Over 23,000 times worse than carbon dioxide according to new
Berkeley, Calif., June 4, 2012-- Solar cells do
not offset greenhouse gases or curb fossil fuel use in the United
States according to a new book published by the University of
Written by University of California - Berkeley visiting scholar
Ozzie Zehner, the book (Green Illusions: The Dirty Secrets of
Clean Energy and the Future of Environmentalism), explains how
the solar industry has grown to become one of the leading emitters
of hexafluoroethane (C2F6), nitrogen trifluoride (NF3), and sulfur
These three potent greenhouse gases,
used by solar cell fabricators, make carbon dioxide (CO2) seem
harmless" Ozzie Zehner, University of California - Berkeley
Hexafluoroethane has a global warming potential that is 12,000
times higher than CO2, according to the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC).
It is 100 percent manufactured by humans, and survives 10,000
years once released into the atmosphere. Nitrogen trifluoride is
17,000 times more virulent than CO2, and SF6, the most treacherous
greenhouse gas, is over 23,000 times more threatening.
The solar photovoltaic industry is one of the fastest-growing
emitters of these gases, which are now measurably accumulating
within the earth's atmosphere according to the U.S. National
Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
A NOAA study shows that atmospheric concentrations of SF6 have
been rising exponentially. A paper published in the peer-reviewed
journal Geophysical Research Letters documents that atmospheric NF3
levels have been rising 11 percent per year. (See Graph below)
"If photovoltaic production grows, so
will the associated side effects," claims Zehner.
"Even worse, there's no evidence that
solar cells offset fossil fuel use in the American context."
Zehner explains that alternative
energy subsidies keep retail electricity costs incrementally lower,
which then spurs demand.
"It's a boomerang effect," remarks
"The harder we throw alternative
energy into the electrical grid, the harder demand comes back to
hit us on the head. Historically, we've filled that demand by
building more fossil fuel plants, not fewer."
Instead, Zehner advocates shifting to energy taxes and other
conservation measures. He claims that even some of the most
expensive options for dealing with CO2 would become cost
competitive long before today's solar cell
"If limiting CO2 is our goal, we might be better off directing
our time and resources to those options first; solar cells seem a
wasteful and pricey strategy," says Zehner.
Green Illusions highlights and author biography are available