It is assumed that there are "zero" emissions from the solar energy and it is therefore taken as somewhat of a given that solar is environment friendly and that generating electricity from solar energy doesn’t have any direct environmental effects. Yet somehow, the effects cannot be totally nullified.
Below are a few cons which should be taken into consideration while constructing a solar plant:
- one of the significant negative environment impacts comes from the solar panel manufacturing sector and also from the installation of solar panels on the open ground;
- the materials which are required for the manufacturing of the solar panels i.e. silicon, cadmium and polycrystalline come under the category of hazardous substance and later dumping of the panels after at the completion of their lifecycle will lead to hazardous waste;
- even though solar power (solar systems) does not pose any direct threat to human health, the above dangerous chemicals (corrosive liquids) as wel as substances such as hydrochloric acid, sulphuric acid, nitric acid used for manufacturing solar equipments and also for cleaning of the wafers should not easily be let off. These acids or liquids, if openly discharged, can be the cause of contamination and serious damage to human health;
- solar energy is time dependent therefore to store the power we need to make use of batteries. These batteries often are lead acid batteries and therefore their disposal should be properly governed;
- the use of chemicals during the manufacturing of photovoltaic panels could also cause adverse health effects to the workers who handle them directly or indirectly i.e. through inhalation and therefore the working conditions should be regularly monitored;
- one of the significant concerns about solar energy plants is their huge land requirement which could spell serious ecological impact for the highly sensitive areas which may be ideal for solar plants. A recent study also points out that the shiny surfaces of the panels is often mistaken for a water surface by the aquatic insects, who may falsely identify them as potential habitats;
- solar thermal power plants located in the coastal regions can cause pressure to the marine ecology, mangroves and also to the livelihood of the local fisherman and therefore proper initial review of the land use and coastal ecological impact is required before setting up any such plan in the region; and
- the requirement of water to the cool the system in the concentrated solar power (CSP) plant is almost equal to that required in a conventional power plant, which is very significant and poses huge pressure on the water resources specially if the plant is located in the dry region like Rajasthan.
Author: Ajay Pal Singh Chabba/ RESET editorial
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