Well, Bandera Readers, here we are. 2022. A good time to revisit the solar debacle speeding towards our fair county. I think it best to look at it from environmental and cost effectiveness perspectives. As always, I’ll supply my 750 words, and you supply your own analysis.
Setting aside the eyesore that acre upon acre of solar panels are, the sheer detriment to the earth and waste is much more than an eye sore. The most up to date studies by the World Bank and the Department of Energy show the solar panels require 10 times the tons mined, moved and converted into machines to deliver the same quantity of energy as current traditional fossil fuel-based energy supply systems.
For example, in order to access quartz ore, roughly 200 tons of ore is dug from the earth, moved, and processed to get one ton of quartz. That tonnage does not include the three to seven tons of earth rock and dirt that is first removed to get access to mineral-bearing ore.
Once the ore is removed from the earth, the refining process begins. Solar PV modules include purified silicon. Silicon is reduced from the quartz ore in a silicon smelter most of which, including those used by the Pine Gates Renewable, are located in China. The smelters burn coal. Tons of it. They also burn wood chips. Oh, and let’s not forget metallurgical coke. It is a solid fuel made by “coking” coal in large slot ovens to drive out volatile tars through a heat process where all the smoke, carbon monoxide, carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide are spewed into the air. The process must run for 24 hours and during that time electricity is also used as the process cannot be interrupted .But our green-planet-saving-zero-carbon-emission-we-love-the-sun solar panel elements isn’t ready to go into production yet!
Three more processes must be completed which will result in a full 60% of the finished product scrapped and discarded as waste.
But let’s say you aren’t really an earthy crunchy kind of person. I mean, you care about the earth and all, but figure eventually they’ll get the whole mineral stripping of the earth and exploitation of the poor in underdeveloped countries all worked out. What is concerning is saving money and naturally solar is the way to go in that regard.
Hold on. Turns out, not so much.
Government subsidies for the solar industry was set up for the short term, but government programs funded with our tax dollars are the holy grail and therefore never go away. Thus, we taxpayers are subsidizing businesses like Pine Gates Renewable to the tune of $103 billion dollars a year. $103 billion dollars is more than the Dept of Energy’s total annual budget. The Bandera School Board is considering a tax abatement (and must hold a public hearing if they wish to create a reinvestment zone) so our district will get less revenue. And why? Solar companies are already subsidized by us and given tax breaks so why are we giving them more incentives for panels made in China with a parent company in Spain?
Solar companies will also tout rate savings, none guaranteed- and are never accountable for rate increases. Most charts will show savings using solar, but what is not tabulated is the fact that the technology assumed to be in use are single-axis tracking systems. But 95% of all solar farms use fixed-angle systems. Add other factors not tabulated in cost, and you have an average INCREASE of 11-17% during peak usage.
Well then, let’s review.
The Bandera School Board is exploring granting tax abatements to a company that already gets federal subsidies, has payments not going through standard school tax so less will be collected, is not in Texas, whose parent company is in Spain, who manufactures solar panels in China, which are not recyclable no matter how much they claim it will happen “soon” and are an eyesore of over 1900 acres here in the beautiful hill country Cowboy Capitol of the World.
Ultimately, it is up to us, the citizens of this county to make the decision we think is best for the school district and county. And whatever each decides, it should be conveyed to the board who work for us. Make a point to attend this month’s meeting and let your voice be heard.
And that, is just one gal’s opinion.
Becky Lay is a loving life in Bandera county with her family, dogs and chickens. The cedar, not so much.