Are solar panels really environmentally friendly?, Solar energy is a renowned and clean energy source but some claim that solar energy is not eco-friendly. So here we are to dispel the myths and discuss some environmental impacts of solar energy. Most people are want to protect the planet Earth which means that more of us want to make proper use of renewable sources of energy like solar energy.
With an annual growth rate of 50%, solar energy is experiencing an important surge in popularity in green circles. But some believe that solar energy is not as environmentally friendly as it is assumed to be. Solar panels flickering in the sun and they are an icon of all that is green. But while generating electricity through photovoltaics is for sure better for the environment than burning fossil fuels.
But there is a number of cases that have linked the manufacture of these shining symbols of environmental virtue to a trail of chemical pollution, but and it turns out that the time it takes to compensate for the energy used and the greenhouse gases emitted in photovoltaic panel production that varies substantially, by using technology and geography. But the good news is that the solar industry could readily eliminate many of the damaging side effects that do exist in this industry.
But for sure pressure for it to do is developing.
Are solar panels really environmentally friendly?
Today nearly half of the world’s photovoltaic are manufactured in China as a result that countries that manufacture the most photovoltaic today do the worst job to protect the environment and their workers. If we want to understand the exact problem and how it might be addressed then it is helpful to know a little about that how photovoltaic panels are made.
On the other hand, solar energy can be generated using a variety of technologies and the majority of solar cells today starts as quartz, it is one of the common forms of silicon [silicon dioxide] which is refined into elemental silicon. There is the first problem with quartz is that it is extracted from mines that put the miners at high risk. The initial steps of refining turn out the quartz onto metallurgical-grade silicon and it is the substance that is mostly used to harden the steel and many other metals.
This all process takes place in giant furnaces and keeping them hot takes a lot of energy. But the levels of the emissions that are resultant of the process is mostly carbon dioxide and sulfur dioxide that can not do much harm to the people that are working at the silicon refineries and the environment.
And the next step is that turning metallurgical-grade silicon into a purer form that’s called polysilicon that makes the highly toxic compound of silicon tetrachloride. The refinement process consists of combining hydrochloric acid with metallurgical-grade silicon to turn out into what are called trichlorosilane, then they react with hydrogen that is producing polysilicon with liquid silicon tetrachloride that three to four tons of silicon tetrachloride per ton of polysilicon.
There is a number of manufacturers that recycle this waste to make more polysilicon. Capturing silicon from silicon tetrachloride requires less energy than making it from raw silica, so recycling this waste can save manufacturers money. But the reprocessing equipment that are using in this process can cost tens of millions of dollars. So some operations have just thrown away the by-product. If exposed to water then tetrachloride produces hydrochloric acid and this acidifies the soil and emitting harmful fumes.
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Why is solar energy bad for the environment?
Solar energy provides significant environmental benefits in comparison to other natural sources of energy thus they contribute to the sustainable development of human activities. However, the deployment of such systems has to face potential negative environmental implications. These are the problems that might be strong barriers to further advancement of these systems in consumers.
Some environmental impacts are associated with solar energy and can be classified according to their categories like land -use impacts, impacts to water, soil and air, ecological impacts and some other impacts like socioeconomic ones and these impacts are greatly depending on the technology from which the solar panels are made.
Ecological and Land Use impacts
Solar energy facilities large areas for collection of energy if you consider according to the point of generating electricity at a utility -scale, and because of this reason the facilities may interfere with existing land uses and can also impact the use of areas like recreational or wilderness management areas.
Solar energy may also impact land by materials exploration, extraction, disposal and manufacturing, energy footprints can also become incrementally high. However, some of the lands may be utilised for energy in a way that it returns to a pre- disturbed state necessitates that signifies energy input or time, or both, and some other uses are so dramatic that incurred changes are irreversible.
