Habitat Loss & Concerns In Hawaii
Natural habitats are often dealt devastating blows when solar farms are constructed. This puts a range of native species at risk. Recently, there were many questions regarding a proposal to cut down 18×3 acre lots containing indigenous Ohia trees to create space for the Photovoltaic farm in Kau.
Ward Lambert, a former photovoltaic advocate, expressed his concerns, as the choice was made to purchase land at a higher elevation with more vegetation than the land at a lower elevation. There was also a barbed-wire fence installed around the panels that put native animals in harms way. These decisions highlight the potential for habitat loss throughout Hawaii where decisions are being made to add solar plants.While solar is labeled as a clean and alternative energy source, there are still negative environmental implications that are not commonly discussed. Photovoltaic panel production is linked to carbon emissions, toxic waste, unsustainable mining practices, and habitat loss. These environmental downsides, coupled with solars limited capacity to generate enough energy to support the grid, should be considered by residents and decision-makers alike.
On Hawaii Island specifically, certain parties would like a majority of renewable energy investments to be made in solar instead of diversifying. This puts the stability of the islands grid in jeopardy and opens the door to all of the environmental impacts outlined above.
Are Solar Panels As Green As You Think There Are Good And Bad Environmental Impacts Of Solar Power
Are solar panels really that green? The environmental impacts of solar panels are widely discussed and commented on but what arguments are valid, and what is social media noise?
Key arguments against solar panels are that they require more energy and fossil fuel-burning equipment to mine, manufacture, and transport than they save. Another argument is that toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process which do more harm than good.
Solar power isnt perfect
On the other side, it is argued that solar panels create more clean energy than they take to create and top global companies are truly leading by example with regards to chemical usage.
Here we will examine the positive and negative environmental impacts of solar panels and what the future has in store for the solar energy industry.
Why Are Solar Panels Considered Green Energy If The Manufacturing Process Uses Toxic Chemicals
There is no doubt that during a solar panel lifecycle, huge production of greenhouse gases occurs in the manufacturing process. With the solar manufacturing process becoming more efficient, the amount of carbon footprint has reduced significantly. According to a study carried out in 2016, the overall emission of greenhouse gases through this process has decreased by approximately 17 to 24% whenever install capacity is doubled within the last 40 years.
When installing a solar panel in the roof to produce electricity, it is 100% renewable, free from any emissions and pollutions. Furthermore, it will be impacting your carbon footprint directly as well as your entire community.
As a homeowner, if your primary goal of installing a solar panel is to curb carbon footprint and help the environment, you can keep in mind that solar panels remain the best for the environment despite the manufacturing process of solar panels producing greenhouse gases other sources. Overall production of greenhouse gases by solar energy is way lower compared to natural gas and coal. According to the 2011 report, the carbon footprint of solar panels was approximately 85 tons of carbon dioxide per hour. On the other hand, natural gas and coal produced 499 and 888 tons of carbon dioxide equivalents per hour, respectively.
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The Lifetime Carbon Emission Of A Solar Panel
To come up with a clear understanding of the carbon footprint of solar panels, several life cycle studies have been carried out in the past decades on the emission profile of solar power. The assessments carried out included operational, upstream, and downstream stages of generating energy from several sources of energy such as solar thermal, solar PV, wind, coal, nuclear, and natural gas.
The United States Department of Energy, National Renewable Energy Laboratory in 2012 screened approximately 400 of these research to account for discrepancies and outliers and other contributing factors to this data. For comparison, the data become harmonized with a discrete set of assumptions. The final result proved that solar panels need about 60 to 70% of their upfront energy, about 25% while operating, and around 5 to 20% in their productive life.
Carbon emission intensity differences
When it comes to the favor of renewable energy, silicon-based solar panels, according to harmonization by NREL, it is approximately 13.2 to 14.0% efficient. According to the 2014 analysis, however, today, poly-crystalline silicone-based solar panels have more than 19.5% efficiency. Nowadays, solar panels are about 50% more efficient than when this study was being conducted.
Solar Panel Carbon Print
Greenhouse gas emission is responsible for over 72 grams of carbon dioxide, which is equivalent to a kWh of electricity generated.
Any solar power plant also has an average environmental footprint of about 20gm of CO2 for every kilowatt-hour of electricity generated on top of consuming large water amounts. This is way low than the carbon print effect by regular electricity production.
During the production of solar panels, manufacturers handle toxic chemicals. However, once the panels are complete, they emit no toxins into the atmosphere.
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Solar panels glimmering in the sun are an icon of all that is green. But while generating electricity through photovoltaics is indeed better for the environment than burning fossil fuels, several incidents have linked the manufacture of these shining symbols of environmental virtue to a trail of chemical pollution. And it turns out that the time it takes to compensate for the energy used and the greenhouse gases emitted in photovoltaic panel production varies substantially by technology and geography.
