scorecard Web
http://www.solarscorecard.com/2015/