Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Solar energy environmental downsides - Sustainability is the key

Solar energy industry is one of the fastest growing industries in the world, in fact global solar power capacity increased sixfold in the last five years. Solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change but manufacturing process still has some notable environmental downsides.

Solar panel manufacturing requires some toxic metals, and it also requires electricity most of which currently comes from burning coal meaning that solar panel production actually emits greenhouse gases. Solar panel manufacturing also creates toxic waste which if not treated properly could create significant environmental damage. The water use is also significant.

There is also the question of solar panel recycling. Solar panels have an average lifespan of 20+ years meaning that some of the panels installed in early 90's are reaching the end of their life cycle and are about to become obsolete.

At this moment, the biggest problems connected with solar panel recycling are the inadequate number of recycling facilities and small market size. There are still not enough obsolete solar panels to attract big investors because market is still not big enough.

Solar companies from all over the world should adopt different sustainability measures in order to reduce potential environmental damage as much as possible. Some countries have adopted several important environmental standards in solar panel production, in US for instance there is federal law on disposing the toxic wastewater. In some countries, such as China, environmental standards are still poor and there is lack of sustainability measure to make solar panel production greener.

Solar energy will in years to come rule global energy market. Though solar energy is clean energy, manufacturing solar panels is still connected some significant environmental downsides. The rapid growth of solar energy industry needs to be accompanied with rapid growth of different sustainability measures connected with solar panel production