As of 2022, the global environmental crisis is one of the most hot-button issues in society. News outlets everywhere are constantly reporting on rising global temperatures, air and water pollution, and the alarming amount of greenhouse gasses industries are releasing into the atmosphere. They’re also appealing to the general public to make more sustainable choices.
This has prompted more than 85% of consumers worldwide to start making greener purchases. One of the most popular ways people are helping fight climate change is with solar energy. Solar power is the cleanest, most sustainable energy source currently available. Environmentalists claim it’s the best tool we have at the moment for reducing greenhouse emissions.
But is this really the case? Many skeptics state that being green is a scam and solar panels aren’t as eco-friendly as they’re made out to be. In case you also share this opinion and are wondering, ‘are solar panels harmful‘, strap in. We’re about to take a deep dive into solar panels, what they are, and how they work, all with the aim of proving just how good this alternative energy source is for our planet.
A Breakdown of Solar Energy
In order to truly understand how solar panels affect the environment, you first have to understand solar energy. In simple terms, solar power is the radiation harvested from the Sun. Solar technology, like solar panels, absorb this radiation and convert it into heat and electrical energy.
The panels have a thin silicone layer at the front that contains special photovoltaic cells. When sunlight hits these cells, they absorb the UV radiation, thus creating an electrical charge. The charge knocks electrons loose from their bonds, and they flow within the cell’s internal electrical field. The result of this reaction is a steady stream of electrical energy, between 250 to 400 kilowatts per hour.
This is more than enough to power the average American household, even in bad weather conditions. Plus, since the panels lock down electricity at a constant rate, there is no chance your electrical bills will increase as the price of energy goes up. So while they seem like a pricey luxury, they’re actually one of the most cost-effective investments you can make.
Solar Panels: Green or Not?
Whenever someone mentions solar panels, most people immediately think about their eco-friendliness. And this is absolutely true. Switching to solar power helps you cut back on the amount of greenhouse gasses you produce.
The fossil fuel industry produces a whopping 73% of all anthropogenic emissions as of 2022. Not only that, but mining resources like coal, oil, and gas produces a lot of toxic waste. To save up money, many companies improperly dispose of this waste, dumping it in landfills and the ocean. This further pollutes the environment, contributing to soil erosion and habitat destruction for endangered animals.
In comparison, harvesting solar power does not produce any harmful by-products. However, that doesn’t mean that solar panels are entirely green. In order to create the panels, manufacturers rely on caustic chemicals like hydrofluoric acid and sodium hydroxide. Likewise, they use fossil fuel energy and water for assembling and transporting the panels.
In short, building a system generates toxic waste as well. However, when you compare it to the exorbitant amounts of pollution burning fossil fuels creates every single day, solar power still comes out looking better by comparison. Plus, solar technology is still a new industry.
As the demand for panels increases, manufacturers are more likely to grow and develop their production methods. So, in the future, they will probably be able to make panels from completely recyclable materials, thus reversing climate change and protecting the environment!
Solar energy is the cleanest, most eco-friendly energy source we have available at the moment. However, that doesn’t mean the technology needed to harness solar power is completely green. Manufacturing solar panels can generate some harmful waste and contribute to the production of greenhouse gasses.
But, when you compare it to the amount of emissions we get from burning fossil fuels every day, these numbers are minuscule. What’s more, since solar tech is evolving every day, solar providers are finding new ways to reduce their carbon footprint during production. So, in the future, the panels have the potential to become 100% green, recyclable and good for the planet.