Solar energy is a great way to solve the problem of the energy crisis and making our environment green again. Most people like us think that there is only the good side of solar energy and there is no environmental impact of solar energy. We are using solar energy by way of LED outdoor solar lights and in so many other ways.
Though mostly it is true, there is still some environmental impact of solar energy. We will talk about these in this article.
It is true that once installed, solar energy has zero emissions in the environment. But the manufacturing of these solar panels involves some process or activities that have the environmental impact.
Also, at the end of the life cycle of the solar panels, the recycling of these solar panels have the environmental impact.
Environmental Impact Of Solar Energy
Many scientists in their research have pointed out some environmental impact of solar energy. Before I discuss them, I want to make sure one thing very clear.
All the scientists and researchers have concluded that the net impact of solar energy is beneficial for the environment. Here are some noteworthy environmental impacts of solar energy:
There is a real chance of land degradation and habitat loss associated with solar energy. If someone installs larger solar panel facility, depending on the location, there is a huge chance of negative impact of solar energy.
The wildlife habitation will be disturbed and the ecology of that area may also change.
To generate only 1 megawatt of solar electricity, there is an estimated land requirement of around 3.5 to 10 acres if the solar power generation uses PV systems.
If you install such a large solar panel system on agricultural land, no other crops will grow there. However, installing smaller scale solar panel on the rooftop for the solar path lights or any other lighting has no such negative impact on the environment.
To generate electricity from the solar panel, there is no requirement of water. However, to produce such solar panels, there is a huge requirement of water. To produce solar PV components, some water is used.
But like all thermal electric plants, Concentrating Solar Thermal Plants (CSP) requires huge water for the cooling process.
In an estimate it is shown that to generate 1 megawatt of solar electricity, there is a requirement of 600 to 650 gallons of water for the cooling technology. Fortunately, after the dry cooling technology invention, the water requirement has reduced by almost 90%.
The sad truth about the solar energy is that more energy is required up-front to produce the solar panels than other forms of energy generation.
Why? Because the raw minerals need to be transformed into photovoltaics. There is also the requirement of using huge heat as well. The energy usage for the solar panel is simply huge.
Using Hazardous Materials
To produce the PV cells of the solar panels, lots of chemicals and other hazardous materials used like hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and so on. These hazardous materials are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface.
Some thin-film PV cells also require gallium arsenide, cadmium telluride etc. These are detrimental to both the people dealing with and the environment at large.
Recycling Solar Panels
The production of PV cells requires silicon and other precious materials like silver, tellurium, and so on. Since there are no sufficient and economical recycling facilities for these old PV cells at present, the real problem arises.
If the problem of recycling old PV cells does not resolve very soon, we will have to face the problem of scarcity of resources.
The Net Impact
As I first mentioned above, the negative impact of the solar energy is very minimal. Many scientists and large companies are spending huge time and money to develop the solar energy generation systems.
Already many people and large organizations have started using solar energy. Various government around the world are now encouraged to use more and more solar energy.
Despite the fact that solar panel manufacturers emit greenhouse gas and other harmful elements in the environment, the overall impact of solar energy is greatly beneficial for the earth as we know it.
The more solar energy we will be using, the more dependency on the fossil-based energy will be reduced. This is what our environment needs badly. If you care for the environment, forget the negative impact of the solar energy. Use as much solar energy as possible in your home and office.