Friday, October 24, 2008

Solar Cells A Greenhouse Gas Emitter?

I recently read an article about a potentially damaging side effect of solar cells.

The problem is that the manufacturing process involved in purifying silicon for the purposes of thin film solar cells (as well as flat-panel LCD monitors and microcircuits) emits a gas known as nitrogen trifluoride. Unfortunately, this gas is orders of magnitude more serious than the greenhouse effect from carbon dioxide and it lingers in the atmosphere at least five times as long.

This can be considered bad news for those hopeful for a solar powered society (which also benefits waterfalling). But sometimes you have to face the truth and deal with it.

Now while I'm a tremendous supporter of solar cell photovoltaic technology, I do believe that processes involved in its creation and utilization must be as clean as possible. I don't think we should abandon the pursuit of solar energy, but we should definitely look for ways to contain nitrogen trifluoride during manufacturing or find other chemical compounds to process silicon for photovoltaic purposes.

In the near term, I think pollutants should be penalized by taxes (and solar cell manufacturing is no exception), but money collected from these penalties should subsidize cleaner methods and reward companies successful in pulling it off. Sure this might result in more expensive solar cells, but a truly responsible economy that factors all the good and bad of a product will provide incentive and rewards for improvement. Therefore, by no means should solar cell technology cease because of this since its successful implementation will be far better than our fossil-fuel-based energy paradigm we're forced to live with now.

To get more details about this story, click here.

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