That’s the bad news. The good news is that the industry could readily eliminate many of the damaging side effects that do exist. Indeed, pressure for it to do so is mounting, in part because, since 2008, has moved from Europe, Japan, and the United States to China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan today nearly half the world’s photovoltaics are manufactured in China. As a result, although the overall track record for the industry is good, the countries that produce the most photovoltaics today typically do the worst job of protecting the environment and their workers.
The paper’s investigation, , profiled a Chinese polysilicon facility owned by Luoyang Zhonggui High-Technology Co., located near the Yellow River in the country’s Henan province. This facility supplied polysilicon to Suntech Power Holdings, at the time the world’s largest solar-cell manufacturer, as well as to several other high-profile photovoltaics companies.
Carbon in Creation:
Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition
Many panel manufacturers are focusing on sustainability in the manufacturing process to promote the health of the earth, as well as employees and factory workers involved in the production of their panels. A nonprofit organization known as the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition is leading the pack in advocating for sustainable practices for electronics manufacturers, including solar panel companies. They publish a report known as the Solar Scorecard that evaluates a variety of panel manufacturers on their environmental protection measures, as well as measures for their employees and their communities.
The scorecard uses a few different factors to determine manufacturer ranking on the Solar Scorecard, including emissions tracking, how many toxic materials are included in their modules, water usage in manufacturing, the use of conflict materials , and workers rights.
In the most recent Scorecard, SunPower was given the highest ranking of the companies that responded to the survey, followed closely by SolarWorld, Trina, Aleo, and Jinko.
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The Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy
When it comes to solar energy pros and cons, we’ve heard it all: it’s for hippies, it’s too expensive or it doesn’t work. Yet more solar energy systems are being installed on homes and businesses than ever. Here, we explain some key facts about the pros and cons of solar energy and answer the main question for homeowners, are solar panels worth it?
Solar panels are more efficient, affordable, and environmentally friendly than theyve ever beenand the 26% federal tax credit makes solar an even more attractive investment for homeowners through the end 2022. However, like any investment, going solar wont make sense for every homeowner depending on their geographic location, roof orientation, and current electricity usage. A free consultation is the quickest way to see if solar is right for you.
In most situations and areas in the US, solar panels are worth the cost of installation and maintenance, providing a good return on investment and benefits to the environment.
Note: Many of these solar cons are applicable to older or less advanced home solar technologies and are no longer an issue.
Chemicals In The Solar Manufacturing Process: Are They Dangerous
The primary material used for solar cells today is silicon, which is derived from quartz. In order to become usable forms of silicon, the quartz has to be mined and heated in a furnace .
There are some chemicals used in the manufacturing process to prepare silicon and make the wafers for monocrystalline and polycrystalline panels. One of the most toxic chemicals created as a byproduct of this process is silicon tetrachloride. This chemical, if not handled and disposed of properly, can lead to burns on your skin, harmful air pollutants that increase lung disease, and if exposed to water can release hydrochloric acid, which is a corrosive substance bad for human and environmental health. Fortunately, there is a process that most manufacturers employ to safely recycle silicon tetrachloride back into the manufacturing process for new silicon wafers, helping to eliminate health and environmental risks.
The large majority of panels used in installations are safe, silicon-based panels however, if youre installing thin-film technology, there are additional toxic materials contained in the thin-film panels itself, such as cadmium telluride and copper indium selenide. These materials are used in the manufacturing process for many other electronics, like your cell phone or laptop. Thin-film panels are not common for residential solar installations and are most often used in large commercial or utility scaled applications.
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Pollution & Environmental Impact
The environmental impacts associated with solar power are land and water use and pollution, habitat loss, and use of highly hazardous materials in the manufacturing process.
Thinking back to the installation area, land use by solar fields can be massive, and unlike with wind power, sharing the land for agriculture uses is not an option. Solar power also affects land use when it comes to mining and production of materials needed to produce photovoltaics.
Among the compounds found in solar panels is cadmium and lead, extremely toxic metals. There are a number of other toxic and hazardous materials used in the production of solar panels including gallium arsenide, copper-indium-gallium-diselenide, hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone.
In the United States, manufactures are required to make sure these high value substances are recycled rather than disposed of. However, in other countries such as China, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Taiwan, where over half of photovoltaics are manufactured, these hazardous materials are being irresponsibly disposed of in fields, polluting the air, water, and soil.
We have written a more in-depth article outlining these causes and effects of pollution and how they affect our environment.
