When we talk about solar energy for California homeowners, we (and everyone else in the industry) tend to focus on two major benefits: cost and eco-friendliness.
Cost is an easy enough benefit to explain and justify. Who doesn’t want to save money? For many, solar energy is a simple equation of dollars and cents, and if the math comes out favorable, there’s no reason not to do it. But the other factor, eco-friendliness, is a bit more nebulous to the average person.
We talk all the time about how solar energy is eco-friendly. We frequently refer to solar power as renewable energy. But you might be asking yourself, what does that actually mean? It’s a good question, and we’re here with some answers. You’ve heard that solar power helps out our environment, but here are the actual reasons why:
While there are a few reasons why solar energy is helpful to our environment, none of them are as important or all-encompassing as this one. In a nutshell, solar energy allows us to be less dependent on nonrenewable energy sources, which have a bad habit of polluting our air and earth with carbon emissions. But that’s not exactly a world-class explanation, so let’s dive a little deeper.
To understand why solar panels are better for the environment, it’s important to understand what the alternative is. Most homes depend on grid electricity for their power. Their home is connected to underground power lines, which are part of a much bigger system that’s interwoven all throughout the cities and infrastructure of California. Electricity is fed through these lines, providing your home with a constant supply of sweet, sweet electricity.
Breaking Free From Power Plants
However, that power needs to come from somewhere, and that’s where power plants come into play. Power plants burn fossil fuels to create enormous amounts of power, which is converted into electricity and fed to the grid. And that’s where the problem lies — power plants produce a staggering amount of pollution and carbon emissions, which are pumped into our air, degrading air quality and contributing to the ever more worrisome problem of climate change. Even the water supply doesn’t go untainted, as tens of thousands of gallons of water are regularly used to cool the power plants.
Long story short, when you switch to solar, that’s one less house that the grid has to feed. Sure, on your own, it won’t make a huge difference, but what if a million Californians do it? Ten million? With that many homes no longer relying on the grid, these big power plants won’t have to burn as much fuel, thus reducing carbon emissions.
There are two major problems with the fossil fuel-based energy that most homes and businesses currently rely on. First, of course, is the emissions problem mentioned above. We’re doing incalculable amounts of damage to our precious atmosphere by pumping smog into the air, but that’s only half of the problem. The other half is equally as distressing: as much as we love burning fossil fuels, there’s a limited supply of them. Eventually, we will run out, and when that happens, we’ll be in trouble if we haven’t migrated to new solutions.
This is why fossil fuels are referred to as nonrenewable energy. Once you use it up, you’re not getting any of it back. It’s like throwing a log of wood into the fire — once it’s burnt up, it has no more use.
Solar energy, on the other hand, is infinite, thus referred to as renewable energy. There is so much energy produced by our sun that it could power our entire planet if we had the right ways to harness it. And that’s the goal of Energy Service Partners — providing technology to California homeowners that will allow them to use that boundless energy that’s shining down on us all day.
Despite how environmentally-friendly solar is, that’s not to say that it doesn’t have its own drawbacks. Critics of solar energy often point to the manufacturing process of solar panels, noting that it has its own adverse impacts. We’d be liars if we said this isn’t true — every action has a consequence, and the solar industry isn’t perfect.
Solar panels rely on silicon semiconductors to generate electricity, and those conductors are originally made from quartz. Quartz mining has had its own controversies in the past, such as exposing miners to silicosis, a lung disease caused by tiny silica particles. The solar manufacturing process also has its own criticisms — hydrofluoric acid and tetrachloride waste are byproducts of the process, and if improperly disposed of, they can become a problematic source of wasteful pollution.
These problems pale in comparison to the damage that fossil fuels cause, and they’re also much more manageable. For example, the industry is moving away from quartz mining, and looking to quartz-rich sand instead, thus reducing the silicosis problem. Silicon is the second-most abundant mineral on the planet, right after carbon. In the manufacturing arena, it’s possible to recycle tetrachloride waste and reuse it for the production of more solar panels. Furthermore, safe disposal methods can prevent the waste from becoming problematic for the environment. China has regulations in place demanding that at least 98.5% of tetrachloride waste be recycled. Modern solar panels pay back their “energy debt” in just under two years of operation, and will keep running for decades.
The point is, for the environmental issues that solar panels cause (which are far fewer than fossil fuels), there are innovative solutions that can curb their effects. And as solar energy becomes more ubiquitous all throughout the world, you can bet that we will continue to see innovations that will help reduce the environmental side effects of the solar industry.
Join the Renewable Energy Movement — Call Energy Service Partners Today
Whether you’re a California homeowner looking to make the switch to renewable energy, or a solar company looking to partner with a high-integrity solar panel installer, there’s no doubt that solar energy is making a difference in our world, and if you contact Energy Service Partners, you can be a part of that difference. We want to help as many homeowners as possible to equip solar panels on their home, joining the renewable energy revolution and propelling mankind to a better place. Want to work with Energy Service Partners? Don’t hesitate to contact us today to get started.