Positive and negative impacts of solar energy
The sun is the principal reason that we have life on this Earth. If it had not been for the sun, we would have nothing, from water to plants to the various life forms that roam the earth. It forms the source of the endless supply of energy that is instrumental in ensuring that all life on Earth continues to flourish. Besides, it has been, for many years now, one of the cleanest sources of energy that can substitute the more perishable and infinitely more dangerous fossil fuel. Currently, it supplies only a small fraction of the total energy output of the world, but efforts are underway to become more dependent on solar energy. On the other hand, there is enough debate about some practical aspects such as cost and performance. In this article, we will look at arguments from both sides.
Positive impacts of solar energy:
First of all, let us look at the good that solar energy promises to do to us.
The most obvious factor, of course, is the availability of solar energy. Solar energy comes directly from the sun; in fact, we use it all the time without having to install massive structures to capture it. People across the world dry their clothes and shoes in the sun, the rays of the sun keep us warm and provide us with natural light, and plants directly absorb solar energy to make food for themselves. It can even be used to light a fire. It is for the bigger purposes, like creating electricity, that we need to put in more effort. And the best part is that there is no chance of losing out on this energy source ever. When the sun actually dies, the lack of solar energy will not be of any concern to us, since life on earth will have ceased to exist long before that happens.
Greener than fossil fuels
Global warming and air pollution are two of the biggest threats to life on earth at present. It is a well known fact that fossil fuels are some of the most prominent sources of greenhouse gases, which lead to global warming. Vehicles and industries that run on greenhouse gases contribute immensely to the rise in temperature and air pollution, thanks to the fact that there is a huge amount of carbon emissions from such structures. Needles to say, this poses an immense threat to the atmosphere and the ecosystem. Solar energy, on the other hand, is one of the most sustainable forms of energy, since it does not emit any greenhouse gas by itself.
Lower costs in the long run
Solar is a very modular form of energy, which means that it is composed of a bunch of different installations that are linked together. It can also be implemented on multiple scales, from thermal plants, rooftop solar paneling on buildings, and street lightings. The initial installation cost is pretty high at present, although it can be hoped that this will significantly reduce once the usage of solar power becomes more widespread. However, the cost of maintenance is significantly lower than the other forms of less sustainable energy once the initial installation process is complete. It is especially more feasible in rural areas where grid energy can be either unavailable or incur extremely high costs.
Negative impacts of solar energy:
All said and done, however, we need to understand that solar energy does come with its own set of challenges.
Continuing in the trend of the previous argument, it cannot be denied that producing solar energy can indeed be quite costly. To begin with, production of solar energy requires the building and maintenance of technology that is extremely expensive, which takes up initial costs to sky high levels. Again, solar energy can only be produced during the day, and is dependent on the weather and the season as well. If it is cloudy, or during the rainy season, the amount of solar energy produced will be significantly lower, and this in turn will not only be impractical in meeting the constant energy requirements, but will also be unable to recover costs.
Might pose health risks
Solar units pose significant health risks to people and animals. Solar panels are composed of pure silicon. Silicon itself is harmless, but silicon dust, if inhaled, can lead to significant respiratory troubles. Solar collectors also generate harmful chemicals that can pose significant risk on constant exposure. Besides, improper handling of the photovoltaic cells might release their component materials to the environment, to disastrous results.
There is no doubt that solar energy is certainly an immensely sustainable source of power. With fossil fuel reserves depleting on an ongoing basis, it is necessary that we move on to more sustainable sources, with solar energy being one of them. There are challenges, surely, but it is important that we find ways to circumvent them.