Sara Bronfman: Renewable Energy News

July 02, 2020

Renewable Energy 

Welcome to the Sara Bronfman environmental news fan blog. As the world seeks cleaner power, solar energy capacity has increased sixfold in the past five years. Yet manufacturing all those solar panels shows can have environmental downsides.

Solar requires a significant amount of energy upfront to produce. Mining, manufacturing, and transportation all require substantial amounts of energy. Quartz must be processed and cleaned and then manufactured with other components that may come from different facilities (aluminum, copper, etc..) to produce a single solar module.

sara bronfmanHeating the quartz during the processing stage requires very high heat. Manufacturing requires combining multiple materials with incredible precision to produce high-efficiency panels. All of this requires lots of up-front energy. With traditional fuels such as gas or goal, they are extracted, cleaned/processed, and burned at very large scales, typically in a single location.

The problem here isn’t really about these minerals being finite resources because there are still many reserves. It is about the mining activities themselves. Indeed, the extraction and the chemical separation processes to get these minerals are very polluting. Together with other impacts like soil erosion or mercury contamination, mining activities can pollute the air, water, and soils and harm local biodiversity and populations. The mitigation of these and other risks depend on the local sites’ governance practices.

Solar energy is not perfect. Like everything in life, there are upsides and downsides. Yes, vast amounts of energy are required to mine/manufacture solar panels and yes, chemicals are used during the manufacturing process. These two irrefutable facts do not equate to solar panels having a net negative impact though, as the data suggests. The reduced emissions from using solar energy versus any fossil fuel (especially coal) make the technology extremely beneficial.

Questions, comments, or concerns? Write your comment below on the Sara Bronfman blog to let us know what you got up to. We would love to hear your thoughts on this!

Sara Bronfman believes strongly in the importance of the natural environment. Read more about Sara Bronfman online here. Visit the Sara Bronfman website here. Follow Sara Bronfman Pinterest page here for more sustainable living tips and eco-friendly ideas.


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  1. Just wanted to let you know that I always love your content Sara and find it well worth the read!

  2. Thanks for taking the time to put this awesome guide together for the community Sara Bronfman. Greatly appreciated!