Solar panels help combat climate change by preventing the Earth from overheating. But they do that in more ways than one.
Solar panel production requires energy that is derived from fossil fuels. Until 2011, this meant that the solar industry was a net producer of greenhouse gases.
Moving all production of crystalline silicon solar cells to the United States could cut greenhouse gas emissions and energy consumption by 30%.
Reduces Carbon Dioxide Emissions
One of the biggest benefits of solar panels to the environment is decreased greenhouse gas emissions. Fossil fuels release high levels of carbon dioxide and other pollutants when burned, causing severe environmental and health issues. Solar energy, on the other hand, is clean and renewable.
However, producing solar panels requires some energy, often derived from fossil fuels. This can result in greenhouse gas emissions during production. Thankfully, the rate at which solar energy displaces dirty electricity outweighs its initial emissions over time. A new study investigates when this break-even point occurs and finds that solar power reduces CO2 emissions faster than expected.
The large black solar panels on roofs and parking lots are a collection of individual “solar cells.” Each cell contains a group of silicon semiconductors that absorb sunlight and convert it into electricity. The resulting energy is stored in a battery or connected to the grid. Solar cells can be built into homes and businesses and used in large-scale solar farms that generate green power.
According to the study, one acre of solar panels per year prevents between 70 and 110 metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. While this number varies depending on the location, climate, and the type of energy generated, it is important to note that solar power reduces overall carbon dioxide emissions.
Reduces Air Pollution
Air pollution is one of the main causes of death and disease worldwide. Providing clean energy to homes and businesses will reduce reliance on fossil fuels and help alleviate this issue. Solar panels produce no greenhouse gases, making them a much safer power source than fossil fuels such as coal. The production process of solar panels is also less polluting, which helps further reduce the impact on the environment.
Fossil fuels emit a wide range of dangerous pollutants, including carbon dioxide, sulfur oxides and nitrogen oxides. A single kilowatt-hour (kWh) of electricity generated by solar panels will reduce these emissions.
Solar panels also positively affect the air quality around them, even in cities with high pollution levels. The reflected sunlight off the boards helps mitigate pollution that would otherwise reach the surface. This is particularly true for rooftop solar systems with tracking or tilting capabilities, such as dual-axis tracking systems.
The rapid growth rate of the solar industry has allowed it to pass a tipping point, where more greenhouse gases are saved from being burned in power plants than were emitted during their manufacture. This is a significant achievement in the fight against climate change and indicates that solar is on track to contribute to our future energy supply.
Reduces Water Pollution
Solar energy is a clean source of electricity that does not produce greenhouse gas emissions. The production of conventional fossil fuels like natural gas, oil and coal involves drilling into the Earth to extract them, which emits various gases, including methane, nitrous oxide and carbon dioxide, that contribute to climate change. The adoption of solar energy by homeowners and businesses eliminates the need for these non-renewable resources and reduces air pollution, which harms human health.
Solar power also does not use water for its generation, unlike other processes like coal mining and fracking that require massive amounts of water. This prevents wasting one of our most crucial resources, causing the current water crisis in some parts of the world.
In addition, using solar energy helps reduce land pollution caused by deforestation. Columbia University’s Sabin Center for Climate Change Law article explains that large solar projects can be sited on rooftops and parking lots without destroying forests. This will conserve the biodiversity in those forests and reduce the land required for energy production. It’s an innovative way to fight climate change and ensure a more sustainable future for the next generations. Moreover, it will decrease the pressure on land used for other purposes like intensive agriculture and waste disposal.
Reduces Noise Pollution
While fossil fuels generate carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and other harmful pollutants contributing to smog and general air pollution, solar energy does not produce these pollutants. Therefore, switching to solar power significantly reduces air pollution.
Besides reducing carbon dioxide emissions, solar panels also help to reduce noise pollution. Traffic noise is a major source of air pollution, as it disturbs residents living near roads and highways. Photovoltaic sound barriers (PVSBs) can dramatically improve the quality of life for people living in densely populated areas.
Solar power is a renewable energy resource that can be tapped unlimitedly without worrying about depletion. This means that it does not cause climate change, unlike other non-renewable energy sources quickly running out of supply.
Another benefit of solar energy is that it does not produce greenhouse gases, so it does not contribute to global warming. However, it is worth noting that making solar panels involves burning fossil fuels, producing some carbon emissions. However, the overall impact is minimal since the panels displace more dirty energy over their lifetime than they consume in production.
Moreover, solar panels help to conserve energy by reducing the need for electricity from the national grid. This helps to reduce energy bills for homes and businesses that switch to solar power.