Is Solar Energy Eco Friendly Why
Solar energy is one of the cleanest sources of energy, and its an extremely effective way of your household more efficient and sustainable. Solar panels dont use any water to generate electricity, they dont release harmful gases into the environment, and the source of their energy is abundant and, best of all, free.
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Solar Energy And Pv Panels: Positive Energy With Downsides
Panels also only produce electricity on peak hours, i.e., when they get over 1000 watts of photovoltaic power. This means solar panels can produce electricity from an average of 4 hours to 6,5 hours a day, even if its sunny all day.
Its also a good idea to have solar PV technology reducing its carbon emission by powering mines and mineral processing sites, as in Australia or South Africa. Tighter regulations and good government practices are also fundamental to reducing the risks associated with mining activities. Furthermore, the development of the recycling industry for all types of minerals are also crucial steps in minimizing the impacts of the mining and, therefore, the solar energy industries.
In the end, solar energy is easier to set up anywhere in the world and it is becoming increasingly more affordable. If companies and nations want to fulfill their GHG reduction promises, it is important to keep growing their sources of renewable energy and keep creating incentives for solar or wind energy industries to develop. However, its still important to consider their side impacts and try to mitigate them so that solving one problem doesnt mean creating another one.
Top 4 Ways Solar Positively Impacts The Environment
There are many motivations for adding solar to your home or business. Anytime you can make your own electricity, thats energy that you dont have to purchase from your local utility. As electricity costs continue to increase, especially with longer and hotter summers predicted as our climate continues to warm, making the switch to solar the best way to lock in decades of predictable energy costs.
But the environmental impact of adding solar is just as compelling. And since Arizona utilities generate most of their electricity from dirtier sources such as coal, nuclear and natural gas, installing solar is a compelling way to contribute to a cleaner and more sustainable future while also putting money back in your pocket.
If youre considering adding solar to your home or business, dont just stop at the dollars. Its also important to consider the following four eco-friendly advantages.
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Are Solar Panels Bad For The Environment
We have our fair share of tornadoes that come through, and hail storms. And if those panels get broken that stuff leaches out and goes right into the ground water and into the soil.
As Texas solar power is ramping up, residents are raising concerns such as this in their fight against new solar farm developments, according to the Killeen Daily Herald. The main questions include:
The answers arent as simple as one might think. Heres what we found.
Dinosaur Voiced By Jack Black Tells United Nations ‘going Extinct Is A Bad Thing’
Sam Ricketts, co-founder and co-director of the climate advocacy group Evergreen Action, said lawmakers should feel increased urgency to pass the revamped Build Back Better act, but added that the proposal itself should benefit Biden by demonstrating to other nations that the U.S. is actively working to achieve its emissions targets.
This will show the global community that America really is an ally and can be a leader in driving forward global climate efforts, Ricketts said. It shows that after four years of President Trumps outright climate denial, the U.S. government is moving with leadership against this global crisis.
The proposed climate bill will also give the U.S. stronger footing in Scotland during negotiations with other top emitters, including China.
The Biden administration will have more leverage to push other countries to make strong commitments, said Danielle Arostegui, a senior climate analyst at the Environmental Defense Fund. We can show that were putting our money where our mouth is.
The bill would significantly boost investments in renewable energy, including for solar and wind power, and would provide clean energy tax credits and an electric vehicle tax credit that would lower the cost of an electric vehicle by up to $12,500 per middle-class family, according to the White House.
Still, he said these types of investments could spur other developments in the private sector, or at the state and local level, which could make up the difference.
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Solar Energy Saves Water
Each new day is a close risk of running short of water. Regular electricity production entirely depends on water. Tons of liters of water are used during production to cool off generators, refine fuel, and to help transport the fuel in pipes.
Solar panels, on the other hand, need no water to convert sunlight into energy. The more people install and switch to using solar energy is, the more precious commodity is saved.
Environmental Impacts Of Renewable Electricity Generation
Fossil-fuel dominated electricity generation in the United States and China has enormous environmental consequences. In 2007, 2.4 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide were emitted from electricity generation in the United States, about 40 percent of the countrys energy-related greenhouse gas emissions. In the same year, electricity generation in China produced just over 2 billion metric tons of CO2, accounting for about one-third of its energy-related GHG emissions. Fossil-fuel combustion is also responsible for the emission of other pollutants, such as nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide . The production of electricity also puts a strain on water and land resources. In 2000, thermal power plants accounted for nearly half of total withdrawals of water in the United States and nearly 40 percent of water withdrawals for industrialized use in China. Overall, reducing environmental impacts is a major impetus for shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy for electricity generation.
Suggested Citation:The Power of Renewables: Opportunities and Challenges for China and the United States
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