An Examination of the Impact of Solar Energy on the Environment
Solar energy has become more popular in the last couple of years. This is not so surprising, as the sun itself is a source of life and of course—energy. It is a fact that solar energy is a clean form of renewable energy. Hence, in recent years, there has been emphasis on the solar energy alternatives that can be used around the home. This has been attractive as it reduces the cost of electricity and other utility bills.
As electricity costs tend to go high (especially in summer), you can save up on electricity bills while putting the sun to great use. It can meet up all your energy demands for home appliances and more. However, in recent times, humans have also begun to take into account how their actions affect the environment. It has been beautiful to watch, as this is very important. Hence while using solar, it is important to consider what this increased use of solar energy may be doing to the environment. Without further ado, here are some of the impacts of solar energy on the environment:
The Impact of Solar Energy on Land
To produce enough solar energy for its highly beneficial uses, large pieces of land are usually needed for energy collection. Hence, these facilities used on these sites for collection of energy might interfere with current uses of the land. There might also be cases of extraction, exploration of materials, disposal, and even manufacturing. Large expanses of land may be affected by these activities.
Some of these lands may have been previously used for recreation or as a space for wildlife. Following the aforementioned activities, it might become very difficult to return the land in question to its pre-existing state, as there might be a large extent of damage on the land.
Impacts Stemming from the Use of Heavy Metals
The latest technologies related to solar energy (such as thin-film panels) have been said to be manufactured using heavy metals that are dangerous to the environment. One of such heavy metals is the Cadmium Telluride. Although these dangerous materials used in solar panel manufacturing are not great for the environment, it has been argued that even coal and oil contain some of these substances, and combustion results in a release of them.
The Impact of Solar Energy on Greenhouse and Carbon dioxide Emission
Greenhouse gases (especially carbon dioxide) are usually produced when fossil fuels are burned. They lead to the famous global warming, and cause a change to the climate. Various environmental and health issues arise from climate change, hence in the last few years, there has been an array of movements targeting the importance of avoiding damage to the environment, as it is bound to have an effect on the climate.
Using solar power for electricity as opposed to fossil fuels can cause a reduction of greenhouse emission by far. Even if only one home in an environment opts for solar panels as opposed to the use of traditional electricity (that uses fossil fuels), the change it would cause to the environment will be indeed massive. The effect can be equated to planting a tree.
The Impact of Solar Energy on Water, Soil, and Air
Once solar facilities are constructed on a piece of land, there is usually a process of clearing and grading done on the land. The effects of this process includes the compaction of soil, a modification of the existing drainage channels, and increased erosion. There would also be increased demand for water (especially in dry areas), as the central tower systems usually need water to cool.
While the solar manufacturing process requires some water to run, the extent of water needed for the generation of traditional electricity is far more than the amount of water needed for the production of solar electricity. The use of water for all manufacturing processes is a must. In the end, solar energy production does not place any risk on supplies targeted at the vital needs of humans.
There may also be spillage of the chemicals from the production facilities, leading to the contamination of the ground as well as the groundwater. However, since solar energy helps avoid the emission of greenhouse gases, it cannot be said to cause air pollution.
Frequently Asked Questions
- What impact does solar energy have on the environment?
Solar energy’s major impact on the environment is the fact that it reduces the production of greenhouse gases that tend to cause environmental pollution. While solar energy also has both positive and negative impacts on the environment, the positives outweigh the negatives. In fact, other forms of power have larger negative effects on the environment when compared to solar power.
- What are two positive effects of solar energy on the environment?
It reduces the emission of greenhouse gases (thus preventing pollution and climate change), and it provides a relatively cheaper source of electric power for home use (as it is way cheaper than traditional electricity supply).
- Does solar energy cause any environmental pollution?
Yes, it does. However, this is largely limited to land pollution. In the manufacturing processes involving the solar panel, land pollution can occur due to the activities done on the land used for such processes. It may be hard to return the land to its pre-existing state due to activities like extraction, exploration, and disposal.
As for water and air pollution, solar energy hardly causes any pollution. In the end, whatever pollution is caused as a result of solar energy is nothing compared to that produced by other energy sources.
- Is solar energy environmentally friendly?
Yes, solar energy is the most environmentally friendly energy source.
Final Thought on the Impact of Solar Energy
When it comes to energy, something always has to give. This is why solar energy is not a perfect energy source, but it is by far the friendliest to the environment. It is also the cleanest energy source. Although it has its shortcomings, they are nothing compared to the level of these shortcomings as seen in other energy sources. You can never really go wrong with choosing solar energy.