When you think about solar panels, you likely know that they provide a renewable source of energy, which of course, is good for the environment. But have you looked into any of the other environmental impacts of solar panels? Solar panels have a number of different effects on the environment throughout their life span, from the factory to the consumer to the recycling plant. Most of the impacts are positive, but it's essential to understand both the positive and negative environmental impacts of solar energy.
The Negative Environmental Impact Of Solar Energy
When learning about how solar panel production and usage affects the environment, it's easiest to start with the negative environmental impact of solar panels. Here are some of the ways that solar panels impact the environment that many people aren't aware of:
While solar panels are a renewable source of energy, in the production of solar panels, harmful materials are sometimes used that can negatively affect the environment.
While materials will vary depending on the type of solar panel and the brand, most of them require toxic materials or chemicals of some kind. Materials such as calcium and lead, for example, are widespread in solar panel production.
While these materials aren't an immediate issue, they will have a negative impact when it comes time to recycle them at the end of their lifespan.
This is mainly a problem associated with solar farms. When workers begin work to create solar farm installations, they're typically required to clear large areas of land. This clearing process often has lasting adverse effects on the local environment.
Land clearance is known to cause soil erosion, leading to reduced levels of nutrients. This makes it much harder for any plant to grow there in the future. Land clearance is also known to disturb natural habitats, occasionally even displacing animals from their homes.
Did you know that producing solar panels requires a substantial amount of energy? Manufacturing, mining, transportation, and production all require large amounts of energy. Just to create a single solar module, a variety of components from different locations need to be processed, cleaned, and manufactured before assembly even begins.
Many solar experts and researchers alike often frame the environmental impact of solar panels within the belief of energy payback time, otherwise known as EPBT. This structure can show us how long it will take for solar panels to produce enough clean energy to cancel out or offset the negative environmental impact of making them.
The results of this method vary depending on where and how your solar panels were made, as well as their productivity levels.
The Positive Environmental Impact Of Solar Energy
Now that we've talked about the negative environmental impact of solar panels, it's time to talk about how the positive impact that solar panels have on the environment outweighs the negative.
Carbon Emission Reduction
One of the most significant positive environmental impacts of solar energy is carbon emission reduction. This is usually referred to as "carbon offset." Utilizing solar panels to generate more electricity will reduce our reliance on other non-renewable sources of energy, like coal and gas. Since solar panels produce a much smaller carbon footprint, they are the obvious choice.
Less air pollution and carbon emissions are not only good for our environmental health; it does wonders for our personal health as well. Certain air pollutants produced by burning fossil fuels can cause significant health problems for individuals, such as respiratory illness, lung disease, and even neurological damage.
By utilizing solar energy, we avoid such risks.
Less Water Pollution
Many traditional power plants require various liquids for cooling purposes that are eventually released back into the environment, polluting our water. Most solar panel manufacturing does not require these cooling components and is, therefore, a preferred option if we want to keep our water supply clean.
Greenhouse Gas Reduction
When materials like coal and gas are heated up to produce energy, they emit greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Solar energy production doesn't emit any greenhouse gases, so any time we choose solar energy, we are reducing and preventing some disastrous climate change effects.
Using solar energy helps us conserve our planet's natural resources. Not only do solar panels utilize an infinite energy source, our beautiful sun, but they also are made with far fewer natural resources than coal or gas required. Plus, solar panels last 25-30 years on average, while fossil fuels need constant attention and burn out extremely quickly.
While some methods involved with solar farms, such as land clearance, can negatively impact the local environment, it's very rare. In fact, solar panels are a big improvement on other methods such as coal and natural gas when it comes to ecosystem health.
The processes involved with coal and natural gas, such as strip mining, mountaintop removal, and clearing large tracts of land, are incredibly harmful to the ecosystem and environment as a whole.
While solar farms sometimes require land clearance strategies, solar farms are also typically built on degraded land. This means that the land is already not viable for plant growth or wildlife, and therefore they are minimally harmful to the environment.
In fact, there are even some environmental benefits for solar energy farms to be re-located to improve some natural habitats, crops, or rangelands. Solar panels have even been proven to have a lasting positive effect on the honey bee population. Solar farms are proven to create biodiverse habitats that improve soil fertility and nearby agriculture. This, in return, positively impacts the creatures who live in the ecosystem.
After reviewing all of the negative and positive environmental impacts that solar panels can have on the environment, it is easy to see that the benefits far outweigh the negative effects. Solar energy is one of the cleanest forms of energy currently available to the public, and the sooner we make the switch, the better.
Looking to save the environment as well as money each month on your electricity bill? Yellowlite can help you with that. We can help you build your system as well as find the perfect solar installer for your home or business. Call us at 216-834-1364 or fill out our contact form here https://www.yellowlite.com/contact-us/