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Safer Solar Power: Notes and Resources

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Safer Solar Power: Notes and Resources

2015 by Katie Singer

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Most folks know that solar power can benefit every community and household: it minimizes dependence on fossil fuels and the corporations that provide electricity. Solar systems also have a rarely-discussed shadow side: their delivery can generate extremely low frequency (ELF) and radiofrequency (RF) radiation. The World Health Organization considers such electromagnetic radiation (EMR) Class 2B carcinogens. Long-term, chronic exposure to EMR can compromise peoples' health,

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To keep energy efficient and healthy, we each walk a steep learning curve. This paper presents questions on systems that use DC output photo voltaic cells; it aims to encourage discussion and provide resources for reducing EMR emissions and exposure with solar power.

How do solar powered systems generate EMR?

Solar panels collect direct current (DC) electricity. To provide AC electricity at outlets (since most electronic devices and appliances ultimately require alternating current (AC) electricity), the collected DC goes through an inverter. Most inverters generate magnetic fields, also called ELF/EMR (extremely low frequency/electromagnetic radiation).

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An inverter's EMR emissions can exceed safety standards for workers (set by OSHA), people with medical implants (set by implant manufacturers), and the public health(set by several European countries and the WHO). No US government agency has established safety standards for EMR exposure for children or pregnant women.

Inverters also generate "chopped" current on 60 Hz wires, distorting the smooth, 60-cycle sine wave. This is sometimes called "dirty" power or "dirty" electricity. Dirty power can start at powerlines or within a house. It can travel throughout a building's wires.

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Katie Singer works on public policy with the Electromagnetic Radiation Policy Institute. A medical journalist, her books include The Garden of Fertility; Honoring Our Cycles, and An Electronic Silent Spring: Facing the Dangers and Creating Safe Limits. 

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