Potential Health Impacts from Photovoltaics

Reader Contribution by Paula Baker-Laporte and Econest Architecture Inc.
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Renewable energy is reducing our dependency on fossil fuels but are there negative consequences for our health?


Can photovoltaic installations have negative health impacts? I am often asked this question by people who want to practice sound ecological citizenry and who also care about the health of their family.


Effects from Electrical Frequencies Detected


While the negative impact of some common chemicals is at last widely recognized and popular green certifications now reward or demand reduction of chemicals, there is very little discussion about the harmful effects of man-made electrical frequencies or measures that can be taken to reduce exposure.


The jury is still out in the world of industry-sponsored and independent research, but there is a fast-growing segment of the population who feels ill from our ever-increasing use of electricity and wireless frequencies.


While our government agencies, medical associations, and power companies debate the existence of this health threat, the people who are suffering seek safety and relief. Others who are not affected may be wise to employ a precautionary stance, knowing that what overtly harms some may also have negative impacts for all in the long run.

Michael Schwaebe, PE and Building Biologist has installed Dissipative Noise Reduction filter on solar inverters to remediate dirty electricity transmissions caused by the photo voltaic installation.

Electromagnetic Radiation Issues


The Building Biology Institute (IBE) has long paid attention to electromagnetic radiation and has offered comprehensive training on the measurement and remediation of elevated frequencies. IBE has recently published a long-awaited position paper on the electromagnetic radiation issues associated with photovoltaic installations.


The following summary, written by fellow building biologist and co-author of the paper, Sonia Hoglander, outlines areas of concern. Read the full paper: Photovoltaic Electrical Systems: Electromagnetic Exposure Issues & Overview of Configurations.


Areas of Concern


Photovoltaic systems can have detrimental health effects.


• Inverters cause electrical “noise” called “dirty electricity” on house electrical circuits and appliance cords that can be irritating to sensitive people — even people who have not been conscious of sensitivity in the past could experience discomfort. People have reported symptoms of nausea, headaches, and fatigue.


• Ground current can also be introduced or be exacerbated on surrounding earth, causing magnetic fields that interfere with biological rhythms. Some common symptoms associated with manmade magnetic fields are sleep disturbance and depression.

• Wireless communication may be part of a system allowing billing and monitoring functions. Wireless communication is radiation in the microwave range of the electromagnetic spectrum. This part of the spectrum is linked to cancer. Symptoms from exposure cover a broad range including nausea, headaches, fatigue and sleep disturbance from the dirty electricity and magnetic fields, but also irritability, skin problems, dizziness, visual and hearing disruptions.

• These issues of microwave radiation from wireless signals, dirty electricity, and ground currents are complex electromagnetic factors that affect the home environment and are difficult to mitigate. Hardwired Ethernet connections from a non-wireless electric meter to the homeowner’s router and filters can be helpful but the renewable energy industry does not currently design systems with biological effects in mind.


William Holland, post filter installation, testing for SMA inverters, DNA filters above to the left.

The International Institute for Building Biology & Ecology recently published a paper that explains how solar panels affect the electromagnetic environment; causing potentially irritating dirty electricity and ground currents. In summary they state:


“Photovoltaic (PV) power generation systems as well as other alternative energy producing systems (e.g. wind generators and gas power, on-site generators) are not recommended for people who are experiencing electromagnetic sensitivity and especially for people displaying the symptoms of Electromagnetic Hyper-Sensitivity (EHS). Asymptomatic people are cautioned to evaluate all the pros and cons before moving ahead, especially as pertains to the generation of unwanted EMF radiations and effectiveness of filtration options offered by various system purveyors for dealing with these unwanted radiations.”

Paula Baker-Laporte, FAIA, is an architect, healthy building consultant, instructor for the International Institute of Building Biology and Ecology and author. She is the principle of EcoNest Architecture. She is primary author of Prescriptions for a Healthy House and co-author with husband Robert Laporte of The EcoNest Home. Connect with Paula on her website, and read all of her MOTHER EARTH NEWS posts here.

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