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Solar Panels Soaking UP Energy From the Sun

I'M Guilty.


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NORTHAMPTON COUNTY


Woodland becomes butt of social media after anti-solar remarks

Story goes viral after local residents make outlandish anti-solar claims Woodland officials then barraged by hate mail Town officials say the Internet missed an important piece of the story


BY JOHN MURAWSKI [email protected]
Usually what happens in Woodland stays in Woodland, a town 115 miles east of Raleigh with one Dollar General store and one restaurant.
But news of the Northampton County hamlet’s moratorium on solar farms blew up on social media over the weekend after a local paper quoted a resident complaining to the Town Council that solar farms would take away sunshine from nearby vegetation. Another resident warned that solar panels would suck up energy from the sun.
 

austinEV

Active Member
May 16, 2013
3,233
7,384
Austin
Well, solar panels DO suck up energy from the sun, it's just not something you need to worry about.

Thought experiment: Does a very large theoretical coverage have a macro change to the earth? Like if 50% of land was covered with panels, lowering the albedo would the earth in theory warm? In particular since this vast electricty would have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is almost all heat loss eventually. What is the small net change of the earth's heat cycle?
 

Saghost

Well-Known Member
Oct 9, 2013
8,224
7,091
Delaware
Well, solar panels DO suck up energy from the sun, it's just not something you need to worry about.

Thought experiment: Does a very large theoretical coverage have a macro change to the earth? Like if 50% of land was covered with panels, lowering the albedo would the earth in theory warm? In particular since this vast electricty would have to go somewhere, and that somewhere is almost all heat loss eventually. What is the small net change of the earth's heat cycle?

I can't see it having a major impact - as you say, nearly all that energy ends up as heat before long anyway (some ends up as chemical potential energy we don't plan to reclaim any time soon, like in aluminum refining.)

To my mind, the opposite effect seems more likely at extreme macro scales - plants all reflect infrared to stay cooler, solar panels absorb it. If we displace a lot of trees with solar panels, we presumably absorb more energy at ground level as heat...
 

austinEV

Active Member
May 16, 2013
3,233
7,384
Austin
I can't see it having a major impact - as you say, nearly all that energy ends up as heat before long anyway (some ends up as chemical potential energy we don't plan to reclaim any time soon, like in aluminum refining.)

To my mind, the opposite effect seems more likely at extreme macro scales - plants all reflect infrared to stay cooler, solar panels absorb it. If we displace a lot of trees with solar panels, we presumably absorb more energy at ground level as heat...

I like your theory. Yet another reason to support solar, though the magnitude of the effect might be too small to measure. On the other hand, if we crack cheap fusion tomorrow we *would* suddenly have a heat issue, since all that cheap fusion energy would end up as waste heat. It wouldn't be an issue at first, but dramatically cheaper and more ubiquitous power would cause new applications we can't imagine.
 

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