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Problems of solar energy: Everything you need to know

In this article we will talk about Problems of solar energy.

What are Problems of solar energy?

Next we will mention the Problems of solar energy, these are the most important for this technology.

The influence of solar energy on the environment

The sun is a huge resource for generating clean and sustainable electricity without the toxic pollutants and emissions of global warming.

The potential environmental impacts associated with solar energy (land use and habitat loss, water consumption and use of hazardous materials in production) can vary greatly depending on the technology, which includes two broad categories: photovoltaic (PV) cells or combined heat from concentrating solar and power plants (CSP).

The scale of the system, from small rooftop solar panels to large-scale photovoltaic and CSP projects, also plays a role in the level of environmental impact.

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Land use

Depending on the location, large-scale solar utility installations can raise concerns about land degradation and habitat loss. Requirements for total land area vary based on technology, topography, and intensity of the solar resource. Utility scale solar PV system estimates range from 3.5 to 10 acres per megawatt, while CSP equipment estimates range from 4 to 16.5 acres per megawatt.

Unlike wind farms, solar projects are less likely to divide land for agricultural use. However, the impacts of industrial-scale solar systems can be minimized by locating them in lower quality locations such as brownfields, abandoned mining areas, or existing transmission and transport corridors [1, 2]. The smaller solar cells that can be built on top of homes or commercial buildings also have minimal impact on land use.

Water consumption

Photovoltaic solar cells do not use water to generate electricity. However, as with all production processes, some water is used to produce photovoltaic components.

Concentrated Solar Power Plants (CSP), like all thermal power plants, require water for cooling. Water consumption depends on system design, system location, and type of cooling system.

CSP plants using wet recirculation technology with cooling towers consume between 600 and 650 gallons of water per megawatt hour of electricity produced. CSP plants with single pass cooling technology have higher water consumption but lower total water consumption (because no water is lost as steam). Dry cooling technology can reduce water consumption in CSP plants by approximately 90 percent [3]. However, the trade-offs in terms of water savings are higher costs and lower efficiency. Additionally, dry cooling technology is much less effective at temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.

Many regions of the United States that have the highest solar potential are also regions with the driest climates, so these water offsets must be carefully considered. (For more information, see How It Works: Water to Cool a Power Plant.)

Dangerous materials

The photovoltaic cell production process involves a number of hazardous materials, most of which are used to clean and clean semiconductor surfaces. These chemicals, similar to those used in the general semiconductor industry, include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone. The amount and type of chemicals used depends on the type of cell, the required cleaning and the size of the silicon wafer [4]. Workers are also at risk of inhaling silicone dust. Therefore, PV power producers must follow US regulations to ensure that workers are not harmed by exposure to these chemicals and that waste resulting from their disposal is properly disposed of.

Thin film PV cells contain many more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon PV cells, such as gallium arsenide, indium gallium copper oxide, and cadmium tellurium [5]. If not handled or disposed of correctly, these materials can present serious hazards to the environment or public health. However, manufacturers have a strong financial incentive to ensure that these highly valuable and often rare materials are recycled rather than thrown away.

Life cycle global warming emissions

While there are no global warming emissions associated with solar electricity generation, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar energy life cycle, including manufacturing, material handling, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and decommissioning. . Most estimates of life cycle emissions from photovoltaic systems are between 0.07 and 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour.

Most estimates of solar energy concentration are between 0.08 and 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt hour. In both cases, they are significantly below the life cycle emission factors of natural gas (0.6–2 lb CO2E / kWh) and carbon (1.4–3.6 lb CO2E / kWh) [6] .

Advantages of solar energy

Before deciding to install photovoltaic or solar panels, we often wonder what the advantages and disadvantages of a given project are. In our article you will find the answer to these questions.

In modern construction, the use of natural energy sources to provide heating and electricity is becoming increasingly popular. Although the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy are obvious to many people, sometimes our viewer is only superficial. It is good to delve into this topic to fully understand the pros and cons of solar energy installations.

Cost reduction

Many of those who oppose investing in natural energy sources oppose the high costs of installation and assembly. However, today this is a mistake. In the 1970s, panels cost 10,000% of today’s price. Fifteen years ago, panels were twice as expensive. Therefore, one may be tempted to say that current prices are acceptable. Even if the initial costs may seem high, this investment pays off over the years. Research in the United States indicates that it is possible to save between $ 20,000 and $ 60,000 (state dependent) over 20 years.

An increasingly popular way to use solar energy is the leasing of such panels. Thanks to this solution, it is possible to save from day one. Leasing allows you to lower your heating or electricity bills without paying a high upfront fee (compared to buying the entire installation kit). It is certainly an interesting solution for those skeptical of solutions using natural energy sources due to the price.

Saving water

Climate change and the progressive lack of access to drinking water are severely affected in many parts of the world. It may seem that this problem does not concern us, but droughts also occur, for example, in the United States.

The operation of gas, coal and nuclear power plants is associated with very high water consumption. By using solar energy installations, we do not use large amounts of water.

Independence of use

Solar energy provides a high level of energy security because access to the energy source is unlimited. Furthermore, as a consumer, we are independent from energy providers. Thanks to green energy, we avoid threats such as possible cost increases or failures that limit the supply of electrical energy.

Positive influence on our environment

We must not forget that we protect our climate by using renewable energy sources. The growing popularity of its applications in residential homes promises to enhance our natural environment. Solar energy is one of the most respectful with the environment, along with wind energy, and its massive use will not increase the average temperature.

Solar energy provides a high level of energy security since access to the energy source is unlimited. Furthermore, as a consumer, we are independent from energy providers. Thanks to green energy, we avoid threats such as possible cost increases or failures that limit the supply of electrical energy.

Safety during rush hours

The demand for electricity varies throughout the day. We need the most electricity in the morning or in the afternoon and at night. It depends on our daily rhythm of life. Therefore, the cost of electricity varies according to demand. However, the supply level must always remain constant, otherwise the network would be overloaded. When we draw electricity from the supplier, we often do not realize that power plants that run on multiple sources during peak times impose higher delivery prices. The increased demand for electricity coincides with the time when the sun can provide us with the most energy. If we take the use of air conditioning as an example, we note that by using electricity generated from photovoltaic panels, it is possible to meet the demand for electricity during a hot sunny day.

Disadvantages of using solar energy solutions

Many opponents of solar energy use the argument that “the sun doesn’t shine all the time.” However, we remind you that the panels are capable of generating energy even in the case of partially cloudy skies. As we mentioned above, there are also interruptions in the power supply of our suppliers, there is no such source of energy that is fully available.

Environmental pollution

The very process of creating panels from toxic chemicals is also an argument against. The production of panels pollutes the environment to some extent, but comparing the harmfulness of this process with the amount of pollution produced in coal-fired power plants, we have no doubt that the use of renewable energy sources (including wind energy and hydraulic) reduces the negative impact on the environment.

We have reached the end of the Problems of solar energy article, I hope the concepts have been understood.


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