Nov 6, 2014

Understanding the PR Risks of Solar Energy

Solar
Mike Lopez
3 min
Solar energy is touted as a cleaner form of energy, but it’s not without its problems. From damage to wildlife to cost concerns, there...

Solar energy is touted as a cleaner form of energy, but it’s not without its problems.

From damage to wildlife to cost concerns, there are several public relations issues that have the potential to affect the demand for solar energy among consumers. Most would consider these issues extremely minor when compared to the dangers and damage associated with fossil fuel production and use, but nonetheless, these “problems” with solar energy are important to recognize and understand.

Hazard to Birds

Thousands of birds have burned to death near the Ivanpah Solar Electric Generating System in the Mojave Desert. The solar energy system is set up to direct rays of sunlight to heat up boilers in order to create steam and produce energy. The reflected light draws bugs to the area, which the birds then fly after. The birds’ wings become singed from the sunlight, causing them to either fall to the ground and die on impact or starve if they are unable to fly again. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is asking for local bird population studies to be conducted before any additional systems are built.

Pollution

Solar energy is considered a clean form of energy, but the equipment needed to harness this energy isn’t as eco-friendly. The solar panel manufacturing process creates water contaminants and polluted sludge. Manufacturers also have to remove all of the hazardous waste they produce, which involves using trucks or trains to get it to the closest waste facility. These facilities are usually hundreds or thousands of miles away from the solar panel plant, resulting in a considerable amount of carbon emissions along the way.

Unreliable Energy Supply

One of the biggest issues that the solar energy industry faces when it comes to consumer demand is the fact that this type of energy is intermittent. Solar energy systems rely on sunlight to produce power, which means that they are unable to do so at night. They can generate power on cloudy or rainy days, but not as much as they produce on clear, sunny days. While consumers can get a battery backup for storing power, this is an expensive purchase to make in addition to the cost of the system itself.

Higher Initial Costs

Solar energy systems cost more upfront than systems that run on fossil fuels due to the complex installation process and the cost of solar panels and other equipment. This is another big factor that has kept more consumers from investing in solar energy for their homes. While the initial costs are high, consumers can lower the cost with financial incentives, such as rebates and tax incentives.

While these PR risks are certainly indicitive of challenges the industry is working to address, understanding them before they become a problem can certainly lead to more effective communication betweeen solar companies, the rest of the industry, and the public. 

Author Mike Lopez is the founder of the Green Lifestyle startup MorGreen.org.

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Apr 23, 2021

Drax advances biomass strategy with Pinnacle acquisition

Drax
Biomass
Sustainability
BECCS
Dominic Ellis
2 min
Drax is advancing biomass following Pinnacle acquisition it reported in a trading update

Drax' recently completed acquisition of Pinnacle more than doubles its sustainable biomass production capacity and significantly reduces its cost of production, it reported in a trading update.

The Group’s enlarged supply chain will have access to 4.9 million tonnes of operational capacity from 2022. Of this total, 2.9 million tonnes are available for Drax’s self-supply requirements in 2022, which will rise to 3.4 million tonnes in 2027.

The £424 million acquisition of the Canadian biomass pellet producer supports Drax' ambition to be carbon negative by 2030, using bioenergy with carbon capture and storage (BECCS) and will make a "significant contribution" in the UK cutting emissions by 78% by 2035 (click here).

Drax CEO Will Gardiner said its Q1 performance had been "robust", supported by the sale of Drax Generation Enterprise, which holds four CCGT power stations, to VPI Generation.

This summer Drax will undertake maintenance on its CfD(2) biomass unit, including a high-pressure turbine upgrade to reduce maintenance costs and improve thermal efficiency, contributing to lower generation costs for Drax Power Station.

In March, Drax secured Capacity Market agreements for its hydro and pumped storage assets worth around £10 million for delivery October 2024-September 2025.

The limitations on BECCS are not technology but supply, with every gigatonne of CO2 stored per year requiring approximately 30-40 million hectares of BECCS feedstock, according to the Global CCS Institute. Nonetheless, BECCS should be seen as an essential complement to the required, wide-scale deployment of CCS to meet climate change targets, it concludes.

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