The main objective of all investments in the field of renewable energy sources is mainly the protection of the environment, that is, the production of electricity from sources that do not deplete the resources of nature or simply use resources that complement each other. each other regularly, in addition to paying attention to minimizing harmfulness. of the energy production process itself and the amounts of waste and pollution generated during production.
Are solar panels harmful? When can they pose a threat?
Not surprisingly, for many years, conventional energy technologies have been displacing preferences and universality of use, in favor of renewable energies, because the production of electricity from coal, lignite and wood is unimaginably harmful to the environment and health of the creatures that live in it. One of the answers to conventional electricity production methods is photovoltaics, which in some people raises serious questions about its impact on the health of prosumers.
Could one source of damage to health and the environment be replaced by another, scrupulously concealing the violation of safety regulations? Does innovation in the form of photovoltaic panels pose a threat to people and the environment? It is worth looking at the facts and clearing up any doubts.
Photovoltaic panels in the production process: everything you need to know
Taking a closer look at the photovoltaic panel production cycle, it is discovered that solar panel manufacturing uses a wide variety of toxic and explosive substances, the vast majority of which are used to clean semiconductor surfaces. He talks here, among others, about hydrochloric acid, nitric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, acetone or 1,1,1-trichloroethane.
Workers in factories that produce photovoltaic cells are also exposed to inhalation of silica dust. Working in the presence of harmful factors always requires compliance with strictly defined safety procedures, both in terms of the production process and the disposal of remaining waste. As you know, even in this case, there are producers who turn a blind eye to the rules and become emitters of harmful substances, endangering not only the good of the environment, but also human health: profit is placed above of renewable ideas. Energy sources.
Fluorine compounds (hexafluoroethane, sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride) are considered the most dangerous and harmful in terms of the scale of their impact, which are emitted in the photovoltaic panel production process. In this respect, they are up to several dozen times more pathogenic than the impact of carbon dioxide emissions.
In this sense, however, we can give photovoltaics another advantage, because the amount of these compounds emitted is much lower in terms of carbon dioxide than the greenhouse gas emissions that arise from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity. Therefore, the production of silicon photovoltaic elements does not significantly affect the process of reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
What else is worth knowing about the photovoltaic panel production system? It involves the consumption of large amounts of water. Synthetic production technology with enormous water consumption is a relatively modern solution.
Even several thousand liters of water are used annually per minute from the production process, which in turn required the creation of special treatment plants for contaminated water and resulted in higher production costs for the panels; as a result, the price of some solar panels is also higher.
The level of harmfulness of photovoltaic panels depends on their type and production technology. Due to the presence of traces of elements such as fluorine, gallium or cadmium, damage to the structure of these components of the photovoltaic installation must be avoided; no need to fear efficient and mechanically intact panels during operation or in direct contact.
If the solar panels are spent, they should be disposed of in accordance with clearly defined safety measures and procedures, and when deciding to buy, panels from unknown and unverified producers should be avoided and thoroughly done, before purchasing research from a trusted source . .
Disposal of exhausted photovoltaic panels
The useful life of a photovoltaic installation does not emit harmful substances, unlike the process of its production. The source of problems is also the photovoltaic panels, which must be used in a way that is most conducive to the good of the environment, that is, mainly excluding the disposal of the used components of the photovoltaic installation in a landfill or in the abyss of the ocean. .
After the 25 years of operation of the solar panels declared by the manufacturers, they are obliged to collect them and dispose of the photovoltaic waste in two acceptable ways: disposal or recycling, to minimize the effects of the possible emission of substances that are considered harmful during the elimination. of waste that is considered harmful generates photovoltaic energy over time.
In the case of disposal, we deal with the destruction and neutralization of the materials left over from the destruction as far as possible. Of course, incineration is a fairly popular disposal method, producing toxic and harmful substances. Panels containing cadmium are the most damaging in the removal process.
Silicon modules are much less toxic when burned, although they do contain a certain amount of lead. Recycling, in turn, makes it possible to reuse some elements of photovoltaic modules and elements, which is a less invasive way of treating waste from photovoltaic installations for humans.
The real dangers of photovoltaic energy on our roof
The real threats derived from the operation of a photovoltaic system focus on the correct installation of the solar panels and the application of all the necessary security measures. Some European countries, such as Germany, Austria or France, pay special attention to many of them, standardizing by law all the guidelines for the safety of the installation, operation and arrangement of photovoltaic panels and other elements that make up photovoltaic installations. Basically, the risks that have their origin in a defective photovoltaic installation can be divided into the following categories:
- Risk of electric shock: photovoltaic panels connected in series and in parallel create a voltage that endangers not only health, but also human life, which is why photovoltaic system installers, maintenance workers or firefighters should have Be very careful during fire fighting operation. Incompetent persons in this field should not install or maintain the facilities on their own. Photovoltaic energy during assembly and conservation works is subject only to the jurisdiction of professionals, since in the case of electricity, amateurs run more than an installation error,
- Fire hazard: very often as a result of the generation of so-called hot spots inside the photovoltaic panels, overheating of connectors or modules, damage to the inverter, the so-called electric arc in the solar panel or in the connectors. The fire hazard can also arise from damage on the AC and DC side, and the risk can increase when the damaged PV installation is close to flammable materials and is generally installed inconsistently with the art of installing PV installations.
- Risk related to damage to other electrical equipment in the house.
When investing in photovoltaic panels and looking for a company that installs them on the roof and properly connects them to the electrical grid with other components of the installation, we must remember that it has been an investment for years and requires a specialized approach in many aspects . . We choose from dozens of companies that manufacture photovoltaic installations, but only a few of them can be treated as industry professionals. When it comes to our health and safety, our family, and our property, in-depth market research is worth doing.
Photovoltaic installation: shines above the shadows
The question of whether photovoltaic panels are harmful seems quite clear, but beyond the dark aspects of the idea of installing photovoltaics in your home, there are also aspects that, nevertheless, support the investment in the installation of your own power plant solar. First, it remains one of the least environmentally damaging energy sources currently available. Photovoltaics allows energy independence and it should be noted that:
- Photovoltaics is one of the sources of electricity that does not emit pollutants into the environment during its operation,
- the photovoltaic installation does not emit excessive noise thanks to modern transformers with a low acoustic power level,
- During the operation of the photovoltaic installation, non-ionizing electromagnetic radiation is produced, which is not harmful to the environment.
A correctly installed photovoltaic installation with high-quality components, which is not subject to the interference of unauthorized persons, does not represent a threat to users, does not adversely affect the health of people or animals. The basis is compliance with all safety regulations, from assembly to disposal.
Photovoltaic energy is becoming an increasingly popular energy source not only for our homes. The determinants of the growing interest in this renewable source of electricity production in the future will be the continuous improvement of the technology of production of components and the reduction of their prices, and the possibility of reselling energy at more affordable prices. Photovoltaic panels are above all a lucrative investment that, if made according to the imposed standards, will undoubtedly serve us for a long time. The small number of recorded accidents clearly indicates that the possibility of a spontaneous appearance of a threat and the harmfulness of the photovoltaic system is low.