I had a thought, that it would be pretty #solarpunk to do international shipping with solar powered sailboats. So I looked it up and found that robo-sailboats are a thing already, though in their infancy:
I'm struck by how this sort of thing could be within reach of hobbyists. The ideal POC would be a single-container cargo ship that could use solar power to do GPS, telemetry, and sail management. And go transatlantic or transpacific to prove it.
@restioson I don't think it's the use of those minerals that necessitates that harm, but the lack of care taken by rich, foreign-sponsored mining companies. I would imagine it's possible to mine lithium without creating massive mine-tailing pollution, but it's probably less profitable. :(
As to the panels themselves.. I think they're mostly silicon and dopants, so aside from the energy needed to make them, I don't think they create much pollution? Not certain of this.
@cathal maybe. Still iffy on the lithium though. As it stands, solarpunk wouldn't be ethical unless global - but that's the same with all trade currently
@restioson Well, a broader reading of solarpunk would include DIY solar thermal projects, plants, and most stuff under the "Appropriate Technology" header. Arguably these are more impactful by creating a more resilient and decentralised society.
But I'll grant you that the electronics-centric solarpunk will often centre around batteries + disposable electronics, and other people are expected to bear the externalities.
I still would guess that solar panels themselves aren't so bad, though.
@cathal yeah I'm mainly concerned about the batteries
@restioson I think there's room for optimism, there. Carbon-based batteries are likely to happen _someday_, and perhaps they'd catch up quickly enough to replace conventional metal batteries.
And, for practical use, there are already battery techs that are very long-lived and use more plentiful/less-damaging/more-recyclable metals: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel%E2%80%93iron_battery
This battery tech is sadly mostly abandoned, despite being fairly low-tech and probably super easy to maintain/recycle. #solarpunk, IMO.
@restioson ooo, and this one too: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nickel–zinc_battery - These ones might be practical for a DIY solar set-up with the right charge controller, though it would need to be custom as they expect higher voltages and no trickle-charge compared to NiMH/NiCd. But the increased self-discharge would probably not be an issue with a domestic solar set-up, where it gets re-charged every day anyway? Otherwise, they look tough, clean, could be manufactured from existing metal, and recyclable. 🤔
@cathal alternative battery tech is a big one. For big enough use cases we can use hydro storage though.
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