Image credit: G24 Innovations
From solar panels creating e-waste to ttoxic by-products created by the solar industry, it's clear that even though power generated from the sun beats coal any day of the week, there's no such thing as consequence-free energy. And then of course there is the age-old debate about the embodied energy of solar panels. Now one UK company is hoping to lessen these concerns, creating the world's first wind-powered solar panel factory. I'm kind of amazed nobody has done it before. According to a press release from green-energy pioneers Ecotricity, the G24i wind-powered solar factory in Wales will be "first in world to make 'Green from Green' solar panels using wind energy." G24i is making light-weight, flexible solar panels that are being built into bags and cases to recharge laptops, smartphones and other gadgets. By the end of the year, the manufacture of these panels will be powered by a 120 metre tall windmill that, the company says, will generate enough electricity to power 1,700 homes.
Ecotricity CEO Dale Vince, whose Nemesis electric car project we've been following with interest, likens the use of renewables to build renewables to the timeless quest for perpetual motion:
"We're chuffed to be building this windmill to power G24i, it's not just a world first it's a small glimpse of the future and for me at least a very exciting one - the idea that we can harness renewable energy and use that to make devices that themselves harness more renewable energy. It's almost perpetual motion."
Perpetual motion might be putting it a little strongly. Nevertheless, the idea of a renewables-powered factory building solar panels is a hugely symbolic step forward. I'm amazed it hasn't happened sooner (I'm sure a reader will alert us if it has!), but I'll be very surprised if we don't see a lot more similar projects being built in the coming years.
More on Ecotricity, Renewable Energy and Solar Power
The TH Interview: Dale Vince of Ecotricity
Ecotricity's 'Global Cooling' Machines
Biogas Direct to the Consumer. It's Vegan Too.
How Much Land to Power the Whole World With Solar?