Rather than use energy more efficiently than traditional industries, newer types of manufacturing processes — solar panel production, for example — are outrageously energy-inefficient, according to a new analysis from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT).
Timothy Gutowski of MIT’s Department of Mechanical Engineering led the analysis, which examined the materials and energy consumption of 20 different manufacturing processes.
“The seemingly extravagant use of materials and energy resources by many newer manufacturing processes is alarming and needs to be addressed alongside claims of improved sustainability from products manufactured by these means,” Gutowski and his team write in the journal Environmental Science and Technology.
In a process such as solar panel production, for example, manufacturing inefficiencies could dramatically reduce the energy benefits of solar power. The industry’s energy consumption could also pose problems as production expands, especially if energy prices rise again or a carbon tax is instituted.
“(C)laims that these technologies are going to save us in some way need closer scrutiny,” says Gutowski. “There’s a significant energy cost involved here.”