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Solarenergy Against Climate Change: The Impact of Photovoltaics on the Environment

2024-03-13

Solarenergy Against Climate Change: The Impact of Photovoltaics on the Environment

The term climate change often sparks disagreements in public discussions, and rightfully so. Critics of the term rightly point out that climate change has always existed. Therefore, it is crucial to speak specifically about human-induced climate change—the portion of climate change that would not exist without human activities and began with industrialization, persisting and expanding to this day. Despite attempts from various quarters to dispute this issue, approximately 97 to 98 percent of climate experts worldwide agree that human-induced climate change is a reality.

The world's energy demand continues to rise steadily, gaining momentum with globalization. The issue is not the energy demand itself but how it is satisfied. Fossil fuels are still the primary source, contributing to the overall high concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane. Carbon dioxide, at almost 90 percent, is the most significant greenhouse gas. The goal is to minimize greenhouse gas emissions, a task in which photovoltaics (PV) plays a crucial role.

Basics of Photovoltaics and Its Role in Climate Protection

The principle of photovoltaics is relatively simple. Solar panels equipped with silicon solar cells absorb sunlight. The solar cells generate an electrical voltage, delivered as direct current (DC) to an inverter, which converts it into alternating current (AC). The electricity can be consumed directly, fed into the public grid, or stored using batteries for later use. This versatility allows for various applications and installation concepts, from direct use in standalone systems to societal use through smart technology concepts, making photovoltaics a smart tool in combating climate change.

Positive Environmental Impacts of Solar Energy

Unlike other sustainable energy sources, solar panels have no mechanically moving parts, posing no threat to the environment, humans, or animals. Additionally, the sun is a virtually limitless energy source. Today, we can build solar panels that, over their entire lifespan, generate more energy than is needed for their production, emitting no additional greenhouse gases. This makes solar energy one of the sustainable energy solutions for the present and the future. The positive aspects extend beyond energy production—solar panels' distribution is less problematic than other solutions. Finding suitable spaces is more straightforward; roofs of houses and stadiums, warehouse roofs, or any type of roofing can be used. Even agricultural land can be double-used with specific constructions, without causing public outcry. Many people embrace solar energy for themselves, and aesthetically, most people do not mind solar cells on roofs. Under certain conditions, solar farms can even have positive effects on the flora and fauna, making the environmental impact of solar panels often very positive.

Challenges and Solutions in Photovoltaic Technology

Despite the positive effects of solar energy, there are still unresolved issues. While solar technology is a cornerstone in environmental protection, reliability remains a challenge. Shading and the absence of sunlight during nighttime necessitate solutions for bridging these gaps. Battery technology is expected to help by storing surplus energy and releasing it when needed. However, battery technology is still too expensive for widespread use. Nevertheless, advancements in battery technology, driven in part by the automotive industry, are on the horizon, and solutions are in sight.

Costs are another issue. Initial investments are often a deterrent for many and can be unaffordable. Consequently, governmental incentives have been repeatedly implemented, leading to significant growth in the past and likely remaining a substantial support in the future expansion of solar energy.

Vision for the Future: Potentials of Solar Energy in Mitigating Climate Change

Solar energy will continue to play a vital, if not the leading, role in energy generation in the future. On one hand, it is foreseeable that the installation costs of solar panels will continue to decrease. On the other hand, global efforts are underway to develop battery storage solutions that can be widely deployed. Great expectations are also placed on the battery storage capacities of electric vehicles. Smart technologies aim to utilize these vehicle storage systems to stabilize energy supply.

Furthermore, electrical and electronic products are becoming increasingly energy-efficient, significantly reducing energy needs in many areas. An excellent example is the shift from incandescent bulbs to LED technology, which requires only about 7 to 15 percent of the energy to produce the same brightness. A typical household, just by changing light fixtures, can save about 10 percent of electricity costs over the year.

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