Millie HennickOctober 11, 20189000
There are so many reasons why people are contemplating installing a solar power system. The global benefit is immense over the years because it is necessary that the world stop contaminating the planet as soon as possible. There is no other action that can be taken that helps the environment quicker than installing solar panels because more solar power means the scarcer burning of dangerous fossil fuels.
Solar energy provides a win-win situation for most circumstances. Installing solar is also helpful for the environment because of fewer emissions. When your solar panels generate electricity, they produce zero emissions, which means they don’t add to climate change or health issues like conventional sources of energy. They also pull their energy from the sun, an endless resource that will be available around the world for the foreseeable future.
Solar panels produce zero emissions when placed on your roof, which means their environmental impact is negligible for most of their life. However, solar panels aren’t zero-emissions resources for their entire lifetime – as they have to be made in a factory first, as well as recycled at the end of their practical life. These two processes are where solar actually has an environmental influence. Many researchers frame the environmental impact of solar energy on the idea of energy payback time or EPBT. The EPBT reports on the term it will take for solar panels to produce adequate clean electricity to “pay back” the energy used to produce them. This calculation changes depending on a few different factors, including the potency of your solar panels. If you live in an area that has lots of sunlight, and your solar panels are very efficient, your system will likely generate more electricity and have a shorter EPBT. Rainy days, haze, pollution and other factors reduce the efficiency of solar power production.
How your solar panels are created matters too. Some solar panels need more energy to create than others. For example, thin-film modules have a smaller footprint than silicon modules, because less energy is needed to manufacture them. Solar panels have to be moved from where they were made to where they will be installed. If your solar panels were made in Europe or Asia but installed in the U.S. then they had to be transported further, needing more power usage and thus increasing their EPBT.
The good news is that, while the EPBT of a solar panel is subject to many factors, the market is moving in a positive direction. In 1970, the average energy payback time for solar panels was 40 years. By 2010, that number had fallen to a mere six months.
As the solar industry grows, manufacturers are constantly looking for ways to make solar panels more efficiently, which means that solar’s EPBT will continue to decrease. For instance, in the past 10 years, there has been a 62 percent decrease in the amount of stock used for silicon cells, thanks to improved efficiency and thinner designs. This reduction means that less energy is spent processing silicon during the manufacturing process. As more solar panels are retired, recycling them will become more cost-effective and practical too, further cutting their EPBT.
There has never been a better time to install a solar energy system! Be the first in your neighborhood to install a solar energy system and you are helping in the fight against global warming and climate change.
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