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Do Solar Panels Affect the Environment?

Do Solar Panels Affect the Environment?

One of the major questions surrounding solar panels is whether they affect the enviroment. When running, solar energy systems and power plants emit no air pollution or greenhouse gases. When solar energy replaces or lessens the usage of other energy sources with higher environmental impacts, it can have a positive, indirect influence on the environment. Yet, there are environmental concerns associated with the development and usage of solar energy systems.

Manufacturing Materials for Solar Panels

Solar energy technologies require the use of energy-intensive materials such as metals and glass. The environmental challenges associated with the manufacture of these materials could be associated with solar energy systems. Some organizations and researchers have concluded that PV systems can produce the same amount of energy as was needed to create the systems in 1 to 4 years. Most PV systems can operate for up to 30 years or more.

Disposing of PV Panels

Photovoltaic (PV) cells and panels contain hazardous chemicals that must be handled carefully to avoid release into the environment. Heavy metals are used in several PV cell technologies, and these cells and PV panels may require particular care when they reach the end of their useful life. Certain solar thermal systems transmit heat using potentially toxic fluids, and leaks of these compounds could be damaging to the environment. 

Large Solar Power Plants

Large solar power facilities, like any other sort of power plant, can have an impact on the environment in and around their locations. Clearing land for development and the location of the power plant may have long-term effects on native plant and animal ecosystems. On the other hand, installing solar energy systems on marginal agricultural land or integrating solar energy systems on farms can provide farmers with a number of economic and environmental benefits.

Solar Panels and Ground Water

Some solar power plants may require water for cleaning solar collectors and concentrators or for cooling turbine generators. Utilizing huge amounts of ground water or surface water to clean collectors in some arid areas may have an impact on the ecosystems that rely on these water resources. Furthermore, the strong sunlight produced by a solar power tower can kill birds and insects that fly into it.

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