How Green is Solar Energy?

How Green is Solar Energy?

The short answer: solar power is green. At least when it comes to the production of electricity. What solar panels do is just absorb light; they don’t produce any harmful carbon emissions by burning fuels.

‘Green’ refers to a process that isn’t harmful to the environment

Especially when compared to other methods of energy production like the burning of coal, solar power offers an incredibly clean energy solution. But when you consider the full life-cycle of solar panels, they’re not completely green.

Manufacturing Solar Panels

Building a solar panel requires a lot of complicated steps. They include:

  • Extracting raw materials like silicon
  • Producing semi-conductor materials (under intense heat)
  • Building modules and other components
  • Putting it all together.

During these steps, small amounts of carbon emissions are inevitably produced. To be a worthwhile green investment, every solar panel made should produce enough energy to offset the emissions from its own construction. This takes around two years – which isn’t much when the average solar panel lives at least as long as 20 years.

Complex Waste

Solar panels are designed to produce clean energy for decades. But what happens at the end of their lifecycle? First off, let’s look at what they’re made of. Commercial solar panels usually consist of:

  • Silicon
  • Metals
  • Aluminium
  • Plastic
  • Glass.

When properly deconstructed, most of these materials can be recycled and even reused to make new solar panels. However, expert recycling is expensive and isn’t mandatory. At the end of 2016, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) estimated there was between 43,500-250,000 tonnes of waste from PV solar systems around the globe – which could reach up to 6 million tonnes by 2050.

Solar batteries are also difficult to recycle and can have toxic effects if left in landfill.

Thankfully, innovations in the design of solar panels and in recycling techniques are reducing the waste effect considerably. And in Australia and other countries, there are plenty of options for recycling solar panels.

Overall, solar panels are giving countries an incredibly green energy resource to rely on – reducing the need to burn fossil fuels and create heavy carbon emissions. If you’re looking to harness green energy in your own home, we can help.

Get in touch with our friendly team online or call us on 1800 270 963 for an obligation-free quote today.

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