In comparison to conventional energy sources, solar energy systems have substantial environmental advantages; as a result, they significantly support the sustainable development of human activities. However, there are occasions when the large-scale deployment of such systems must deal with potentially detrimental environmental repercussions. For certain users, these potential issues could constitute a significant roadblock to the development of these systems, even though there is a positive environmental impact. So, how does solar energy impact the environment? Let us find it all.
How Does Solar Energy Impact the Environment?
Although it is known to all that Solar Energy is eco-friendly, comparing solar energy to other forms of energy, the environment benefits more from solar energy. It lessens carbon emissions, lessens our reliance on limited natural resources, and aids in the fight against global warming. Solar energy is a fantastic choice, especially for those who live in sunny climates. Solar energy can still be stored even when there is no access to direct sunshine. Recycling, disposal, and production all still present difficulties. To address these issues, new regulations and technological advancements are being developed quickly. To understand how does solar energy impact the environment, you also need to learn about the negative and positive impacts of solar energy.
What are the Positive Impacts of Solar Energy?
Here are a few positive impacts of solar energy on the environment:
1. Solar Power Lowers Carbon Emissions
Tons of carbon dioxide and other hazardous gases are emitted into the atmosphere through the combustion of fossil fuels including natural gas, coal, and petroleum.
In 2020, the combustion of fossil fuels in the US was responsible for 73% of greenhouse gas emissions. These gases are released into the atmosphere, which worsens environmental problems like climate change and global warming.
The carbon emissions of solar and other energy sources have been measured in a number of studies over the years. Tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per megawatt-hour or grams of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour can be used to measure the carbon emission intensity of solar panels and other fuels. More favorable environmental effects result from lower carbon emission intensity.
Also Read: Solar Energy VS Geothermal Energy: Which is Right For You?
2. Solar Power Conserves Water Resources
One of the most important natural resources in our world is water. The scarcity of pure water has increased.
Water is a crucial component of the manufacturing process for traditional energy. Manufacturers use liters of water to generate energy, from extraction to transportation to power generation. Despite being recycled, some of the water used in power plants evaporates or becomes contaminated.
Water conservation is achievable with solar. In order to generate power, solar panels require little or no water. This stops harmful gases and pollutants from contaminating our water supplies. Furthermore, it protects clean water.
3. Solar Energy Decreases Air Pollution
The environment and human health can both be greatly impacted by the air we breathe. The power produced by burning fossil fuels releases toxic chemicals like methane and carbon dioxide, which worsen air quality and cause air pollution. The pH of water systems is lowered, which kills aquatic life, and contributes to acid rain, which disrupts our entire ecology. Additionally, acid rain contaminates the soil and destroys vital nutrients required for healthy plant development. These gases also have a significant role in the development of chronic respiratory illnesses.
By switching to solar-powered electricity generation, we can lessen the demand for power plants that emit harmful air pollutants.
Also See: 13 Common Problems With Solar Panels On Roofs
4. Solar Energy Conserves Finite Natural Resources
Natural resources like coal, natural gas, and oil are limited in supply. We run the risk of running out of these resources if we use the energy produced by burning fossil fuels.
More environmentally generated electricity comes from solar energy. Utilizing sunshine, a free renewable energy source lowers energy costs, reduces carbon emissions, and reduces reliance on limited fossil resources.
5. Solar Energy Helps Solve Climate Change
Burning fossil fuels has several negative repercussions, one of which is climate change and global warming. Solar energy is a renewable resource with no harmful carbon emissions. With solar energy, we can generate cleaner electricity while halting climate change. The US solar business claims that solar energy has greatly reduced global warming emissions, to the equivalent of 2 billion trees planted.
Also Read: What is Solar Net Metering?
What are Negative Impacts of Solar Panels?
To find out how does solar energy impact the environment, learning about the negative impacts of solar panels is also important. Generally, solar panels have the least number of negative impacts, however, some of the negative impacts of solar energy on the environment are listed below:
1. Use of Toxic Chemicals and Materials
To clean the semiconductors during the production of solar panels, hazardous chemicals, and materials are used. The size of the solar panels and the amount of cleaning required determine how much chemical is utilized. Hydrofluoric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and other substances are a few of these compounds.
Solar panel makers run the risk of breathing silicon dust, endangering the public’s health in addition to releasing harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
Also See: How to Evaluate Solar Panels with 5 Key Parameters
2. High Energy Use
To manufacture solar panels, a lot of energy is needed. It takes a significant amount of energy up front to mine, manufacture, and transport. For instance, other minerals like aluminum and copper are required for the conversion of quartz into silicon. High heat is also required for the heating process. Manufacturers must use a lot of energy from conventional fuels like gas, coal, and other fossil fuels to run these operations on a big scale, which increases the carbon footprint of solar cells and releases damaging greenhouse gases.
3. Habitat Loss
Large tracts of land must be cleared of all vegetation before solar companies can install large-scale solar energy systems there. This may ultimately result in the destruction of habitat for wildlife. Wildlife may suffer if water resources are diverted for solar energy projects. Additionally, erosion and soil compaction may be brought on by the building of solar plants. Installing solar panel systems on a pre-existing infrastructure, such as parking lots, commercial buildings, brownfields, etc., can help to mitigate the loss of wildlife habitat.
4. Water, Air, and Soil Pollution
As we previously indicated, building a solar power plant necessitates clearing a sizable area of land, which causes soil erosion. Additionally, inappropriate chemical disposal can result in soil, water, and air contamination. Solar panel production, installation, and transportation all contribute significantly to carbon emissions.
