ECO Alphabet: Week 19: Solar

Updated: Sep 17


We've all heard that solar power can save our world, but how? Does it affect the planet at all negatively?

Solar energy is the most abundant and consistent form of energy that provides clean, sustainable electricity.


135 tons of CO2 can be avoided by having solar panels on your house for 25 years.


Coal energy produces 800-1250g CO2/hr (16x more grams CO2 emitted than solar)

Natural Gas energy produces 360-575g CO2/hr

Solar energy produces 43-73g CO2/hr


Solar energy can significantly reduce green house gas emissions.

It will also reduce air pollutants. It's been studied that after a few year of running solar energy there was less bronchitis, and less respiratory & cardiovascular issues.


If you're thinking about getting solar on your house, you will end up saving about $100/month. Not a bad deal!


There are 2 types of solar panels: photovoltaic (PV) solar cells and concentrating solar thermal plants (csp)


Although there is all this great involved with solar power, there are some potential issues:


Land Loss

The needed amount of land is based on the utility scale. For example, larger scale projects require a whole field, like Disney's new 22-acre solar farm.

A good idea to avoid habitat loss is to use retired land like brown fields, or abandoned mine sites.


Water Use

PV cells do not need water to function, but a lot of water is used in manufacturing. CSPs need water for cooling, and use about 600-650 gallons of water per megawatt an hour....

They are experimenting to see if they can convert to dry cooling.


Hazardous Materials

Several chemicals are used to clean and purify the surfaces of the panels.

  • Hydrochloric Acid, Sulfuric Acid, Nitric Acid, Hydrogen Flouride, 1,1,1-trichloroethane, acetone

So, how does solar affect climate change???

It can save CO2 emissions significantly in the end, but the manufacturing process releases CO2. At the end of the day, Solar is more beneficial than hurtful.

Sources:

Union of Concerned Scientists

Energy Informative

Renewable Energy Corporation

Energy Sage

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