Solar energy plays a vital role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and slowing the impact of climate change. Not only is renewable energy critical for protecting humans, wildlife and ecosystems, but it also helps society collectively reduce its reliance on fossil fuels.
However, despite the positive impacts that solar energy has on our environment, they also have negative implications. With the potential to endanger habitats and release toxins into the atmosphere, it is crucial to consider the correct ways of installing and disposing of solar systems.
What Are The Positive Environmental Impacts of Solar Panels?
As solar energy predominantly relies on daylight rather than fossil fuels, photovoltaic (PV) cells actively reduce the cost of household bills while boosting the value of your home.
Unlike non-renewable energy, solar power requires no resources other than clean water to function. But how does this impact the environment?
Less Dependent on the National Grid
Living off-grid is a huge step towards making the world a cleaner and greener place. Whether you are lowering your dependency on fossil fuels or are taking your home completely off the grid, solar panels are a great place to begin.
Solar panels and battery storage systems can help households save up to 70% on their energy bills. Investing in solar not only allows homeowners to generate cheaper energy but there is also the chance to earn money back from surplus electricity.
Reduce Carbon Footprint
PV cells can be great for minimising the use of fossil fuels and reducing greenhouse gas emissions. During the time that solar panels are generating electricity, there are no emissions let out into the atmosphere.
The UN found that the “life cycle assessments of solar panels demonstrate a smaller carbon footprint from “cradle to grave” than fossil fuels”.
Most panels are made from materials that can either be recycled or reused. Components such as glass and specific metals make up about 80% of solar panels and are relatively easy to recover. Other elements like polymers and electronics can also be recycled.
In most cases, the recycling process involves separating the different materials and individually disposing of them based on their substance. A chemical separation process called delamination is required to remove the polymer layer from the semiconductor and glass material, thus optimising the recycling process.
What Are The Negative Environmental Impacts of Solar Panels?
Like most modern-day creations, solar panel production has its environmental downfalls. It is critical to consider the environmental impacts that solar production has on local habitats and how to correctly dispose of the panels once they have run their course.
The Impact of Solar Production
There are three types of PV cells, these are monocrystalline, polycrystalline and thin-film. Each type of panel is manufactured differently, resulting in individual carbon footprints.
When manufacturing monocrystalline panels, large amounts of silicon are moulded and cut. Due to the complexity of this process, these types of panels generate the highest amount of emissions compared to other types of systems.
Alternatively, polycrystalline panels are constructed of silicon crystals that are melted together. Although this process involves high volumes of electricity, it is not as environmentally damaging as creating monocrystalline panels.
Thin-film solar panels can be made from various materials. However, although thin-film solar panels typically leave a smaller carbon footprint compared to their counterparts, they are created of highly toxic materials which can lead to significant human and environmental damage.
Solar Panel Batteries
Research has found that solar batteries can emit toxic fumes if they are burnt or disposed of incorrectly. It is important to dispose of batteries properly and safely to ensure that the toxins do not reverse the positive impact that solar panels have.
Once the solar batteries have run out, they should be disconnected from the solar system. The batteries should be kept in separate bags, as there is a possibility that they will leak or explode.
Harmful for Habitats
Depending on where they are placed, large-scale solar systems can raise concerns about land degradation and habitat loss.
The placement of the PV cells depends on the topography of the site and the intensity of the solar resource. The negative impacts of the panels can be reduced by setting them on lower-quality sections of the land like brownfields, abandoned mining land or existing transportation and transmission corridors.
Harness the Power of Solar With Bluetti
Here at Bluetti, we offer a range of portable solar panels which allow anyone to collect, convert and store energy anytime, anywhere. Providing a budget-saving solution to making the most of sustainable energy while reducing your carbon footprint, our easy-to-use panels make it simple to reap the benefits of renewable energy.
With various solar panels available for every need and budget, our solar systems are a great option for harnessing all of the power you need, no matter your location.