Introduction to Solar Energy
Solar energy is a form of energy that is derived from the radiations of the sun. With the increase in global demand for energy, the costs of energy resources have skyrocketed. People have been trying to come up with alternative energy solutions that are cheaper and available in abundance. Solar power is a very strong energy source. The sun can provide us with as much energy in an hour that we use in one year. This makes it an unlimited source of energy.
The radiations that we collect from it are renewable, and we can never run out of it. This is helpful to us because this way our natural resources are preserved and we do not need to rely on fossil fuels. It is important to increase the use of solar energy as it will reduce costs and save natural resources.
Initially the cost of converting the sun’s radiation into usable energy was very high. The cost was not worth the benefits it provided. However, with the increase in technology, scientists have now come up with better ways to reduce the costs of radiation conversion.
However, what impact does this solar energy have on the environment? The use of solar energy has a few positive as well as negative effects on the environment. These negative effects need to be measured to weigh out if it is indeed beneficial to use solar energy as an alternative source of energy.
Positive effects of Solar Energy on the Environment
There are many positive effects of the use of solar energy on the environment. We will be discussing a few.
Reduce your Carbon Footprint
A carbon footprint is the measure of the impact that a person’s actions have on the environment. It measures the level of greenhouse gases that are emitted due to their daily activities. These emissions can come from cars, home heating/cooling systems and burning coal from the power plant. By the use of solar energy, a person will not need to worry about emitting any green house gases.
Solar energy does not itself clean the environment and reduce the carbon emission but it will provide a way to stop eliminating further carbon into the environment.
Reduce Poisonous Pollutants
Renewable energy as solar energy can greatly improve the quality of air that we breathe in. everyone has the right to breathe in clean air. However, due to the excessive use of oil in the industries, there are many harmful toxins being released into the air. These pollutants include mercury, lead, biphenyls and other dangerous chemicals that are causing many health problems.
If oil is replaced with renewable biofuel, then it will bring a significant change on the environment. These biofuels may help reduce sulfur emissions that are responsible for acid rain as well. Solar powered energy will not emit sulfur and nitrogen gases into the environment and will not propose a threat to the society.
Conserve other natural resources
Solar energy is an unlimited source of energy. It can be renewed as long as the sun keeps shining. This is why the use of this energy source will help reduce the need of using other limited natural resources like fossil fuels, gas, and coal. (Thomas, 2008)
As the human consumption for energy grows, the cost of these finite natural resources increases. It also becomes too environmentally damaging to keep on retrieving them. With solar energy, humans do not need to worry about running out of it and it becoming too costly over time. If anything, the cost will reduce over time.
Negative Impacts of Solar Energy on the Environment
Even though there are so many benefits of using renewable energy, there are a few factors that make it seem that it is not worth all the trouble. There are drawbacks of solar energy usage on the environment that need to be kept in mind before any conclusion is reached.
Health and Safety Hazards
The use of solar energy reduces the carbon footprint and sulfur emission in the atmosphere. But the technology, that is required for the solar energy to be consumable, have a lot of toxic health hazards left behind. Chemicals like sulfur tetrachloride are disposed in bulk which increases the pollution.
The manufacturing of the solar panels need a lot of energy. This energy is not only costly but emits a lot of heavy metal emissions and greenhouse gases, which are harmful for the environment. The manufacturing of these solar panels require photo voltaic cells. Research is still being done on whether PV cells are sufficient and efficient enough to generate the electricity of the needs of the human race. According to a report from Bloomberg New Energy Finance, around 36.7 gigawatts were produced by solar panels in 2013.
No matter how beneficial the properties of solar energy are, it is of no use if it cannot be implemented. Solar energy implementation not only requires a huge budget but also requires a significant amount of land. It requires as much as 2.8 acres of land just to generate one GWh of solar energy in a year. According to National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) findings, the total demand of the United States alone would require 14-15 million square acres to implement solar energy panels. This is a huge drawback, which prevents governments from making use of solar energy panels. Scientists need a way to use this effective energy solution such that it covers the needs of the world without taking over a lot of agricultural space.
Any form of renewable energy is a great way to save our environment and to maximize our natural resources. The sun’s energy is infinite and its heat can be transformed in any way needed. However, until technology finds a way to reduce the cost required to transform the sun’s energy into usable energy sources, the human race will have to try to reduce their use of natural resources.
Installing solar panels may seem to be expensive initially, but in the end, they are safer, cheaper and better for the environment. The positive influences of solar energy usage out weight the negative impacts of it on the environment. It is just a matter of time, when they will be easily available for the common man.
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