The sun is a great resource for creating clean, long-lasting electricity that does not pollute the environment or contribute to global warming. Solar power’s potential environmental impacts like land use and habitat loss, water use, and hazardous compounds in manufacturing may vary widely depending on the technology.
Solar energy production can be divided into photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and concentrating solar thermal plants (CSP). The system’s size, which can range from tiny, distributed rooftop PV arrays to massive utility-scale PV and CSP projects, has a big impact on the environment.
While there are no carbon emissions related to solar energy generation, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life cycle, such as production, materials transportation, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantling. Most solar system life-cycle emissions estimate from 0.07 to 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour.
A study shows that concentrated solar power is estimated to emit 0.08 to 0.2 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour. This is significantly lower than the lifecycle CO2E emission rates for natural gas (0.6-2 lbs/kWh) and coal (1.4-3.6 lbs/kWh) in both situations.
Several hazardous compounds are employed in the PV cell production process, most of which are used to clean and purify the semiconductor layer. Hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, trichloroethane, and acetone are among the chemicals utilized in the semiconductor business. The amount and type of chemicals used are determined by the cell type, cleaning required, and the silicon wafer size. Inhaling silicon dust poses a risk to workers as well.
Aside from the aforementioned environmental effects, solar energy installations may have other consequences, such as altering a region’s socioeconomic status. The construction and operation of utility-scale solar energy facilities would have direct and indirect economic consequences in a given area. The direct effects would result from wage and salary expenditures and the acquisition of products and services required for project construction and operation.
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