Although many aspects of electricity generation from solar energy are 100% sustainable, there are currently no renewable or non-renewable energy sources with zero environmental impact. In the case of solar energy, most of the negative environmental impact comes from production and manufacturing. It's not very respectful to say that solar energy is bad, at least not compared to other types of energy powered by fossil fuels. However, it has some drawbacks that are worth looking into.
We can start by clarifying that solar energy does not have zero emissions, is not clean or is it 100% ecological. But why does that happen if solar panels receive the sun's rays and generate electricity through heating without releasing CO2 or CO2eq? Well, if we take a closer look at the life cycles of solar panels, we will realize that they generate some pollution and energy consumption during manufacturing and are likely to have more when they are thrown away. That said, it's not uncommon to hear people claim that solar energy isn't as environmentally friendly as it seems. According to a study published earlier this month by the authors of this article, Stanford could reduce emissions from heating and cooling by an additional 40 percent if it used its energy storage to maximize electricity purchases in the afternoon, when solar power dominates California's power grid.
Both quartz rich sand and extracted quartz can be refined to obtain the same metallurgical grade silicon for solar panels. If companies and countries want to keep their promises to reduce greenhouse gases, it is important to continue to increase their renewable energy sources and to continue creating incentives for the development of solar or wind energy industries. Image credits for solar energy on Shutterstock, solar panels on Shutterstock, and mining pollution on Shutterstock. In addition, the development of the recycling industry for all types of minerals is also a crucial step in minimizing the impacts of mining and, therefore, of the solar energy industry.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), it takes approximately 20 gallons of water per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity to clean and wash solar panels. China, where an increasing proportion of solar panels are manufactured, has established rules for manufacturers to recycle at least 98.5% of silicon tetrachloride waste. On the other hand, the difference between reducing emissions from wind and solar generation is only related to the difference in the carbon footprint between the two technologies. The problem with investing in more solar panels in California is that production doesn't usually cause generators that use fossil fuels to shut down, because they are already inactive at the time of day when the solar panels produce energy.
Most people want to protect the planet, which means that many of us want to use renewable energy sources, such as solar energy. Of all renewable energies, solar photovoltaic (PV) capacity grew the most (97 GW), especially in China. By 2025, the use of annual averages in California could exaggerate greenhouse gas reductions associated with solar energy by more than 50 percent compared to hourly averages, according to the document.