At any given hour, the sun pours down enough energy in the form to power our whole world for a full year. This amount of energy is known as photons. In addition, NASA estimates that the sun will continue to shine for another 4.5 billion years, which means that Earth will continue to bask in an abundance of sunshine for a very, very, very long time.
Solar energy is considered to be renewable according to every single conventional definition there is. This is because solar can be swiftly regenerated and practically always accessible without the requirement for eons of manufacturing time (hello, fossil fuels!). In point of fact, the renewable energy source is gaining acceptability and technological sophistication at the most rapid rate in the market today in terms of its capability to generate power.
On the other hand, many are concerned about the growth of the solar power business and advocate for the environment and sustainable practices. In particular, they have concerns over the components and procedures that go into the production of the solar panel technology that is used in the generation of electrical power.
By directly addressing the valid concerns raised by others, this piece aims to demonstrate why solar power should be considered a legitimate source of renewable energy. Because we need the solar business to be a determined leader if we are going to tackle climate change, limit global warming, and lower our carbon footprint by lessening our dependency on fossil fuels.
What is Renewable Energy?
The term “renewable energy” refers to any source of power that can be regenerated in a timely and reliable manner.
Some definitions may include a proviso such as “during the typical lifetime of a person” to emphasize the contrast between renewables and fossil fuels, which can only be supplied over the course of endless millennia. This is done to differentiate between the two types of energy sources.
Green energy is a subset of the more general category of clean energy, but it also receives the most attention. According to the Environmental Protection Agency of the United States, green energy is defined as that which derives from natural sources and has a negligible to nonexistent impact on the natural environment. Hydropower, biomass, geothermal power, solar power, and wind power are all included in this category.
What is Solar Power?
In the article titled “What is Solar Energy?,” we provided our preferred definition of solar energy, which is as follows: solar power may be defined as any electricity that is created utilizing the sun in any capacity. The process of converting the energy of the sun, which arrives at our planet in the form of discrete units of light known as photons, into the form of electricity that can be used to power our homes and places of business boils down to one thing: how you do it.
Two Sources of Solar Power
Both solar photovoltaic cells and concentrated solar power are examples of technologies that the solar industry has created in order to convert sunlight into an electrical current. Let’s take a closer look at each approach to better understand how they individually contribute to making solar energy a sustainable resource.
These photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells, are the most typical kind of solar electricity and are what make up the panels that are fastened to the roofs of homes and businesses. When photons from sunshine strike solar panels, the semiconductors in those panels convert photons into electrons, which in turn generates electrical currents. Because to this innovation, you no longer have to depend entirely on the public energy grid to provide power to your home or place of business.
Concentrated Solar Power
If you’ve ever traveled through West Texas or the American Southwest, the chances are good that you’ve encountered some variation of this technology. When extracting energy using a solar power plant as the mechanism, enormous arrays of mirrors are used to gather and then guide the sun’s rays to a central place; this is where the term “concentration” comes from. From that vantage point, the concentrated sunlight warms the water, which in turn creates steam that drives turbines, which in turn generates power.
Solar energy is demonstrated to be firmly in the camp of renewables in both cases since it actively takes use of the consistent presence of the sun throughout daylight hours. This fact places solar energy firmly in the renewables camp. Solar energy encourages us to utilize the power of the sun to power our world since sunlight continually regenerates, even though it may be gloomy and rainy in your part of the globe on any given day. Because of this, solar energy can be used to power both homes and businesses.
Two Chief Criticisms of Solar Energy as Renewable Energy
Because the generation of power from solar systems does not result in the release of any emissions in the form of greenhouse gases, you may assume that the majority of people consider solar energy to be very environmentally friendly and green. And you’d be absolutely correct. The vast majority of the time. In point of fact, several individuals who care for the environment have voiced their worry over the procedures used in producing the real solar panels. They are concerned, and not without reason, that the negative effects on the environment caused by the development of the technology would exceed the positive environmental effects of solar energy.
Because we are firm believers that solar power systems are the wave of the future in the energy sector as a whole as well as a renewable resource, our goal is to tackle the two most pressing concerns front on.
1. Collecting the Materials
Quartz is a highly common material that can be found all over the globe in places like as timepieces, house countertops, and industrial buildings. Conventionally, solar panels are produced out of quartz. After extracted from the ground, this material may be processed into silicon, which is then utilized to manufacture the semiconductors included inside solar panels. Therefore, as more solar panels are manufactured, there is a growing need for quartz.
The extraction of quartz has a number of the same problems that environmentalists have with mining in general, and thus presents a challenge. In addition to wreaking havoc on the region’s topography, mining consumes enormous amounts of water and puts workers at risk of developing silicosis due to their prolonged contact with the silica dust that the industry generates. In response, several businesses, such as Chariot Energy, have switched to utilizing quartz-dense sand in order to lessen the damage that mining has on the environment.
2. Assembling the Panels
Once you have access to silicon without relying on heavy mining, the next step is to produce a high grade silicon that can catch sunlight in the most effective way possible. The issue at hand is that, traditionally, the method of producing polysilicon has resulted in the production of silicon tetrachloride. This waste produces toxic gases and contributes to the acidification of the soil.
To our good fortune, the solar energy sector has enthusiastically embraced the task of ensuring that their technology is environmentally friendly and sustainable. Silicon tetrachloride may be converted into polysilicon via the use of several processes that have been devised. In addition, scientists at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, which is a component of the United States Department of Energy, are looking at methods to create polysilicon and other types of silicone that can be used in solar panels without ever producing silicon tetrachloride.
When it comes to making solar panels even better for the environment, we still have one more challenge ahead of us. After the polysilicon has been formed into individual solar panels, hydrofluoric acid (together with other chemicals) is used to optimize the amount of light that is taken in by the panels. The concern, however, is not the production process itself; rather, it is the potential for environmental harm that might occur if the chemicals are not disposed of in the appropriate manner.
In light of these worries, producers of solar panels are turning to more secure alternatives such as sodium hydroxide (NaOH) and zinc sulfide. At every point in the manufacturing process, the solar panel technology should be as environmentally friendly as is humanly feasible so that it may fulfill its potential as a leader in the field of renewable energy.
How Solar Energy Can Become Even More Renewable and Eco-Friendly
Solar power technology, at its most fundamental level, wholeheartedly and deliberately commits itself to the principles of sustainable energy. The industry is demonstrating its dedication to the use of sustainable resources by producing solar panel technology that has an average lifespan of thirty years and pays back installment investments in less than one-third of that amount of time. And it uses the sun, which is the most replenishable of all the natural resources our planet has to offer!
But proponents of solar energy may do much more by adopting a few easy measures to guarantee that it can be as ecologically responsible as possible. These efforts are as follows:
- Plant a new tree to replace each one that has to be cut down or removed to make room for a rooftop solar installation.
- Companies that manufacture solar panels might consider making investments in environmentally friendly office supplies.
- Activise yourself in environmental causes that are unrelated to the solar energy sector.
- It is imperative that any and all utility-level solar installations pay careful attention to the surrounding environment in order to ensure that native species of flora and wildlife are not affected.
If we want to make a difference, particularly in climate change and global warming, the solar energy business has to coordinate its efforts with the international environmental movement. The situation is very serious, and we won’t be able to mitigate its impacts until we devise long-term solutions that challenge the existing quo of relying on fossil fuels.