Two Sources Of Solar Power
The solar industry has developed two methods for converting sunlight to generate electricity: solar photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power5. Lets explore each method a bit to better understand how they contribute to making solar energy renewable.
The most common form of solar power, these solar cells make up the panels you see affixed to residential and commercial rooftops. When the photons in sunlight the solar panels, these semiconductors use electrons to create electrical currents.6 With this technology, you can power your home or business directly without relying solely upon the electricity grid.
Concentrated Solar Power
Youve probably seen a version of this technology if youve ever driven across West Texas and the American Southwest. With extraction method via solar power plant, large scale arrays of mirrors collect and then direct the suns rays to a central location hence, the concentration. From there, the highly targeted sunlight heats up water to create steam that spins turbines to create electricity.7
In the case of both methods, solar energy is proven to be firmly in the renewables camp because it actively takes advantage of the constant presence of the sun during daylight hours. Sunlight constantly regenerates no matter how rainy and cloudy it might be in your neck of the woods on any given day which means solar energy encourages us to use the power of the sun to power our world.
Sustainable Cleaner Greener Future With Solar Panels
If you are looking to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels and know what type of solar power system that you are looking for then to speak to a solar installation technician. If youre local to San Diego, Riverside, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, or Orange County, we can make sure that you get a quality solar panel install at a cost that you can afford. We specialize in solar repair, and helping ensure that individuals maximize their efforts towards sustainability. We want to help you fix solar repair issues, while providing you the best rate possible to help promote sustainability. Make some green, by saving green going solar. Read our Solar Installation Decision Guide to help you on your journey to becoming a smart, solar shopper.
How Is Solar Energy Captured And Stored
The natural conversion of sunlight into other forms of energy has inspired the ways humans capture and use this energy. Broadly speaking, there are two methods of using solar energy: passiveand active. Passive solar methods are those that use sunlight directly . Active methods use technology to convert solar energy intoa secondary form that has its own use.
What Is Sustainable Energy
Sustainable energy is derived from resources that can maintain current operations without jeopardizing the energy needs or climate of future generations. The most popular sources of sustainable energy, including wind, solar and hydropower, are also renewable.
Biofuel is a unique form of renewable energy, as its consumption emits climate-affecting greenhouse gasses, and growing the original plant product uses up other environmental resources. However, biofuel remains a major part of the green revolution. The key challenge with biofuel is finding ways to maximize energy output while minimizing the impact of sourcing biomass and burning the fuel.
Even with resources that are both renewable and sustainable, like wind and solar power, an important question remains: Is sustainable energy the solution to our energy and climate needs?
Furthermore, disparities in regulations and target goals can create a problem where the best place to produce energy may not have the public interest or infrastructure necessary to support it. For example, a windy state may struggle to pass legislation for financing the construction of turbines, while its neighbor may be eager for a nearby source of clean energy. How do we navigate such situations in a way that allows consumers to get what they want, no matter where they live?
How Green Is Solar Power
In addition to being renewable, solar energy is typically labelled a green source of energy due to the lack of harmful environmental side effects associated with its use. While fossil fuels release greenhouse gases and other particles into our atmosphere, generating energy from solar panels is a zero-emissions process that can take place anywhere the sun shines.
Many people are concerned with the environmental effects of manufacturing solar panels. Like any manufactured product, making quality solar modules takes resources and energy, which means that solar energy production has at least some environmental impact. The good news is that this impact is minimal in comparison to the benefits of the zero-emissions energy produced with solar panels. Studies have shown that it only takes a few months for a solar panel producing energy to cancel out the impact of manufacturing it.
The environmental effect of producing solar panels is decreasing year after year with the introduction of better panel technologies and designs. For example, solar panel efficiency is increasing dramatically every year. This means that solar panels are becoming much better at converting sunlight into emissions-free energy, and the relative environmental cost of producing panels compared to the clean energy they generate is shrinking rapidly.
Read Also: How Much Solar For A Tiny House
How To Calculate The Costs
According to energysage.com, if an average American family uses 10,649 kilowatt-hours per year, they would be paying almost $1,450 for electricity which is based on 10,649 kilowatt-hours x $0.1360 per kWh.
Note: $0.1360 per kWh was the national average power rate as at October 2020.
Compare this amount with the up-front costs you would be paying to install a solar panel system and additional electricity expenditures required in case your system does not offset your power usage completely, taking into account that the system would last for 25 to 30 years.
How Green Are Those Solar Panels Really
As the industry grows, so does concern over the environmental impact.
As the world seeks cleaner power, solar energy capacity has increased sixfold in the past five years. Yet manufacturing all those solar panels, a Tuesday report shows, can have environmental downsides.
