Solar power is no doubt good for the earth. It allows us to harness the power of the sun and acquire a renewable source of power. However, it is important to understand the solar energy environmental impact. This way, various measures can be taken to reduce the impact solar energy has on the world.
The Land impact of Solar Power
Solar power requires a lot of land. As a result, it can lead to habitat loss and land degradation. Depending on the topography and the technology used, a PV system can require 3.5 to 10 acres per megawatt of power generated. For a solar thermal plant, the requirement is 4 to 16.5 acres per MW.
Unlike a wind farm, there is a reduced opportunity for sharing the land with agricultural purposes. However, the land impact can be reduced by situating solar PV panels in low-quality areas such as abandoned mines, brownfields, or along existing transmission and transportation corridors.
Another solar energy environmental impact is the amount of water used. It is especially so in the manufacturing process where water is needed. When using concentrating solar thermal plants, they require water too cool. The water used by the cooling system is usually source locally.
The problem with the cooling tower model is that most CSP plants are found in locations with limited water supply. It is possible to use dry-cooling technology. However, such plants are usually less efficient and their effectiveness drops a great deal at temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.
The process of making PV panels produces a number of harmful materials. Most of these materials are used to clean the semiconductor surface. These chemicals include HCL, Sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, and acetone.
Workers in these factors where PV panels are made face health risks due to breathing in silicon dust. To deal with this, various laws are in place to ensure that all harmful materials are discharged in the right way. Besides that, there are laws to ensure workers in factories are protected when manufacturing PV panels.
Some PV panels also contain toxic materials. For instance, thin-film PV cells are more harmful to the environment than the normal silicon PV cells. If the solar panels are not disposed of in the right manner, they could have a huge impact on the environment. To avoid any harmful impact on the earth, anyone who is disposing of solar panels should do it the right way.
Life Cycle Green House Emissions
While PV panels do not produce any greenhouse gases, the lifecycle of the panels does produce greenhouse gases. The emissions come from transportation, manufacturing, maintenance, dismantlement, decommissioning, and installation. It is estimated that a solar system has emissions of around 0.18 pounds of CO2 per kWh.
In general, the emissions are far less than the emissions by coal and natural gas. With time, various solutions are being developed to reduce the solar energy environmental impact from solar PV panel lifecycle. They include more efficient car engines with fewer emissions and power for factories from clean energy sources.
Let us know If you have any questions or suggestions about solar energy environmental impact. Share your thoughts in the comments section!
Do you know anyone who would like to read the information in this post? Share it with them on facebook, twitter and linkedIn.
Please remember that sharing is caring!