Solar energy is a major player in clean energy practices worldwide. It is an essential component of a growing change in global energy sources to reduce individuals’ carbon footprint. However, despite its noble cause, solar energy has various disadvantages that should be addressed to discern if it is a sustainable practice for future energy production. Solar energy evidence environmental disadvantages in terms of altered land use, habitat loss, water, air, soil pollution, exposure to dangerous materials, and stress on water resources.
Solar energy is connected with massive habitat loss as it takes up large tracts of land. High utility-scale plants use large landscapes to install solar panels used in energy collection. Solar energy has a negative connotation as large land tracts are cleared, including vegetation, to host solar panels (Okedu et al., 2020). Environments that endure this invasion are fragmented and destroyed, adversely influencing wildlife habitats. It is important to discern that installing solar plants requires construction activities that may result in noise and air pollution. These deviations from normal pollution levels affect the fauna and flora of more prominent neighborhoods. Altering waterways for manufacturing and cooling mechanisms also negatively influence wildlife.
Alternate Land Use
It is crucial to note that solar power plants take up large areas and require extensive land solely dedicated to installing solar panels. The project depends on topography, solar intensity, and technology, with a utility-scale plant that uses 3.5 to 16.5 acres per metric watt of power generated (Okedu et al., 2020). Its relatively large scale and the inability of modern batteries to hold large power volumes reduces the energy source’s attractiveness. The primary problem with solar energy, as opposed to wind farms, is the latter’s ability to share land space with other activities such as ranches or agriculture. Existing land changes are inevitable and do not consider any land needs. Solar panels evidence an adverse effect in the form of land degradation. These energy sources involve exploration, manufacturing, extraction, and disposal. It is vital to note that entities’ carbon footprints may rise, making it impossible to recover the land. Many proponents of solar energy discern energy producers can choose to use wastelands and low-value locations such as unusable mines and brownfields to offset any potential loss associated with the land.
Water Resources Stress
Solar energy does not utilize water directly, though it is a crucial part of the energy panels’ manufacture. Individuals and organizations use water for maintenance and concentrate solar thermal plants (CSP) cooling systems, a significant drawback of solar energy (Okedu et al., 2020). While technological advancements have reduced water wastage in the manufacturing state, few organizations have illustrated a capacity to conduct operations while employing robots to control consumption. Nonetheless, it is critical to note thermal electric plants require water as coolants. However, his volume varies significantly based on design, location, and cooling system model. For instance, CSP entities utilize wet recirculating expertise in cooling systems and use about 600 gallons of water for each megawatt produced (Okedu et al., 2020).
Hazardous Materials Exposure
Many organizations use dangerous materials when purifying and cleaning semiconductor surfaces during the development of photovoltaic cells. These chemicals include hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, hydrogen fluoride, nitric acid, acetone, and methyl chloroform (Okedu et al., 2020). These are crucial adverse effects of solar energy proliferation around the world. The volume of chemicals used in these processes is linked to the type of cells, the extent of cleaning required, and the semiconductor size (Okedu et al., 2020). Individuals that work in manufacturing units exhibit respiratory issues due to the risk of inhaling silicon dust. It is necessary to discern that novel thin-film PV is a more significant threat to individuals and the world as traditional cells are not as toxic. New models contain more substantial volumes of gallium arsenide, gallium diselenide, and cadmium telluride (Okedu et al., 2020). While manufacturers have financial incentives to recycle and retrieve poisonous materials, their scarcity and high value remain a sore factor, for they are disposed of in landfills.
Finally, solar plants are notorious for water, air, and soil pollution. Creating large-scale farms for solar energy production requires grading and clearing large areas. In this way, there is more significant soil erosion, soil compression, and changes in drainage systems. Time-saving and cost-cutting may lead to erroneous toxic chemical disposal of materials used in manufacturing solar panels (Okedu et al., 2020). These practices boost air, water, and land pollution. Organizations also consider those construction activities in a particular area while installing large solar power plants increases the individual matter of their offerings in the air. As a result, the area’s water and air resources may be contaminated, while releasing pathogens in the soil can boost the air pollution risks. Solar energy is considered a power development mechanism devoid of greenhouse gas emissions (Okedu et al., 2020). Nonetheless, PV cells’ emissions during the transportation, manufacturing, maintenance, installation and dismantling are crucial and cannot be ignored.
Conclusively, solar energy is a major player in clean energy in the future. However, it requires some significant changes that may hinder its adoption. It is a crucial component of a global revolution toward new and sustainable energy sources. The world should discern these issues and develop mechanisms to avoid polluting the environment while trying to save the planet.
Okedu, K. E., Tahour, A., & Aissaoui, A. G. (2020). Wind Solar Hybrid Renewable Energy System. Books on Demand.