A Closer Look at How Solar Impacts the Environment

Using radiant energy from sunlight has extensive benefits for communities, consumers and the environment.

Of course, the availability and intensity of this energy will be different from place to place and at different times of the day – which has led some to question its overall usefulness as an alternative to traditional energy sources.

As the technology for gathering and utilizing this energy continues to advance, we’re seeing more and more businesses adopt solar as a viable solution for their power needs and more governments creating incentives to do so.

So, what kind of environmental benefits does solar provide? Are there any environmental concerns associated with this technology?

The Basics of Solar Power

Solar photovoltaic (PV) devices are able to change sunlight directly into electricity.

The energy in sunlight is carried by photons, and each photon contains a varying amount of energy, depending on the wavelengths of the solar spectrum.

PV cells are constructed of semiconductor material so they can absorb the photons that hit the device. When it builds up enough photons in the form of energy, it releases some electrons, creating a flow of electricity.

Electrical conductors on the cell absorb the electrons which can then be connected to a circuit where it can unload the energy and provide clean power.

Photovoltaics are not the only way to make use of solar energy, though. Solar thermal power plants use the heat from concentrated sunlight to create energy the same way that traditional and less-environmentally friendly plants do.

The gathered thermal energy is used to create steam which turns a turbine, generating electricity (without the air pollution generated by other methods).

This type of power requires large fields of solar gatherers, though, but the technology behind these devices also continues to improve on a regular basis.

Environmental Benefits

Solar energy systems do not produce the same greenhouse gases (like carbon dioxide) and air pollution that come with so many other forms of energy production. In other words, there is a great opportunity to have a positive impact on the environment by making the switch to solar.

These systems can be placed directly on top of structures that already exist, which means that they can provide power for those buildings without requiring any extra land development.

There is a lot of potential because of this, with the number of open surfaces on the top of buildings, parking structures, and other locations within a city ripe for development. This would also mean that the manufacture and installation of the devices won’t pollute the water or the land if they’re built with the materials that ensure the photovoltaics meet all the regulations.

Environmental Concerns

Unfortunately, nothing is perfect. While the potential benefits of solar energy are great, there are some specific issues related to the production and disposal of those photovoltaic cells that shouldn’t be overlooked.

For example, there are some toxic materials and chemicals that go into making a photovoltaic cell. Should any of these materials start to leak, they could negatively impact the environment. There are several laws and regulations surrounding the use and disposal of these materials, but most companies can be in compliance by using the best and most-reliable plastic and rubber components.

One other concern is the same as any other power plant, and that is the land that it is on.

The fact is, in order to produce a significant amount of power, you need a significant amount of space on which to place all those photovoltaic panels. This means clearing the land for construction, increased use of ground or surface water for cleaning and cooling, and other possible changes to the area.

Answering the Needs of the Solar Industry

While there are some considerations around solar power, the technology is sound and getting better every year.

The right solar plastics  in the solar industry can greatly reduce the material and manufacturing costs while ensuring that they meet the local standards and requirements for environmental safety.

The parts that are going into modern solar cells last much longer than they once did, which means they will stay in service longer, resist high and low-temperature fluctuations, block out rain, dust, and other particles that could impact the structural integrity of the equipment, and more.

In other words, these components make it possible to safely manufacture solar devices and put off their disposal for a much longer time.

There is a lot of potential in the solar industry to positively impact our environmental footprint. It will simply take some commitment to change and the use of the right technology to maintain a new normal.