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Solar panels have environmental cost, know what?

solar energy environmental impact

Environmental cost of Solar panels | It has been observed in recent times that more and more countries are gushing in to harness solar energy. This would cut costs and dependence on other countries. The move is seen as a step towards a greener future once the transition is complete. This would help reduce emissions into the environment.  

Being able to adopt these technologies might make a citizen of the country feel proud. A nation can be called a green economy just because it now uses solar panels to harness energy. Nevertheless,  too much of anything is also not good. It’s not feasible to use solar energy alone to meet the energy needs of billions of people in millions of buildings like homes, offices, restaurants, commercial spaces, etc.

Farm workers clean the solar panels of a solar water pump at the farms in Jagadhri
Farm workers clean the solar panels of a solar water pump at the farms in Jagadhri | Photographer: Prashanth Vishwanathan

Let us consider that an average solar panel has an area of 2 square meters. With this in place, it would fit approximately 2000 solar panels on an acre of land. Let us say that there are 1000 panels installed on an acre of land. The panel rating is 200 watts and the sunlight received on a typical day is 5 hours.

The amount of power that such a system would generate is: 

No. of hours sunlight is received X Power rating of solar panel X No. of panels

i.e; 5 X 200 X 1000 = 1,000,000 watt-hours/day or 1,000 kWh/day.

Environmental Cost

environmenal cost of solar energy

Everything which glitters is not gold. The extreme cover of land via solar panels can bring profits for a farmer or an individual but, it is not good for the environment in the long run.

The soil on which these solar farms are built requires sunlight to carry out the processes of nature.

This soil takes in sunlight and gets heated. This heat is stored in the soil thereby increasing its temperature.

This facilitates the bioactivity performed by extracellular enzymes. This increases microbial respiration and decomposes the organic matter by increasing soil nitrogen mineralization rates. If the required temperatures and sunlight are not maintained, it will develop conditions in contrast to such microbial activity.

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In addition, despite some research papers being published, no solid research has been conducted in this area. Even major companies are studying the impacts of covering the waters and fields with solar panels and the results are yet to be published. For example, European company BayWa r.e. AG is conducting experiments on the impacts on biodiversity when panels are put on the sites.

Read more: First insights into Floating-PV’s environmental impact

Only implementation at farms over time would tell the environmental impacts that solar panels can pose. The same goes for the offshore implementation of solar panels.

Conclusion

With this greener push, most countries are setting targets so that they can not only meet their energy demand but can also trade this energy with other countries. For instance, according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy of India, renewable energy comprises 26.3% of the total power generation in India. Solar Energy is a key contributor to renewable energy. With the International Solar Alliance, perfect utilization of generated power can take place among nations. 

Solar Panels at HUDA City Centre Gurgaon
Solar Panels at HUDA City Centre Gurgaon | Source: WikiCommons

Solar energy today is considered a silver lining on that dark cloud of fossil fuels. It’s the future that would decide whether this technology brings short-term or long-term benefits.  On an individual level, one can always install such facilities at the top of their home. This will help reduce the land cover of such facilities. Moreover, companies are making products like solar roof tiles. We can opt for such products rather than conventional solar farms.

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