“Schools make strides on solar” (The Daily Progress, June 10) claims a number of benefits from the forthcoming installation of solar electric panels on the roofs of county schools.

“Saving money” is a 20-year gamble on whether Dominion Virginia Power electricity rates will be the same as or higher than the rates contracted with the solar vendor. The official Albemarle County School Board news release is clear on this point.

The solar electricity rates escalate about 3 percent each year, and account for a loss of electrical efficiency of the solar panels each year. Rates that start around 10 cents per kWh contractually escalate to around 17 cents per kWh in year 20. The panels are to be primarily an educational tool, not an alternative power source.

“Cutting back on carbon emissions” is not defined terminology.  If the writer meant that less carbon dioxide would be released by solar generation of electricity, he might have forgotten to account for the electricity used in the production of the panels. The prime manufacturer of solar panels is China, and China continues to build on average one new coal power electric power plant per week. Thus, the “carbon emissions” are just moved out of his sight, but not entirely reduced.

“Environmentally friendly”? Solar panel manufacture involves the use of highly toxic chemicals, including hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride and 1,1,1-trichloroethane (“Environmental Impacts of Solar Power,” Union of Concerned Scientists). Our environment might be free of these toxins, but not that of the Chinese workers and their families.

“Economically viable” only in a free-lunch world. How could a solar energy provider afford to purchase, install and maintain a solar panel installation and charge only for the electricity sold and still make a profit? A 30 percent federal tax credit, state subsidies and other environmental rebates drive the economics of this scheme. Higher taxes and higher electricity rates pay for the “economic viability.” These added costs impact most severely on the poorer members of society, who get to fund this “win-win” initiative for the more advantaged.

Charles Battig

Albemarle County

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