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What is the environmental impact of photovoltaic solar energy?

Much has been said about the benefits of photovoltaic solar energy, especially to reduce the user’s costs in the monthly electricity bill. Now, what about the environmental impact of solar energy. Does solar energy production negatively affect the environment? Next, we answer this question and help you solve other doubts related to the environmental impact of solar energy. Keep reading!

Solar energy and environmental impact: How does it affect?

There are many doubts that exist regarding the environmental impact of solar energy, that is why in this section we want to offer the most precise answer possible to try to answer them. The environmental impact of solar energy  is practically nil . This is so because there is no negative effect on the environment at the time electricity is produced when solar panels are used —regardless of whether they are  solar panels for housingsolar panels for pumping water  or  solar panels for boats ., as well as any other type of photovoltaic solar panel—. To take advantage of solar energy, no chemical process is necessary, so no polluting substances are expelled into the atmosphere, as is the case, for example, with fossil fuels. In short,  solar energy does not pollute  or contribute to global warming (or the greenhouse effect).

Now that you know the relationship between solar energy and environmental impact, it is important that you bear in mind that what has been explained  applies to any of the ways of harnessing solar energy  known to date. In other words, whether the sun’s ultraviolet radiation is used to generate electricity (photovoltaic effect), or whether UV rays are used to take advantage of heat directly or indirectly, through thermal solar panels. In addition, techniques for capturing energy have improved considerably in recent years, and work continues to date on their improvement to make the most of solar radiation. In summary, these are the main characteristics of the environmental impact of solar energy:

  • It is not necessary to carry out combustion, so CO2 is not generated, which influences the greenhouse effect.
  • There is no pollution or discharge, which keeps the subsoil and surface water in perfect condition and free of contamination.

Does the manufacture of solar panels affect the environment?

We have already seen that the environmental impact of solar energy is null, since this energy is clean and inexhaustible (at least in about 5,000 million years, in which it is expected that the king star will be extinct definitively). However, if we talk about the environmental impact of solar energy indirectly, that is, through the manufacture of solar panels, the results are not so positive, since its manufacture requires materials that can be toxic, such as cadmium and silver, in addition to the large extensions of land that are needed to design the installations of solar thermal power plants. However,  its manufacture continues to compensate when compared to the pollution generated by fossil fuels .. And it is that, according to experts from the European Innovation Council and other platforms, solar energy considerably reduces the generation of CO2 that influences global warming and the generation of the greenhouse effect in general. In fact, in 2006 it took a decade to offset the emissions that were generated and with photovoltaic solar energy the period has been reduced to two.

On the other hand, the pollution generated during the manufacture of solar panels is much lower, and new advances for the future point towards the  manufacture of solar panels that provide 100% efficiency  —compared to 80% of the current panels and the 20% efficiency of the solar panels of the past—and, also, towards the use of the materials already used from other solar panels. That is, to  reuse toxic materials from solar panels that have completed their useful life. It should be noted, in the same way, that solar panels are manufactured with silicon, mainly, and that this is a chemical element that is massively found in nature. Therefore, to obtain it, it is not necessary to carry out large extractions that alter the structure of the land.

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In addition, although solar thermal power plants occupy a large portion of the land, if photovoltaic solar energy were to become the most widely used, a large number of power lines would disappear – a set of cables that make up the electrical installation of a place – and with this it would improve the flora and fauna of the area. On the other hand, the use of radioactive minerals (nuclear energy) to obtain electricity would be avoided, in addition to reducing the presence of large coal and natural gas factories used to generate electricity, among others.

Conclusion on the environmental impact of solar energy

Solar energy is not polluting at all, nor is the way to take advantage of it from  solar panels. However, the problem is found in the manufacture of the latter and in the generation of waste that they can cause once their useful life has reached the end. At the moment there is no definitive formula to be able to suppress the environmental impact that this generates, although it is known for a fact that the damage is infinitely less and that work continues to find the ideal solution. Once the problems of manufacturing solar panels are overcome, their massive installation in places of consumption (such as cities and rural areas) will generate short-term benefits, both in the flora and in the fauna, in the air and, in general, in nature in its purest state.

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