THE HAZARDS OF SOLAR ENERGY


Over the years I have heard and read much nonsense, to the point where nothing surprises me any more. Recently an item caught my eye, a pamphlet put out by the Citizens' Reactionary Alliance Concerned with Keeping the Environment Decent. It's a nice example of the style and `logic' common to propaganda pieces from many groups of alarmists and `aginers.'

    — Donald E. Simanek

Many groups and individuals are proposing that our government spend tax money on research and development of systems to utilize solar energy. They urge construction of vast solar energy collectors to convert sunlight to electricity to supply our energy needs. They would even put solar collectors on roofs of homes, factories, schools, and other buildings. Proponents of this technology claim that energy obtained from the sun will be safer and cleaner than coal, oil, or nuclear energy sources.

We view these proposals with alarm. Unscrupulous scientists and greedy promoters are hoodwinking a gullible public. We consider it rash and dangerous to commit our country to the use of solar energy. This solar technology has never been utilized on such a large scale, and we have no assurance of its long-range safety. Not one single study has been done to assess the safety of electricity from solar energy as compared to electricity from other sources.

The promoters of solar energy cleverly lead you to believe that it is perfectly safe. Yet they conveniently neglect to mention that solar energy is generated by nuclear fusion within the sun. This process operates on the very same basic laws of nuclear physics used in nuclear power plants and atomic bombs!

And what is the source of this energy? It is hydrogen, a highly explosive gas (remember the Hindenberg?) Hydrogen is also the active material in H-bombs, that are not only tremendously destructive, but produce dangerous fallout. The glib advocates of solar energy don't even mention these disturbing facts about the true sources of solar energy. What else are they trying to hide from us?

In addition to the known dangers cited above, what about the unknown dangers, that very well might be worse? When pressed, scientists will admit that they do not fully understand the workings of the sun, or even of the atom. They will even grudgingly admit that our knowledge of the basic laws of physics is not yet perfect or complete. Yet these same reckless scientists would have us use this solar technology even before we fully understand how it works.

Admittedly we are already subject to a natural `background' radiation from the sun. We can do little about that, except to stay out of direct sunlight as much as possible. The evidence is already clear that too much exposure to sunlight can cause skin cancer. But solar collectors would concentrate that sunlight (that otherwise would have fallen harmlessly on waste land), convert it to electricity and pipe it into our homes to irradiate us from every light bulb! We would then not even be safe from this cancer-producing energy even in our own homes!

We all know that looking at the sun for even a few seconds can cause blindness. What long term health hazards might result from reading by light derived from solar energy? We now spend large amounts of time looking at the light from television monitors or computer screens, and one can only imagine the possible long-term consequences of this exposure when the screens are powered with electricity from solar collectors. Will we develop cataracts, or slowly go blind? Not one medical study has yet addressed itself to this question, and none are planned.

In their blind zeal to plug us in to solar energy, scientists seem to totally ignore possible fire hazards of solar energy. Sunlight reaching us directly from the sun at naturally safe levels poses little fire threat. But all one has to do is concentrate sunlight, with a simple burning- glass, and it readily ignites combustible materials. Who would feel safe with solar energy concentrators on their roof? Could we afford the fire insurance rates?

These scientists, and the big corporations that employ them, stand to profit greatly from construction of solar-power stations. No wonder they try to hide the dangers of the technology and suppress any open discussion of them.

Proponents of solar energy present facts, figures and graphs to support their claim that energy from the sun will be less expensive, as conventional fuel supplies dwindle and technology of solar energy systems improves. But even if this is so, what will stop the solar energy equipment manufacturers and solar power companies from raising prices when they achieve a monopoly and other fuel sources disappear?

Of course every technology has risks. We might be willing to tolerate some small risk—if solar energy really represented a permanent solution to our energy problems. But that is not the case. At best, solar energy is only a temporary band-aid. Recent calculations indicate that the "Sun Will Go Out in a Billion Years As Its Fuel Runs Out" (Source: newspaper headline) As that calculation was made a year ago, we now have only nine-hundred ninety-nine million, nine-hundred ninety-nine thousand, nine-hundred and ninety-nine years left during which we could use solar energy. Wouldn't it be better to put our human resources and scientific brains to work to find a safer and more permanent solution to our energy needs?

(c) 1978, 1994 by Donald E. Simanek, Lock Haven University, Lock Haven, PA 17745.

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