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Solar Energy Isn’t Always as Green as You Think

Do cheaper photovoltaics providing solar energy come with a higher environmental price tag?

10 min read
photovoltaics for solar energy
Photo: Imaginechina/AP Photo
Green

Solar panels glimmering in the sun are an icon of all that is green. But while generating electricity through photovoltaics is indeed better for the environment than burning fossil fuels, several incidents have linked the manufacture of these shining symbols of environmental virtue to a trail of chemical pollution. And it turns out that the time it takes to compensate for the energy used and the greenhouse gases emitted in photovoltaic panel production varies substantially by technology and geography.

That's the bad news. The good news is that the industry could readily eliminate many of the damaging side effects that do exist. Indeed, pressure for it to do so is mounting, in part because, since 2008, photovoltaics manufacturing has moved from Europe, Japan, and the United States to China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan; today nearly half the world's photovoltaics are manufactured in China. As a result, although the overall track record for the industry is good, the countries that produce the most photovoltaics today typically do the worst job of protecting the environment and their workers.

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Make IEEE Your Home Base

The association offers networking opportunities and professional development programs

3 min read
group of young people smiling at the camera

These IEEE members connected with each other at this year's IEEE International Conference on Robotics and Automation, held in London.

IEEE

The word home evokes a sense of belonging and welcoming. IEEE aims to create a similar feeling by offering services for members at every stage of their career and by building a community among them.

IEEE President and CEO K.J. Ray Liu is committed to making IEEE the professional home for members. As he announced in his March column in The Institute, he’s doing that by “examining ways in which the organization could evolve to best meet the needs of all technical professionals in the years ahead.”

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Home Heating With Hydrogen: Ill-Advised as It Sounds

Several studies reveal serious drawbacks

3 min read
Two white boilers mounted on a wood wall, with pipes and tubes.

An old central heating boiler [left] and a hydrogen boiler inside the Hydrogen Experience Center, in the Netherlands.

Sem van der Wal/ANP/Getty Images

Hydrogen, if it comes from splitting water with renewable electricity, has its role as a climate-friendly energy source. It could help decarbonize challenging sectors like heavy industry, shipping, and aviation.

But hydrogen makes absolutely no sense for heating homes and buildings, according to a new review of several international studies. It is simply much too expensive and inefficient for that purpose, says Jan Rosenow, Europe director at the Regulatory Assistance Project, an energy think tank in Brussels, who authored the commentary published in the journal Joule.

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Exploring the Value of Power Modules

Learn how power modules can reduce power supply size, EMI, design time, and solution cost

1 min read
Texas Instruments

In this training series, we will discuss the high level of integration of DC/DC power modules and the significant implications that this has on power supply design.

Watch this free webinar now!

In addition to high power density and small solution size, modules can also simplify EMI mitigation and reduce power supply design time. And thanks to improved process and packaging technology, a power module may even provide all of these benefits with a lower overall solution cost as well.

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