Solar Energy Development and Environmental Considerations

Solar Energy Development and Environmental Considerations

Solar plant capturing sunlight

What is Solar Energy?

Solar energy, as the name suggests, is the heat and energy produced by the sun, which is absorbed by the earth’s surface. This energy is captured by different solar technologies and is converted into usable energy like electricity and thermal energy. 

Technologies like photovoltaic cells, passive solar design, Concentrated Solar Power, etc., are used by energy developers and the government to produce electricity and thermal energy on small and large scales. They also store the converted energy for later usage, thus, solving the problem of power shortage in many remote areas.

Over a few decades, solar energy has gained popularity across the world. It’s pretty much obvious because of the positive impacts it has shown on the environment. Solar energy is an abundant and renewable resource that we are getting for free. It replaces non-renewable resources like fossil fuels, petroleum, etc., and produces large amounts of useful energy without having any adverse effect on the environment. 

By now, you must have a basic understanding of solar energy and why it is a widely accepted process. Now let’s understand how far solar energy has reached since its adoption.

What are the developments in Solar Energy?

Solar energy has come far from where it had begun. In recent years, incredible solar energy development and breakthroughs have been witnessed, like super-efficient solar cells, the availability of commercial collar energy platforms at lower costs, night solar energy, and many more. Some of the recent advancements in solar energy are described below:

  •         Super-efficient solar cells

The basic development of solar technology has witnessed the improved efficiency of solar cells. These cells can also produce electricity for the areas that lack regular and high energy absorption. This is possible because efficient solar cells can generate more electricity even with less energy absorption.

Recently, solar technology has achieved an approximate conversion rate of 32%, which earlier was around 23%. This recent achievement of solar technology can transform the solar energy system and allow households to use it as well. But this is not the limit of it.  Therefore, thorough research is being conducted to make it reach its full potential.

  •         Energy storage solutions

The addition of an energy storage system was very much needed for villages and remote areas to equally enjoy the benefits of solar energy. Integration of battery systems enables efficient utilization of solar energy. Batteries allow solar plants to generate electricity during nighttime. It stores the energy during the day and generates it at night. It also enables solar plants to produce energy in high quantities during low-light periods.

  •         Solar shingles and windows

These are some of the recent innovations in solar technologies. Solar shingles look just like normal roof tiles but with solar panels fit inside them. Solar shingles are highly in demand as they can easily replace the solar cells fitted on the roof and give it a grand look. These are useful for corporate buildings and households.

Similarly, solar windows are like transparent glasses that can be replaced with normal house windows. It has expanded its generating capacity as it uses all kinds of lights for power generation, not only visible light but they are still under research. It is expected that the demand for shingles and windows will increase shortly as it makes the generation process less visible to the eyes. 

  •         Perovskite solar cells

Just like the shingles and windows, Perovskite solar cells are gaining popularity as well. These types of solar cells are made out of Perovskite crystals. They are much more beneficial and efficient than normal cells made out of silicon. These are more flexible than silicon ones and can be easily designed into any shape.

Perovskite cells are comparatively easier to produce. Unlike silicon cells, neither they need special temperatures for production nor high energy consumption. They are much more feasible than silicon cells. Earlier, the Perovskite cells had shorter lifetimes, but now we have attained advancement in that as well. Recent innovation by engineers has introduced Perovskite cells that have longer durability. 

Although these are not the only changes that solar technologies have seen, they are notable and important ones. These developments have supported the solar energy sector and have helped in its growth. The developments and innovations in this sector are showing no signs of stopping, and hence, no dead end can be seen for the evolution in this field.  More spread and developments are expected to be introduced in the future, which will take us a few steps closer to a Green Energy Sector.

Environmental considerations of solar energy.

We just read about the developments and innovations in solar technologies, which obviously will make the process of solar energy more attainable. Now people might think about the immense popularity and importance that solar energy is enjoying because it enables us to fulfill our needs in an environment-friendly way. Adopting the method of solar energy to produce electricity has helped us to reduce many environmental, social, and economic problems.

For our readers to get a basic understanding of how solar energy considers the environment, we have mentioned three crucial positive impacts on the environment below:

  •         Decreased emission of greenhouse gasses

The traditional method of energy generation releases huge amounts of greenhouse gasses, which are hazardous for humans and nature both. Unlike them, solar energy is an environmentally-friendly method of power generation. It uses a renewable resource that doesn’t create pressure on the ecosystem. 

Solar energy contributes to the improvement of the environment by producing electricity and thermal energy without causing pollution or releasing harmful gasses. It has helped in the reduction of gasses like methane, sulfur dioxide, carbon dioxide, etc. in the air. It also decreases the harmful effects on climate by producing ‘Green Energy’.      

  •  Lessened water usage

Just like the release of harmful gasses, water is also being wasted and exploited because of human activities. It is a limited resource and we must use it efficiently. Solar energy can be a great example of water-saving technologies. Unlike traditional plants, solar plants do not require water for cooling purposes.

Solar plants are capable of producing energy without water, although they do need some amount of water for occasional cleanings. But this occasional requirement is less risky to the local water bodies and doesn’t waste water. It encourages the energy sector to use less water and facilitates the areas facing water scarcity.

  • Dispersed Energy Production 

Solar energy facilitates the decentralized way of power production. By decentralized way, we mean that every household has access to solar panels, and every business or government is now able to use various feasible solar technologies for electricity generation.  Even if collective energy production is preferred by some countries, it can still be done on a small- scale, for small arrays.

This positive consideration of solar energy enables a reduction in energy consumption as less energy will be consumed by the plants to produce power. It also eliminates the need for long-distance energy transportation or energy distribution. Solar panels can be installed on rooftops or can be distributed in small-scale areas to facilitate localized and personalized electricity generation.

Above were mentioned the three major positive considerations of solar energy, but as the law of the universe says, if positive exists then negative exists as well. Similarly, solar energy affects the environment in a negative way as well. For example, hazardous materials like cadmium and lead are released when the lifespan of solar plants is over. 

They can be harmful to ecological balance if not managed properly. Solar plants are made up of various materials including quartz and metals. These elements adversely affect the environment as their extraction poses many different problems like land degradation.

These negative impacts can be handled with proper technology and planning, but a major challenge that solar energy faces is the uncertainty of sunlight. Solar plants are hugely dependent on sunlight. Energy can only be produced when sunlight is captured by the cells. This fact is not hidden from anyone that sunlight can be influenced by the weather. This uncertainty can lead to unequal production and distribution of electricity and can cause discomfort to the general public.

Conclusion

In this article we understood what solar energy is, the developments seen by solar technologies, and its environmental considerations. After concluding the above points, we can form a narration that solar energy is indeed a boon for the environment. The developments and advancements in this sector will make it more accessible for civilians, hence increasing dependency on solar energy. But we should not forget the negative impacts and must keep them in mind. Completely relying on the solar model can cause big-time problems for the whole economy. Therefore, we can say that an ideal energy sector is a perfect balance between traditional and solar energy generation methods.  

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