Utilizing more sustainable alternatives, such as renewable biomass, instead of fossil fuels like coal throughout production operations is one strategy to reduce emissions. With this, you should have understood how does solar energy impact the environment.
What are the Long-Term Effects of Solar Energy?
After learning how does solar energy impact the environment, let’s also learn about the long-term effects of solar energy-
1. Cost Efficient: Utilizing solar energy for free means lower or non-existent utility costs. Solar energy can be produced primarily throughout the day; therefore, it typically balances off the highest peak electricity rates. Its ability to maximize your savings is primarily due to this. Incentives are offered by the government to homes that choose to employ renewable energy sources.
2. Secure Investment: Owners of domestic solar systems can produce free, sustainable electricity using solar panels. Owners of domestic solar systems can produce free, sustainable electricity using solar panels. By investing in a solar PV system, you may therefore use the sun’s energy, which is available in plenty and is also free for everyone.
3. Increases Home Value: Solar panels are an upgrade, much like house remodeling. Consequently, installing a solar energy system will probably raise the value of your house. When determining a home’s value at the time of a sale, appraisers are increasingly taking solar installations into account. Even homebuyers today are learning more about solar energy and asking to buy homes with solar panel systems.
4. Reduces Carbon Footprint: Among all energy sources, solar energy has the least detrimental effects on the environment. Additionally, it does not damage the water or release greenhouse gases. Unlike nuclear power facilities, it also requires extremely little water for maintenance. The carbon footprint is decreased as a result of this.
5. Low Maintenance Cost: Installation of solar panels for a home requires little to no maintenance. There are consequently not many costs related to the system during the course of its 25-to-30-year average lifespan. Monitoring difficulties, cable maintenance, panel cleaning, etc. are a few examples of these costs.
6. Multiple applications of Solar Power: Above all, solar energy has a wide range of uses. The solar water heater, which is used in residential homes to heat water, is one of the most widely used solar-powered appliances. When it comes to producing electricity, the solar system’s batteries store energy that is captured throughout the day and provide power all day long. One of the best strategies to lower energy costs is to use solar appliances.
How Do Solar Panels Help Climate Change?
Solar energy is a renewable resource that plays a significant part in lowering greenhouse gas emissions and preventing climate change, which is essential for safeguarding people, animals, and ecosystems. Additionally, the usage of solar energy can minimize water consumption and enhance air quality. Sites must be chosen, planned, and managed to minimize impacts on nearby wildlife, animal habitat, soil resources, and water supplies since ground-mounted photovoltaics (PV) and concentrating solar-thermal power plants need the use of land. The Solar Energy Technologies Office (SETO) of the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) funds studies to better understand the interactions between solar energy installations, wildlife, and ecosystems and to develop plans that will improve the local environment as much as possible.
Also Read: 5 Different Types of Solar Mounting Structure
How Does Solar Energy Reduce Greenhouse Gases?
The primary way that solar energy can reduce CO2 emissions is by providing a clean, renewable source of electricity. Solar energy generates energy by using electrons that are acquired from the sun’s energy rather than burning fossil fuels or other materials. Therefore, using solar energy to generate energy at your home does not result in the production of greenhouse emissions. It has been demonstrated that renewable energy sources like PV (photovoltaic) solar, wind, and oil have a far lower carbon footprint than energy production techniques like coal, gas, and oil.
The emissions produced during the manufacture of the equipment are the only reason renewable energy sources have any footprint at all. Given that the emissions from the equipment’s one-time output are dispersed across the panels’ anticipated 30- to 40-year lifespan, the amount is incredibly low (for PV solar).
In conclusion, solar energy offers a low initial cost, saves money each month on energy costs, and reduces CO2 emissions that harm the environment. All things considered, investing in solar energy makes sense.
How Long Do Solar Panel Last?
The typical lifespan of solar panels is between 25 and 30 years. However, this does not imply that they cease to produce power after 25 years; it merely indicates that energy production has decreased by an amount that manufacturers deem to be meaningful. Given that they are not physically harmed by severe weather, wind, debris, or any other external conditions, solar panels, also known as solar modules, will continue to function for many decades. This is mainly because solar panels don’t have any moving components; as a result, they seldom break internally and are frequently only harmed by external factors like inadequate racking or bad weather.
Also Read: How Long Do Solar Watches Last?
How Quickly Do Solar Panels Degrade?
According to a 2012 National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) study, the production of solar panels decreases by 0.8 percent year on average. The degradation rate of a solar panel refers to this rate of deterioration. Premium manufacturers like SunPower promise degradation rates as low as 0.3 percent, albeit this statistic, will differ depending on the kind of panel you choose. As solar panel technology advances over time, degradation rates are steadily decreasing, and degradation rates around 1% are currently typical across the industry. More efficient technologies have been created since this 2012 study was completed, and many more recent panels only experience a 0.5 percent annual loss in energy output.
What does the term panel deterioration rate actually mean? In the previous example, a 0.8 percent deterioration rate indicates that your panels will function at 99.2 percent of their initial output in year two and at 82.5 percent at the conclusion of their 25-year “useful lifespan.” With a 0.5 percent degradation rate, a slightly more resilient panel will likely generate about 87.5 percent more solar power than it did when it was first installed. Simply multiply the deterioration rate by the number of years you are interested in and subtract that result from 100 percent to get the expected output of your solar panels after that many years.
Recommended: What is EPC in Solar?