by Thomas A. Troszak (14 Nov 2019 rev)

All modern technology including “renewable” energy depends on the non-renewable resources that make it possible. For example, every step in the production of solar photovoltaic (PV) power systems requires a perpetual input of fossil fuels—as carbon reductants for smelting metals from ore, for process heat and power, international transport, and deployment. Silicon smelters, polysilicon refineries, and crystal growers all require uninterrupted, 24/7 power that comes mostly from coal and uranium. Additional mineral resources and fossil energy are needed for constructing PV factories, process equipment, and manufacturing infrastructure. The only “renewable” materials consumed in PV production are obtained by deforestation—for wood chips, and by burning vast areas of tropical rainforest for charcoal used as a source of carbon for silicon smelters. Both media and journal claims that solar PV can somehow “replace fossil fuels” have not addressed the “non-renewable reality” of all the global manufacturing supply chains necessary for the mining, manufacturing, and distribution of PV power systems. Some often-cited accounts of solar PV production exclude raw materials and silicon smelters from the PV “supply chain” entirely, which obscures the profoundly non-sustainable basis of PV technology. A more complete overview of commercial PV production is presented, from the sources of raw materials to the deployed array. 38 references from published articles and industry sources are cited. (2019-11-18 revision)