Why and how is “clean” energy clean?

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I get that solar POWER is infinite and clean, but the panels used to harvest it are anything but that, aren’t they? Aren’t solar panels just another way to pollute the earth because of their production and inevitable mass discarding?

Isn’t it the exact same problem for wind turbines? Won’t we eventually run out of material/resources to make those as well? Not to mention the noise pollution and the killing of avian life.

Could these alternative sources really be considered clean? If so, why?

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The wind turbines and solar panels pay back their carbon footprint at some point by offsetting what it took to make them.. by just being 0 carbon..well kinda maintainance is a carbon footprint after all. A coal plant will have cost you a considerable co2 sin to build and it will cause further emissions.

Wind and solar is considered clean. However its not as good as it could be because wind turbines and solar panel arrays on fields are basically ecosystem disruptors. They could do better on that front… because if ecosystems are disrupted that in itself can be considered dirty because nature wont do as good of a job keeping the world clean… after all that deer in the forest helps the forest grow. A forest captures co2 too. If theres no more deer population or whatever due to a giant solar areay. Welp you just shot nature in the foot… even highways do this btw. So theres an active effort in many places to make highways less ecosystem disruptive by building land bridges over highways where deer can traverse safely and so on

Nuclear power is the cleanest option we have, we just have a big stigma about it because if things go wrong they make entire areas uninhabitable.. sure you build this huge powerplant thats quite dirty and co2 intensive… but then it yeets out a cataclysmic amount of energy which is completely green and sidesteps all the other ecosystem struggles solar and wind does.

Electric vehicles meanwhile are only as green and clean as the powergrid is. The co2 sin the production of this car caused will not be offset for a loong time if it runs on coal power.. so a normal already existing used gas car can be actually greener… as you dont build a whole new car. But if your electric grid is clean. Electric cars will be too as theres no piling up of stuff.

Same way how solar and electric vehicles both cause some quite dirty mining processes for the production. The things themselves are green. The way we handle the production isn’t as green as we want it… so to truly make it green we either have to bite that bullet or we have to work on fixing the dirty production.

For instance some ressources are quite rare / annoying to get but theres easy access on the seafloor. **mining that is a horrible idea** yet we do it… so even if we have the ressources. Some processes are just a dumb idea.

Things are rarely if ever zeros and ones. If this concept is alien, then no explanation really matters.

Clean or not clean etc (really nearly any subject to which there is a demand for binary responses) are relative. If you’re holding out for the perfect, then obviously no product is going to be clean. But most of us live in the real world, with real choices rather than imagined perfection.

EDIT: Try searching for “life cycle analysis”. There are actually methods to compare the various alternatives in a holistic fashion.

If we want to talk about eventualities, the sun will eventually consume the Earth and further still down the line our entire universe will run out of useful energy as it expands towards timeless oblivion.

I say this to point out that not all eventualities have equal importance for planning. Some things may be today’s problem, some things may be tomorrow’s problem, and some things may be our great-great-great-great-great-great grandchildren’s problem. For now, we work on the problems that need fixed *now*, and that takes priority over problems that may need fixed later.

The amount of energy available to us through fossil fuels is finite. When we run out of them, we can’t get more, and the changes caused to our planet will be (at best) a *huge* energy-debt we need to work off. At worst, a near-apocalypse. That isn’t a problem we need solved *today*, but it is a problem we need solved as soon as it can be. It is a problem inherent in how fossil fuels work.

There is nothing about solar or wind power which fundamentally requires scarce resources, as opposed to fossil. We already have solar power plants (specifically, CPP) which use only the most common of materials. Things which, yeah, are technically finite, but we won’t be running out of any time soon. Currently, photovoltaics are cheaper. If we eventually run low on the things needed to produce photovoltaics, we can either develop better photovoltaics (which we’re already working on), develop better recycling methods (which we’re already working on), or start using more CPP (which we already have the tools to do). The same argument works, even better, for wind power. Significantly less black magic is involved in the production of wind turbines.

So while we may have to continue working to keep things running, there is something of an end in sight; the future is bright for renewables. There is no future, not even an imaginary one, where fossil fuels keep us going.

> Aren’t solar panels just another way to pollute the earth because of their production and inevitable mass discarding?

They can be recycled.

Of course literally everything we do has an impact on the Earth. Sure. If we want to have no impact at all we can’t build houses or grow food either.

The thing is, with clean energy we still need to build the infrastructure, but the energy itself doesn’t involve harming the climate. You build a solar panel as a one-off cost, and then it just runs for years. It doesn’t have a climate cost per watt, only a cost for the initial construction.

Compare this to a coal plant, which still needs to be built, just like the solar panel, but *also* needs a constant source of fuel, and the energy comes from that fuel. So every watt of energy we produce comes with a bill in form of CO2 emitted.

> I get that solar POWER is infinite and clean, but the panels used to harvest it are anything but that, aren’t they?

The production is not perfect, but less troublesome on the whole. Burning fossil fuels releases stuff into the air and affects the whole planet. Making solar panels makes localized pollution that can be managed and cleaned up, and that can be reduced as the use of fossil fuels needed for making them is reduced

> Aren’t solar panels just another way to pollute the earth because of their production and inevitable mass discarding?

No. Why would a pile of broken solar panels be a big problem? It’s just junk sitting somewhere. So long the dump is well managed, it’s just ugly. If we accumulate a huge amount of them it’ll eventually become worthwhile to recycle them.

Solar panels also have a very long life — sure, they degrade over time, but for many uses, a panel that still does something is better than nothing. It can get a second life in a less demanding application.

> Isn’t it the exact same problem for wind turbines? Won’t we eventually run out of material/resources to make those as well?

Wind turbines aren’t made of anything unusual, and if we run out of materials to make those we have big, big problems because we can’t make most anything else either.

> Not to mention the noise pollution and the killing of avian life.

Well, nothing is ever going to be perfect. We’re going to kill something no matter what, the question is what, how, and how much.

> Could these alternative sources really be considered clean? If so, why?

Everything is relative. My hands are clean, but certainly not enough for surgery.

Solar panels are a durable good that can last for decades vs. coal that is mined, burned and gone. Solar panels are metal and glass, and can be recycled. Same story for wind turbines… we can make them from recycled metal from old cars, ships, etc. and use them for decades.