Solar Energy and the Environment

Solar Energy and the Environment

There are numerous reasons that people switch from non-renewable energy to solar power, from the reduced costs of powering your property to the positive impact that solar photovoltaic panels can have on your property’s value.

One of the most common reasons people switch to solar energy is because of its low impact on the environment. Compared to fossil fuels, solar power is a clean form of energy that produces few emissions and has little to no environmental impact.

Whether you’re interested purely in saving money on your energy bill or want to get involved in stopping climate change, installing solar photovoltaic panels at home or at your business’s location is an excellent way to take action.

By switching to solar energy, your home or business could significantly lower its impact on the environment. It can also step forward from fossil fuels to use solar energy – a renewable source of energy with a low environmental impact.

Are you interested in switching to cleaner, more affordable solar energy? Read on to learn more about solar energy’s low impact on the environment and the advantages it offers over non-renewable fossil fuels.

Why solar energy is becoming so much more popular

From 2009 to 2014, the world’s solar energy capacity increased six times. The large growth in usage of solar energy caused solar panel prices to briefly increase for the first time in decades due to heavy demand from homes and businesses.

There are several reasons for solar power’s growth in popularity. More affordable than ever before, solar energy is a relatively low-cost alternative to depending on fossil fuels as a source of electricity.

Government incentive programmes, such as the Feed-in Tariff in the UK, have also made solar power a profitable investment for companies and homeowners in need of ways to offset the cost of solar technology.

Solar photovoltaic panel production has also increased massively in recent years in countries such as the United States and China, resulting in larger availability of solar panel systems for home and business users.

Finally, solar energy’s fantastic environmental record makes it a good investment for businesses from more than just a financial standpoint. Cleaner than almost all other energy sources, solar isn’t just a utility – it’s a major selling point.

One of solar energy’s biggest benefits is its extremely low carbon emissions. While there are some carbon emissions as a result of manufacturing solar panels, they are far lower than those associated with non-renewable sources of energy.

Solar energy and carbon emissions

The average UK home produces more than 20 tonnes of carbon every year. Most of this comes from home energy usage, with personal transportation another cause of carbon emissions and pollution.

Around 30% of residential carbon emissions in the UK are the result of home energy usage related to lighting, home appliances, heating and more. These emissions are a result of dependence on non-renewable, eco-unfriendly fossil fuel energy sources.

We all have an obligation to stop climate change, whether by changing our energy habits or switching to renewable, low-carbon sources of energy. Changing from a fossil fuel energy source to solar is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint.

As more UK homes switch to solar energy, the amount of carbon created as a result of home energy usage is declining. This is because solar energy is a cleaner, far less environmentally taxing energy source than fossil fuels such as coal or natural gas.

On average, coal produces a worrying 938 grams of carbon dioxide for each kilowatt hour of energy. Natural gas, a “clean” fossil fuel, produces approximately 549 grams of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt hour of energy generated.

Other widely used fossil fuel sources of energy, such as distillate and residual oil, are responsible for 757 and 816 grams of carbon dioxide production per kilowatt hour of energy produced, respectively.

Solar energy does not produce any carbon dioxide as a result of energy creation. As it uses sunlight – an unlimited, renewable resource with no emissions – solar panels create power with no direct carbon emissions as a result of the process.

Despite this, there is some carbon output associated with solar power. Since a range of chemicals and heavy metals are used in the creation of solar panels, solar power creates some carbon dioxide during the manufacturing process.

On average, calculated over the lifetime of a solar panel relative to the total amount of energy it produces, solar energy produces a carbon footprint of just 72 grams of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour of energy.

That’s a significant difference. On average, solar energy produces just 7.7% as much carbon as coal per kilowatt hour, and approximately 13.1% as much carbon dioxide as natural gas – a fossil fuel widely viewed as a cleaner alternative to coal power.

Since the usable lifespan of solar photovoltaic panels is constantly increasing due to higher quality manufacturing processes, it’s likely that the carbon footprint of solar energy will continue to get smaller over time.

In fact, solar panels have a lifetime carbon footprint that’s not significantly higher than a large hydroelectric power station. Hydropower, on average, is estimated to produce 10 to 30 grams of carbon dioxide for each kilowatt hour of energy.

This makes solar energy more than just a cost-effective alternative to fossil fuels. As well as offering lower costs, solar energy offers a carbon footprint that’s a fraction as significant as those of most fossil fuels.

Beyond carbon, solar energy’s low environmental impact

Although carbon emissions may be the most important statistic for many business and home energy customers, carbon dioxide is just one aspect of an energy source’s overall environmental impact.

Coal, which as of 2010 was used to produce 28% of the UK’s energy, has a range of environmental issues beyond its carbon emissions. These include its negative effects on air quality and creation of toxic chemical waste as an energy creation by-product.

In addition to these problems, coal also has desirability issues. While most people welcome the use of solar panels in their neighbourhoods, few people wish to live close to a coal or natural gas power station.

A huge amount of water is also required to cool coal power plants. Other fossil fuels have similar impacts on the environment, producing poor air quality and negatively affecting the environment in a range of ways.

One of solar energy’s biggest advantages is its limited impact on the environment as a whole. Solar energy produces no air pollution, requires limited water to continue producing electricity and does not create any significant industrial waste.

Solar energy and land use

Despite this, there are some environmental issues associated with solar power. One of the most significant of these is the amount of space that solar power stations can require in order to operate most efficiently.

This can be mitigated by installing solar panels on the roof of a building or another space in which environmental damage is minimised. By installing solar panels atop your home or commercial building, you minimise its overall environmental impact.

Low recyclability of solar panels

Another environmental issue associated with solar energy is the low recyclability of solar photovoltaic panels. Solar panels, which contain rare metals such as tellurium, silver and others, are currently not recyclable in many countries.

This is the result of the lack of older solar panels – most solar installations date to the last 10 years – and also limited awareness of the need to recycle solar panels and reuse the rare metals that are required for their construction.

As solar energy continues to grow in popularity, however, numerous companies are beginning to offer photovoltaic panel recycling services that further reduce the total environmental impact of solar energy.

Far cleaner than other energy sources

Although solar photovoltaic panels do have some environmental impact, their total environmental impact is extremely low when compared to non-renewable sources of energy such as coal, oil and natural gas.

Would you like to learn more about the environmental benefits of switching to solar energy? Read more about the numerous advantages of solar power in our Benefits of Solar Energy guide.

Are you interested in solar energy?

From lowering your environmental impact to helping you save thousands of pounds on your energy bills, there are numerous benefits to installing solar panels for your home or commercial property.

Are you interested in solar power? Low solar photovoltaic panel prices and financial incentives provided by the government mean that there’s never been a better time to switch to solar energy.

We offer high quality solar panels and solar water heating equipment for residential and commercial properties. Our team of solar energy experts and installers can help you learn more about the best solar power system for your property.

Contact us today to learn more about the solar energy solutions available for your property and the benefits of switching to solar power.