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Sustainability of solar

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Solar energy

Recently, everyone seems to be liking solar panels.

Neighbors installing them, your activist cousin bringing them up at family reunions, governments offering grants and funding to homeowners that want to use solar energy as an alternative source of energy as if they were gifting candies…

But what is all this hype about?

The truth is… solar energy is eco-friendly.

green energy technology

Since the power solar panels use comes from the sun, the availability of solar energy is limitless (or at least as far as we know the sun is not going to shut down anytime soon).

This means that there is no need to use coal or other polluting fuels, which is one of the best reasons to use solar energy.            

However, there are still some concerns about the environmental impacts of solar energy:

  • How are solar panels recycled?
  • Does the eco-friendly solar energy efficiency end after the lifespan of the panels?
  • Is there still some potential in them after they stop working?
  • What are all the pros of solar energy for the environment and why do we need solar panels so much?

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and feel like a better world citizen, switching to solar power energy is a big step towards an eco-friendly lifestyle.

In this article, we discuss what makes solar energy green and what is of solar panels once they stop working.

Solar panels: one of the best ways to reduce your carbon footprint

Traditional power generation plants burn a lot of polluting fuels, like carbon dioxide or nitrous oxide.

While this might seem like a scientific abstract fact with some complex names, it is more real than we think.

To make it easier for you to understand the environmental impact of fossil fuels think about the amount of polluting chemicals that you release in the environment (that can be from the use you make of electricity but also of simple things like a book) as an actual big black footprint.

The bigger the footprint humanity together leaves on the planet, the less “green” is left.

image showing carbon footprint

This means that the more we use objects and technologies that release a lot of CO2 for their employment and production, the more we harm the environment leaving nothing but a big black footprint all over the world.

To get an idea of the amount of CO2 you release into the environment, you can calculate your carbon footprint here.

Not having a carbon footprint is impossible, however, there are some ways in which to minimize it. For example, solar panels are a great alternative to other technologies that use fossil fuels.

Indeed, a solar energy system uses instead the energy of the sun, which is natural and is not bad for the environment.

This does not mean that they are completely green: it still involves some fuels to produce them.

But the production of carbon reduced through the use of solar energy in your house (considering all the activities energy and electricity is needed for), is already significant.

Think that using solar panels can reduce your production of carbon emissions by 1.3 – 1.6 tonnes in a year. To understand how much is that, Nasa has visualized climate change and carbon emissions on their climate change website.

Is solar energy renewable?

The problem with polluting fuels is not just that they are... well… polluting. It is also that they are not infinite. We will run out of them, sooner or later.

This means that if you are still not using solar energy, it is probable that one day you will be obliged to, as there will be no other alternative available.

Not using solar energy when it is at the disposal of everyone is like longing for water and refusing to drink from a glass instead of a bottle.

Sun provides renewable energy which is (almost) always available.

image showing renewable solar energy

Fossil fuels will never be able to satisfy our energy needs, especially now that they are growing even more while fuel availability is decreasing.

Instead, the sun promises a limitless storage of energy, functional for every kind of necessity.

Preserving land with solar panels

Fossil fuels are not bad only because they produce emissions of CO2, but also because mining them is very resource-intensive. Entire pieces of land have been razed to the ground to drill the terrain and find fossil mines. Looking for coal mines can also cause landslides or fires while searching for oil. Moreover, a lot of trees have been cut down to build factories or power plants.

What is good about solar energy, instead, is that it does not require drilling or big factories to produce and transport it (which also produces large amounts of CO2). Solar farms only need to be placed on top of the land.

Also, water habitats or the quality of the soil can be highly corrupted by fossil fuels. They can cause acid rain and increase the greenhouse effect. Solar energy instead does not harm either the water or the terrain, as it only captures the flows of electrons coming from the sun.

Solar energy storage: nothing gets wasted!

A great addition to your panels is solar batteries: they can store energy in excess and prevent waste.

Storing your solar energy when you don’t use all of it is one of the best ways to reduce the amount of electricity you use.

imagine showing solar panels energy

For example, if there is a power outage you can use your stored energy, and also during the evening, when your solar panel energy production is reduced. This means that you will draw less energy from the national grid, which not only means less waste but also lower bills.

Flexibility of use

Solar energy sustainability can be used to reduce your carbon footprint in different ways. As new employments of solar energies are being experimented with, the range of utility of this resource is increasing time by time.

We are not talking just about watching TV or turning on your vacuum cleaner: solar energy can be used for an electric car, to charge it at home, reduce or remove gas, or improve your current house heating system. How you use it it’s your choice only!

Also, you can resell your surplus energy to an energy supplier: this means that you can even earn something thanks to your solar panels while helping the environment and reducing your emissions.

image showing the world switching to solar energy as an alternative source of energy

Remember that the prices of the purchase of solar electricity change according to the State you live in and the energy supplier you sign your purchase obligation contract with.

The afterlife of your panels: how are solar panels recycled?

As you can understand, the sustainability of solar panels is undeniable. However, they have a limited lifespan, even though it is quite extended (up to 30 years). At some point, then, your solar panels will stop working. And you will have to substitute them and throw the old ones away. But what happens to your old solar panels?

PV panels usually fall under the general waste classification. Every supplier is asked by governments to fulfill specific requirements to be sure that the panels they provide, once they stop working, can be recycled and do not become a burden to the environment.

Solar panel waste still happens around the world and it represents the environmental cost of solar panels, but there are many technologies nowadays that enable better recycling of the materials, and much more to come.

Industrial processes to recycle solar panels are usually of two kinds: silicon-based and thin-film-based. Both of them allow the recycling of up to 96% of the materials. One of the environmental benefits of solar energy is that every part of the PV panels can be reused: glass, semiconductor material, modules, and silicon.

The more governments and industries push for more efficient recycling processes, the more solar panels represent a “round” green technology: they are a source of renewable energy when you install them, and they become a treasure chest of possibilities for eco-friendly purposes even after their lifecycle ends. It is estimated that by 2050 …

  • 15 billion materials will be recycled
  • 2 million new panels will be obtained from this recycling
  • 11 billion dollars will be obtained in recoverable value

As the future of solar energy seems to be going towards an even greener direction, more and more opportunities associated with PV panels emerge, and an increasing amount of people decide to install them.

graph showing the production of renewable energy

The Colossal Climate Clock in New York City says we still have 7 years to curb greenhouse gas emissions and save Earth’s fate. Our future, and the future of those who will come after us. But how does going solar help the environment? Well, if we all do something to make things change, the result can be outstanding.

Solar panels won’t only make you save on expenses and allow you to use your energy in ways you never thought of before, but will also bring all the environmental advantages of solar energy that will help you contribute to a greener planet and a better future. Get in touch with us and we will put you in contact with the best solar panel installers near you.

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Related Resources

What is solar energy?  

The advantages and disadvantages of solar panels?

Eco-friendly Home: Sustainable renovations

Electric Vehicles and Sustainable Mobility 

5 Proven Strategies to Increase Your Home Value

Last update: 13 Apr 2024

Written by Anna

MyGreenHome editors Team is a professional team of copywriters and writes with dozens of years of experience covering consumers, financial and business products and services

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