jhaverilabs_logo  
             
CALL +91 22 - 40050182
facebook twitter linkedin  
   
   
Green, Green, Fairy Queen  
 
I was sitting at home on a lazy Sunday afternoon with the rest of my family just doing the usual. My two nieces (6yrs and 3yrs) were playing with my baby daughter (7 months). Trying to do something educational and fun they were teaching my daughter colors with childish mnemonics. And then came the moment of Eureka! My niece yelled out, "Green, Green, Fairy Queen!". That was it – that had to be the topic for my next blog. I have really been conflicted with the idea of renewable energy and its emphasis on being a green technology. This, I thought could be a good opportunity to pen (or type) some of these thoughts. There is so much attention given to green technology and every thing now is marketed with an green technology angle. Has it become a buzz-word? Is it being used to grab our imagination and attention to sell us a new product that we do not need? To get more funding from the government or world banks? OR is it truly something that will extend the life of our planet?

I truly believe is conservation. I believe that we should not perform actions that harm others and the environment. So, you could say I should be adopting renewables heart and soul. So, why am I the cynic? Quite simply, I am concerned with the hype given to renewable energy. We ought to know what's under the rug. The argument I have been making to everyone around me is that solar and wind energy, although produces energy without use of conventional fuels, it relies heavily on several toxic materials. Just because we do not see smoke, smog and other green house gases generated at the energy generation site we cannot turn a blind eye to all the toxic waste that is being created in dumping grounds many hundred miles from us. Let us discuss what are these.
 
Environmental effects of Solar Energy:
Solar panels use a range of chemicals such as Arsenic, Cadmuium, Telluride, Flourides and Lead. Arsenic is the most deadly as it leads to breathing problems, skin diseases and death due to poisoning. CdTe PV technology is growing in popularity. Cadmium is a known carcinogenic and Telluride is known to cause chronic headaches, vomiting and respiratory arrests. Thin film PV manufacturers such as Solyndra produced 6000 Tons of Cadmium waste to manufacture 100MW of panels. Well, the good news is that we will not have to worry about Solyndra. They went bankrupt in 2011 after receiving $535 Million from the U.S. Energy Department. However there are other leading manufacturers that are still producing significant waste. First Solar on its website claims that it produces 19.1 grams of waste/watt of solar cell it manufacturers. This works to over 2 Million Tons of waste per 100 MW. Based on further data on their website we can infer that the non-recycled waste is over 350,0000 Tons per 100MW.
 
Environmental effects of Wind Energy:
Most of the environmental impact of wind energy has been focused on the detrimental impact it has on birdlife and the severe noise pollution it creates. Once again, this focuses on the pollutions at the site of energy creation. But what about the hidden environmental impact.

What manufacturers fail to communicate is that manufacturing of wind turbines uses considerable about of rare earth elements. The generators, use 1 ton per MW of neodynism. The mining and processing of these metals has horrific environmental consequences. A 100 MW wind project would generate approximately 6 million cubic meters of toxic air pollution, 2 million Litres of poisoned water and 45 Tons of radioactive waste.

But this is not it. If we consider the entire systems the risk factors are further exceeded with the need to use batteries to store power at times these renewable energy sources are non-operational. For example, during the night with solar energy systems. Lead-acid batteries are most popular. However, the improper disposal of lead acid batteries leads to soil and water contamination. Lead is a known neurotoxin. Exposure to lead can cause various central nervous system disorders, memory loss, and dysfunctional intestines and reproductory organs. India is at huge risk of lead poisoning from poorly disposed lead acid batteries. A study showed 20% of children in Kolkata are suffering from lead poisoning. To make things worst the high humidity level and extreme temperatures in India lead to recurring failures in lead acid batteries and most often batteries have to be replaced every 2 years. In my opinion, this frequent replacement of batteries makes the case for solar and wind energy also commercially untenable

Before I end let me put up the most critical disclaimer. I am not proposing that fossil fuels are acceptable solutions. On Wikipedia, I found that WHO claims that in 2008 alone, coal particulate pollution was directly linked to 1 million deaths worldwide.

One million people suffered to death so that we can go about our usual merry way.

Startling! Scary? Shakes you to your foundation. As they saying goes – There is no silver bullet. The only viable green solution is to preserve and conserve. Use less of what you do need and don't use what you don't need. And hopefully we will leave our children with a better world than we received.

Latest Blogs
Ice Box Baby and Other Jugaads  
The Price of Protection  
While You Were Sleeping  
Green, Green, Fairy Queen