Fabricating the panels requires caustic chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid, and the process uses water as well as electricity, the production of which emits greenhouse gases. It also creates waste. These problems could undercut solar’s ability to fight climate change and reduce environmental toxics.
The annual scorecard was created by the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition , a San Francisco-based nonprofit that has tracked the environmental impact of the high-tech industry since 1982. It’s the group’s fifth scorecard, and it shows that the industry is becoming morenot lessopaque when it comes to the sustainability of its manufacturing practices.
The coalition hopes the scorecard will increase transparency in a burgeoning industry that tends to be more focused on survival and growth than on tackling the dirtier side of an otherwise clean energy source.
What is Solar Power?
Patchy Data on Chemicals, Emissions
Not Enough to Recycle Yet
You May Like: Does Residential Solar Make Sense
What Are The Advantages Of Solar Energy The Power Of Solar Panels
Despite the costs of producing solar panels, according to one study, after 5.23 years generating electricity, they will make up for the energy used to produce the system itself. Moreover, solar panels have their financial payback within 19.3 to 34.4 years, depending on the rate of renewable energy feed-in-tariff applied, according to an Irish paper.
In addition, studies back up that electricity production by photovoltaic solar panels is more sustainable than electricity powered by fossil fuels. Still, these calculations depend on the region of production since, for instance, the carbon footprint of a panel produced in China can be up to twice as big compared to panels produced in Europe.
Hence, solar PV technologies are small and can be used anywhere in the world with relatively low operation and maintenance costs. Regarding the problems around the solar panels end of life, as the industry grows recycling sites will grow too and industry players will likely feel encouraged to find new solutions to improve the efficiency of their operations. And the good news is that some minerals, like aluminum, lead, and copper require less energy to be recycled when compared to primary extraction.
How Environmentally Friendly Is Solar Power
Solar is a renowned clean energy source, but some claim its not eco-friendly. Lets dispel the myths and discuss the environmental impact of solar energy.
Most people want to protect the planet, which means more of us want to use renewable sources of energy like solar power. With an average annual growth rate of 50%, solar energy is experiencing a major surge in popularity in green circles.1 Why? The answer is threefold:
That said, its not uncommon to hear people claim solar energy isnt as environmentally friendly as it is presented to be. While we admit that solar energy isnt perfect, we do believe the green energy source has the power to transform the energy industry. Chariot Energy regularly conducts and shares research about solar energy technology and then implements that knowledge in our plans and services.
Despite what detractors might think, we want to ensure solar becomes even cleaner over time and well show you how that works.
You May Like: What Materials Are Needed To Make Solar Panels
Are Solar Panels Harmful To The Environment
According to the German Environment Agency , there is no danger of pollutants leaking from undamaged or broken panels. However, most models do contain small quantities of environmentally harmful substances.
In the case of the widely used crystalline solar modules , for example, the solder contains up to one gram of lead per module.Some manufacturers do not use toxic lead at all.
In so-called thin-film modules , the cells also contain toxic heavy metal cadmium up to 1.4 grams per panel. However, manufacturers of these panels have their own take-back system and recover cadmium and lead, as well as non-toxic metals silver, copper and tellurium.
While discarded modules have to be disposed of properly in Europe, most other countries don’t yet have such regulations. The standards are intended to prevent solar panels from rotting in the natural environment and eventually leaching pollutants. In addition, solar panels contain valuable raw materials that can be recycled.
The photovoltaic industry is considered a key future market for the global recycling industry
Main Sources And Uses In Canada
Renewable energy from its many sources is an incredible way to power, heat and fuel our country. Each type of renewable energy from hydro to solar to biomass contributes in a different way.
Hydro, wind, tidal, geothermal, solar, and biomass are all used to generate electricity. Geothermal, solar, and biomass can also be used for heat. In addition, biomass, such as wood waste and landfill gas, can also be transformed into fuels.
Read Also: How Many Solar Panels Can Power A House
Renewable Energy Is Not Enough: It Needs To Be Sustainable
Due to growing world population and increasing wealth, demand for energy specifically electricity is rising, especially for the 1.3 billion people who dont have access.
The most commonly used source for electricity production today is coal 41% of all electricity is produced from coal, according to the World Coal Association. Due to its high level of pollution and often miserable circumstances for miners, we can conclude that this is not a sustainable source for electricity.
When looking at sustainable electricity resources, we commonly identify four: solar, wind, hydro and biomass. Each of them is renewable, but that doesnt necessarily make them sustainable. Sustainability is determined by three different parameters: environmental sustainability, social sustainability and economic sustainability.
