The photovoltaic effect is the heart of how sun light can be changed into electricity. A lot of people crow about how it is the perfect type of green energy because it is zero emissions and harmless to the enviroment. Well, that ain’t so buckaroo.
First off, to get the material for a solar panel, you have to use highly purified silicon, which means that a lot of hydrochloric acid will be needed to purify the silicon. Next, you will need a lot of electricity to just manufacture the solar panel and the net amount of electricity used to manufacture the solar panel is going to be more than the amount that the solar panel will produce through out it’s expected period of use. Finally, you will need to find a way to store electricity that is generated, and if you use batteries, not only will you have to make more hydrochloric acid, but sulfuric acid as well. My best estimate on the increase of acid production would be at least 1 billion tons a year for hydrochloric acid and maybe about half that for sulfuric acid, which means at least a four fold increase in the production for both acids and that is only for acid used by the solar panel manufacturing industry.
So that means the manufacture of solar panels will result in a net decrease in the amount of electricity produced, but that we will also have to deal with the increased problem of handling storage of at least a billion and half tons of acidic leftovers on an annual basis. Give me good old CO2 anytime.