A bill submitted to the New York legislature by a Republican state senator aims to amend multiple state laws, redefining “clean electricity infrastructure” by limiting its scope to wind and solar facilities and electric cars. According to this proposal, these entities can only be classified as “clean” if the energy used to manufacture them is sourced from wind and solar.
Introduced as S6732, the bill was forwarded to the New York legislature in May and later referred to the floor of the Energy and Telecommunications Committee. No votes have been cast on this bill, and the legislative session in New York concluded last weekend.
The proposed legislation consists of five succinct, similarly worded amendments. The initial amendment reads:
To require that the manufacture and distribution of electric vehicles, wind turbines, solar collectors and infrastructure to upgrade the power grid is conducted using only wind and solar energy and does not use any power derived from fossil fuels, nuclear energy or any form of combustion. This subdivision shall apply to all mining and material processing required to obtain and create materials used, all industrial operations, fabrication and assembly, and all distribution to end users.
This stance on “clean energy” recalls the bold actions of environmental activist Greta Thunberg. To underscore the challenges of transitioning to clean energy, Thunberg sailed across the Atlantic in a carbon-neutral ship, an inconvenient journey taking 14 days each way. Her voyage conveyed a powerful message about the need for innovation, development, and construction to create an appealing, clean future. Thunberg’s commitment highlights the delicate balance between leveraging technology and resources that benefit society and those that might pose a threat, while recognizing clearly that we are currently dependent on fossils.
The press release from the bill sponsor includes an erroneous claim that solar panels “require” rare earth elements. Although thin-film solar panels from First Solar do require tellurium, a rare element, First Solar’s manufacturing capacity constitutes about 2% of the solar market worldwide. Projections indicate that by 2025, when First Solar is expected to hit 10 GW per year of manufacturing capacity, the global manufacturing capacity of solar panels should exceed 1,000 GW per year. Thus, the assertion that solar panels “require” rare earth minerals appears to stem from deliberate ignorance and bad faith.
The concluding statement of the bill sponsor’s press release suggests delaying the rollout of new clean energy technologies until all such technologies are produced using clean energy. Delaying clean energy infrastructure would result in continued dependence on heavily polluting fossil fuel infrastructure.
The Global Electronics Council recently published a standard aimed at reducing the carbon footprint of solar panel manufacturing.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own, and do not necessarily reflect those held by pv magazine.
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