In today’s ever-environmentally conscious society, more and more consumers and therefore suppliers, are leaning towards solar power. Its cleaner, cheaper and most importantly of all, better in the long run for our planet. We see it everywhere, on people’s roofs, in peoples gardens, it’s in our fields and on top of businesses, it’s even being incorporated into EVs and with clean energy being demanded more than ever, is it realistic to ask; is solar the king of energy efficiency?
Every day the sun gives off much more energy, more so than we could ever use, to power everything on earth. So, why not harness this power and use it? It is renewable, does not harm the environment and has extremely low operating costs. Solar panels have cropped up increasingly on UK’s housing estates, with grants being available to offset the instalment costs e.g. Feed-in-Tariff.
Large solar farms are appearing more frequently, with the largest solar farm in the UK (Eco’s Solar Farm in Devon) now supplying energy to 60,000 homes in Bournemouth (on a summer’s day). It has the ability to generate 51.3 megawatts of green energy, and has an area the equivalent of 175 football pitches. It opened in 2014, and is expected to run for 25 years. Source: Daily Echo.
Of course, the one major advantage of solar energy is that it is limitless. Unlike fossil fuels, the sun, quite simply, will not run out. It’s the one given, the sun will always shine, it is here to stay. So, what could possibly be a negative to solar power?
One point is that solar cells are not actually clean at all. They contain heavy metals that disperse into the groundwater when they reach the end of their life and have to be disposed of. This has adverse effects on the environment. PV manufactures are also said to use toxic components which lead to health risks for workers as well as local residents.
Another valid point is that it takes power, to make power, therefore are we really winning the environmentally friendly race? There is also evidence to suggest that solar cells are not, in fact, a zero-carbon technology. They require fossil fuels for their creation, installation and maintenance, therefore there will be associated carbon emissions. This production is heavily subsidised by China, among other countries, making them seem more affordable than they really are. So although we are told that solar energy is more affordable, is it really? Think about who is selling us this vision – energy firms such as Shell and BP. It could all be about publicity and money-making, tapping into consumer’s current ideology around having a cleaner planet.
But is this negativity just us being overly cautious? Surely solar energy has to be better than “brown” energy? Even with the associated ‘disadvantages’. More research is needed, in order to drive down the costs as well as making it cleaner. As with everything, time will tell what improvements need to be made.
In conclusion, solar power may not be the king of kings when it comes to being energy efficient and creating green energy. However, using solar power is better than not using anything at all. Our country is currently in the midst of the net-zero target recently legalised by parliament and the world as a whole is vying to save the environment, so if you can use solar power to subsidise your power requirements you’ll be doing your bit in these endeavours.
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Article written by: Michelle Dance, Business Development Executive