Water, Soil and Air impacts
The construction of solar system facilities on some areas of land imposes grading and clearing leads to soil compaction, alteration of drainage channels and erosion. In this case, central tower system is required that consumes water for cooling which is a concern in arid settings as the water demand increase then it may strain available water resources and chemical spills from the facilities which may result in the contamination of groundwater or the ground surface.
There is an argument that the latest technologies that are introduced in the market like thin- film pales are manufactured by dangerous heavy metals like Cadmium Telluride. But, indeed, that solar panels manufactured by using these materials but oil and coal are also contained the same substance which is produced with combustion. Coal power plants release much more of these toxic substances that pollute up to 300 times more than solar panels manufacturers.
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What are the negative effects of solar panels?
Solar energy is not without negative effects, so let us discuss them here-
Solar needs a significant amount of energy up front to produce. In the production of solar panels, mining, manufacturing and transportation all need a substantial amount of energy.
To manufacture solar panels, Quartz must be processed and purified and then manufactured with some other components like aluminum and copper, etc. all this process needs lots of energy. By using traditional fuels like gas then they are extracted purified, processed and burned at very large scales in a single location.
The process used to manufacture solar panels and semi-conductors involves hazardous chemicals. But the use of these hazardous chemicals depending on the solar panel manufacturers and country of origin as these chemicals may or may not be disposed of in the right way. As not every manufacturer will dump chemicals or would not recycle their by- products properly.
Solar panels recycling has not developed as a major issue yet but it can be in the coming decades as solar panels are required to be replaced. But in the current situation, solar panels can be disposed of with some other standard e- waste. However, there are some countries without strong e-waste disposal means that are at risk of recycling-related issues.
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What are the 5 advantages of solar energy?
There are five most popular advantages of solar energy that come directly back to you as the homeowner-
Reduces your monthly bills
The right amount of solar energy and the right payment plan can give more money in your pocket every month. And over the time your monthly savings will also increase so that over a decade your solar panels will have saved you thousands of dollars.
But the utility rates may fluctuate with little warning and also without your consent. When you switch to solar you can lock in your rates for the upcoming years and you would not get any of those surprises that you get along with traditional utility solar companies.
Reduces air pollution
Using fossil fuels produces a lot of pollutants in the environment. If you have visited mountains and valleys then you have seen what there is dirty air looks like. Smog and dirty air are very bad for our environment, our health and it is also bad for aesthetics. But using solar energy in the right way can reduce air pollution as it is a natural energy source that would not contribute to air pollution.
Reduce water wastage
If we are using an energy source that does not use fossil fuels to power itself then it probably uses some sort of water as its resource, as hydropower and nuclear energy both use a lot of water to generate electricity.
Often a dam will need to be built to control the electricity production and water flow, but with dams, there is a problem that damming water will have an impact on the ecosystem. By using solar panels we can generate electricity without water and it gives nor a negative impact on the ecosystem. In fact, a study proves that solar energy systems could reduce water consumption. By this, we can also solve the major issue of water scarcity.
Reduce dependence on non-renewable energy sources
You can enjoy solar energy because it is green energy and independent energy. And solar energy can also help to reduce our dependence on non-renewable sources of energy like fossil fuels.
Solar energy is a great source of energy for so many reasons but on the other hand, non- renewable sources of energy create a lot of pollutants that negatively impact air quality. The sooner and fully we can make the transition to renewable energy and it is better for both the environment and species.
Last but not least we have a major issue of climate change. The continuous dumping of pollutants and additional Carbon Dioxide into the air costs our planet and it makes it tougher and tougher for our environment to clean the polluted air. As the carbon count continues increasing our retention of heat from the sun.
This also changes our air conditions that will affect on climate that cause some to warm others to cool and also causing weather patterns everywhere to become volatile and sudden. Solar energy is one of the best ways to prevent the effects of climate change by reducing our carbon dioxide emissions and by releasing fewer pollutants in the environment we can all do our part to slow down the hazardous climate change.