Monday, October 27, 2008 ... //

Global warming caused by solar panels

This finding is kind of cute.

Alexander Ač has pointed out that a greenhouse gas emitted during the production of solar panels and HDTVs, nitrogen trifluoride (NF3) that is used for cleaning some parts of the gadgets, is about 17,000 times more potent a greenhouse gas than carbon dioxide.

Google News, UC San Diego press release, Geophysics Research Letters (search for trifluoride)
The concentration of NF3 in the atmosphere was artificially increased by a factor of 20 during the last two decades. The measurements of the concentration surpassed the previous estimates by a factor of five.

The present 5,400 tons in the atmosphere - that will stay there for 700+ years - creates the equivalent warming of all Finland's CO2 emissions (I can't tell you how much it is, because of the unknown feedbacks, but the comparisons are pretty reliable).

Given the fact that the solar panels produce about the same percentage of the global energy as Finland, it is reasonable to guess that the state-of-the-art solar panels that would replace fossil fuels would cause a comparable amount of warming per Joule as fossil fuels. ;-)