Social sustainability is enormously diverse and complex. It entails healthy circumstances for workers and decent wages. But an aspect like local welfare increase should definitely be included as well. Theres one overarching aspect on social sustainability we have one globe where we can provide enough food and energy for everyone. Using the planets effectively and efficiently is therefore crucial.
What we can do, is use the full matrix of available renewable electricity technologies and use them in the most sustainable way. Just by using logic.
It Is Inexhaustible And Renews Itself
Compared to conventional energy sources such as coal, gas, oil and nuclear – reserves of which are finite – clean energies are just as available as the sun from which they originate and adapt to natural cycles, hence their name renewables. This makes them an essential element in a sustainable energy system that allows development today without risking that of future generations
Read Also: How Does Solar City Lease Work
Benefits Of Solar Energy
Provides long-term energy assurance
The photovoltaic cells in the panel collect the sunlight and convert it into electricity. Solar has an infinite source of energy and is guaranteed to be available for centuries. And as long as the sun continues to shine, we will always be able to reap the benefits by generating clean, green energy. Read more about how Solar Energy works.
Helpful to the environment
The cleanest energy that we can harness is solar energy, and its adoption will reduce the impact that we have made towards driving climate change. The greenhouse effect and global warming are two of the biggest environmental concerns that our children and we will face. Solar energy is also much safer for humans and the environment since it is a lot easier to make and transport.
Prevents damage in the land and habitat
The usage of solar energy can also prevent getting any damage to land and habitats. Todays ecosystem is being destroyed because of the mining of materials like fossil fuels. There are lots of trees being cut down, and habitats are being destroyed to build up factories and power plants. But with solar farms, you place it on the top of the land, and theres no need for you to drill it out or build it above it.
A safe and clean option for a power source
Moreover, using nuclear power can contaminate our water and as well as poison our land. But, using solar power doesnt create any of those pollutants which make it the cleanest, safest, and the best energy alternative.
Is Solar Power Sustainable Or Not
In recent history, many of our practices have been unsustainable and significantly damaged our natural environment. The great thing about solar energy is it fits in with this definition of sustainability because we can harness the suns energy without reducing its future availability. For the next few billion years, the sun will be emitting more than enough energy for solar panels to take advantage of so are solar panels sustainable? Yes.
Read Also: What To Look For In A Solar Company
In Space With A Solar Sail
Solar cells make longer space flights possible. Solar modules can be unfolded in space and supply stations like the ISS or satellites and unmanned capsules. Researchers are even thinking about solar parks in space. Solar exploration probes have already flown as far as Jupiter. There, however, the solar radiation is 25 times weaker than in Earth orbit because the sun is so far away.
Solar energy in unusual places
The Renewable Energy Vs Sustainable Energy Debate
Energy leaders need to not only understand the nuances between these two terms, but be mindful of how they use them in legislation and organizational decision-making. Not only will the precise use of language benefit consumers, allowing them to understand the implications of their energy choices, but it will also help officials ensure their policies accurately reflect their objectives.
For example, a policymaker who drafts a green bill only using the term renewable energy may subvert the effect of their own legislation by failing to account for the potential environmental impact of energy sources like biofuels.
The question then becomes: How do we go from simply supporting sustainable energy to widespread adoption? The answer is multifaceted, but higher education plays a significant role.
Energy professionals must understand how energy creation, distribution and consumption are affected by factors such as:
Even those currently in the industry may find themselves bewildered by the fields rapid pace and myriad influences. They need the opportunity to build on their existing knowledge and skills in order to address the needs of now and the future.
You May Like: What Type Of Battery For Solar Panel
How Sustainable Is Solar Panels Manufacturing Process
Heres where it gets a little bit trickier.
While the energy solar panels themselves generate has no negative impact on the environment, the manufacturing of the solar panels themselves isnt perfect. At least not yet.
In order to make the silicon wafers that convert the suns photons to electricity, manufacturers process quartz at high temperatures. This releases sulfur dioxide and carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. But how much of these greenhouse gasses does solar release, compared to other sources of energy?
The World Nuclear Association released a study in 2011 comparing the amount of carbon dioxide equivalent per gigawatt-hour for various sources of energy. The results show that although solar photovoltaic energy does create some greenhouse emissions, they pale in comparison to traditional energy sources.
While nuclear energy generates less CO2, it certainly isnt emission-free. And the materials it does emit are much more harmful than CO2.
Its also important to note that the data collected for this report date back to the first decade of the 2000s. Over the past ten to twenty years, the solar industry has made significant improvements in the sustainability of their manufacturing process, and they continue to do so. For the past 40 years, each time the installation capacity of solar energy doubled, overall emissions from solar energy have decreased 17 – 24%, according to a 2016 study.