Solar panels are the most common form of renewable energy for our homes and businesses, with an increasing number of structures electing to install them.
Additionally, we are witnessing a rise in the number of solar energy systems being built, all of which is terrific news for our world and the environment. However, it is critical to comprehend why solar panels are beneficial to the environment, a few of the negative impacts they may now cause, and address them.
- 1 Advantages of Solar Power
- 2 Disadvantages of Solar Power
- 3 How Can We Make Things Better?
- 4 What Changes Can Be Made?
- 5 Conclusion
Advantages of Solar Power
Solar panels provide several environmental advantages owing to their green energy and absence of emissions when in use.
Reduce the Dependence on National Grid
Generating electricity is only done at night. Individuals who do not have solar batteries will need to connect to the National Grid if they do not have enough energy to power their homes after dark. It is, however, lowering their reliance on the National Grid by a significant amount. This, in turn, makes it economically attractive.
Solar energy relies solely on receiving energy from the sun and converting it into electricity (or hot water) for use in our homes; therefore, it produces no greenhouse gases caused by the ignition of natural gas or coal and does not contribute to global warming emissions. In just one year, it may cut your home’s carbon impact by 80% compared to conventional energy sources.
Solar power is one of the renewable sources of energy for cleaner power. This implies there will always be enough because it is a renewable energy source (for another few billion years anyway). Human activities hurt the world when we harvest and distribute fossil fuels or coal because they are a finite source of energy.
Using fossil fuels can significantly increase the carbon footprint. If you use solar panels, you are one less home that uses fossil fuels or coal, and you might contribute to a significant environmental impact than you realise.
They have a lengthy lifespan and require little to no upkeep. Traditional heating techniques need relatively frequent replacement and maintenance, resulting in a lot of waste and raising the need for more units to be manufactured. Solar panels have a 50-year lifespan, so you won’t have to replace them for quite some time.
Disadvantages of Solar Power
The sun is a fantastic resource for creating clean, long-lasting power that does not pollute the environment or contribute to global warming. However, harnessing solar energy with solar panels to fight climate change comes with potential environmental impacts.
Solar systems’ probable negative environmental consequences— water consumption, land use and habitat loss, and the use of hazardous compounds in manufacturing. This can differ a lot depending on the technology. The technology is divided into two categories: photovoltaic (PV) solar panels and concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP).
The size of the system has a considerable impact on the environment, ranging from small, dispersed rooftop PV arrays to enormous utility-scale PV and CSP installations.
Land Use for Solar Power
Larger utility-scale solar power plants may cause land degradation and habitat loss, depending on their location. The overall land area required varies depending on technology, topography, and the intensity of solar resources.
PV systems on utility scale require between 3.5 and 10 acres per megawatt, whereas CSP plants require around 4 to 16.5 acres per megawatt.
Can Land Use Be Reduced?
Unlike wind farms, solar projects have fewer chances to share land with agricultural enterprises. Utility-scale solar systems, on the other hand, can be installed in low-quality regions like abandoned mining sites, brownfields, or existing transportation and transmission lines to lessen land impacts.
Smaller solar PV arrays on residential or commercialised buildings have a modest environmental effect.
Water Usage For Solar Power
Solar photovoltaic panels generate power without the usage of water. Water is utilised in fabricating solar panels’ components, as it is in other industrial processes.
Water is used to cool CS, as it is for other thermal power plants. The amount of water used is determined by the plant’s design, location, and cooling system.
CSP and Water Usage
Every megawatt-hour of electricity generated by CSP systems with wet-recirculating cooling towers necessitates 600 to 650 gallons of water. The amount of water extracted is larger in CSP plants that employ once-through cooling technology, while the amount of water used is lower (because they do not lose water as steam).
Using dry-cooling technology, CSP plants may save up to 90% of their water. However, these water savings come at a cost: higher out-of-pocket expenditures and worse efficiency. Furthermore, dry-cooling technology is significantly less efficient at temperatures exceeding 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
Many areas with high solar energy potential also have the driest climates and scarce water supplies, necessitating a thorough assessment of these water trade-offs.
Use of Hazardous Materials in the Solar Panel Manufacturing Processes
A variety of hazardous chemicals are employed in the manufacturing of solar panels, most of which are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface.
Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone are toxic materials utilised in the semiconductor business. The amount and kind of chemicals used are determined by the type of solar panels, the amount of cleaning required, and the silicon wafer size.
Inhaling silicon dust poses a risk to workers. Solar panel manufacturers must thus adhere to UK legislation to guarantee that workers are not damaged by exposure to these chemicals and that production waste is appropriately disposed of.
Thin-Film Solar Panels and Hazards
Gallium arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, and cadmium-telluride are more toxic materials found in thin-film solar panels than those found in typical silicon solar panels.
These materials may pose significant environmental and public health risks if they are not handled and disposed of correctly. On the other hand, manufacturers have a substantial financial incentive to recycle rather than discard these extremely precious and frequently uncommon materials.
Recycling of Solar Panels
Currently, there is a significant problem with solar panel recycling; there aren’t enough areas to recycle old solar panels, and there aren’t enough non-operational solar panels to make recycling economically viable.
Solar panels must be recycled since the materials required to manufacture them are rare or valuable metals, all of which are made of silver, tellurium, or indium. Due to the inability to recycle the panels, such recoverable metals may go to waste, resulting in future resource shortage difficulties.
Consider silicon, which is required to manufacture most of today’s photovoltaic cells and is currently abundant. However, a silicon-based solar cell requires a significant amount of energy in its manufacturing process, with the energy source, which is frequently coal, determining the size of the cell’s carbon footprint.
The inability to drive significant change in the recycling of the materials used in solar panel manufacturing, a business that already has excellent environmental credibility from a power-generation standpoint, is due to a lack of awareness about the manufacturing process of solar panels and the issue of recycling them, as well as a lack of external pressure.
How Can We Make Things Better?
The main thing to remember is that solar panels are a great and efficient way to generate sustainable electricity for your house and have significant environmental benefits, lowering your carbon footprint significantly. While the manufacturing process and other things aren’t yet flawless, you shouldn’t be afraid to invest.
Every solar panel purchased contributes to the advancement of research and development, which leads to product improvement, improvement in the manufacturing process and, therefore, sustainable development. There are specific issues that need to be addressed, and they will hopefully be addressed over time.
What Changes Can Be Made?
Here are a few significant areas where significant change can be made:
- During the day, you’ll be more productive.
- Solar batteries with higher efficiency for evening usage
- More money will be put into floating solar panels for reservoirs.
- For a reduced emission rate, a cleaner production method is required.
- Alternatives to the massive volumes of water utilised in cooling systems are being developed.
These things can be accomplished with more research and development, so keep investing in solar panels and supporting developing better panels. We will have better, more efficient, and more powerful renewable energy methods.
The impact of solar energy on the environment is not all positive. While solar panels are an excellent form of renewable energy that does not contribute to global warming emissions and does not increase carbon dioxide equivalent, they have negative environmental impacts.
Some of the environmental impacts of solar energy input include the use of lands that can cause degradation and habitat loss; use of too much water in the production process; use of hazardous chemicals in the production process, and lack of recycling opportunities.
While many people would argue against the wide-scale deployment of such systems, the environmental impacts of solar panels are far lesser than using natural gas or coal. It is only if more people buy solar panels that research and development can proceed, and this form of renewable energy can be widely set up all across the world to combat climate change.