This is certainly true in relation to solar panels used to convert light into direct current (DC) electricity to heat water for domestic use or swimming pools. It’s an excellent idea.
The problems can start when the DC supply is converted to alternating current (AC) so that it can be used to power electrical equipment in the home such as televisions, fridges, computers, and so on. To do this, an inverter has to be installed, and what many people don’t realize is that to avoid any health effects from electromagnetic fields, it needs to be located at least 2 meters (approx. 6.5 feet) away from anywhere people spend much time, especially bedrooms. The same goes for the water pump. And cables running from the inverter need to be sheathed or placed inside metal conduits. Systems vary widely, so it’s advisable to test thoroughly with a good quality EMF meter before installing.
But this is only the beginning. Most inverters also create dirty electricity, which can have many health effects. Surplus electricity can be sold to a utility company and fed into a local or national grid, causing dirty electricity to spread to other people’s homes too. In many countries, governments actively encourage this by giving subsidies to people who want to participate in such a scheme. Ironically, they are usually the most environmentally responsible folk who genuinely want to help and have no idea this can have any side effects.
Then there is the problem of radio frequency (RF) radiation emitted by most inverters. People with electromagnetic hypersensitivity (EHS – approx. 3% of the population and rising) find this intolerable. In places such as New Jersey, where solar powered lighting linked to a smart grid has been extensively installed, some EHS people report they cannot even stand near to a street light without feeling debilitated. You’d certainly want to research your own level of sensitivity before spending a huge amount of money to install solar panels in your home and discover – as some people have – that you can’t stand to have the system turned on.
Like many technologies, it’s probably possible to design a solar panel system that does not generate high EMFs, dirty electricity or RFs, but it will cost more. It will therefore only be developed if people become aware of the problems and start asking for a better system that is both green and healthy. Hence this blog article.
Something also needs to be done about the eyesore solar panels create (see top photo), and I recently heard about a company in the UK that has done just that, winning the 2011 award for ‘Product Innovation of the Year’ at the Low Carbon Performance Awards. Solar Slate has designed solar panels that look just like ordinary roof slates, and blend in so well with the local envornment that they have received planning approval for installation on a Grade II listed property, which is extremely hard to get.
Copyright © Karen Kingston 2012