How Much Carbon Do Solar Panels Offset?
High amounts of carbon in the air from long periods of environmental degradation have led to disasters and drought. Solar panels are one of the solutions for a reduction in global warming due to their carbon-offsetting capabilities.
Solar panels offset 50g of carbon dioxide for every kilowatt-hour of power they produce. They produce 20 times less carbon than coal. It makes them environmentally friendly as they reduce the number of carbon emissions in the atmosphere.
Solar panels are therefore environmentally friendly sources of electricity. They reduce the use of fossil fuels which have led to the large carbon content in the atmosphere.
Solar panels offset about 50g of carbon for every kilowatt-hour of power produced. The longer a household uses solar power, the more carbon they offset.
You can offset up to a ton of carbon in four days at the rate of 50g per kilowatt hour and five hours of use daily.
What is a carbon footprint?
A carbon footprint is a measurement unit of carbon released by various activities, people, and animals.
Everything has a carbon footprint. The higher it is, the more carbon is emitted. The use of fossil fuels has one of the highest carbon footprints due to the amount of CO2 it produces.
As global warming attracts more and more attention, the world is looking for ways to reduce the carbon released into the environment.
Renewable energy sources are sought to replace fossil fuels. Solar panel use is a front-runner in the creation of a carbon-neutral power source.
What is carbon offsetting/ sequestering
Carbon offsetting is doing something that will recapture the carbon you have directly contributed to in your day-to-day life.
Planting trees and use of renewable sources of energy are some of the most popular carbon-offsetting methods.
Carbon offsets help to neutralize your carbon footprint.
Solar panels are the most common carbon-neutral source of power. While their manufacturing may produce CO2, they become carbon neutral once installed and produce electricity from the sun.
How do solar panels reduce carbon emissions
Solar panels are a source of renewable energy. They absorb sunlight and convert it to electricity.
In Australia, most of the electricity we use is produced from coal. Coal emits large amounts of carbon. Increased use of solar power eliminates the need to use coal for electricity.
Solar panels do not produce carbon in their process of electricity production. Further, they have a long lifespan of removing carbon from the environment.
Energy from solar panels can be stored
Another method in which solar panels remove carbon from the air is by storing the power they produce.
Solar panel systems consist of batteries in which excess electricity from the system can be stored for later use.
The stored electricity can be used when the system is not producing any. Solar panel systems produce electricity during the day.
The stored electricity can be used at night or on cloudy days. Thus, it eliminates the need for carbon-emitting power.
Other countries use water in electricity production. Water is a scarce resource in the world. The use of solar panels helps to save water.
Water loss also leads to global warming. The more water there is, the cooler the world is.
Many manufacturing plants also require huge amounts of water. Solar panels need water since solar panels do not need water to work.
Solar panel carbon emissions
As much as solar panels are emission-free, their manufacturing process produces carbon. As a result, solar panels are not considered environmentally friendly.
However, their use weans the world off coal power which is more destructive and has greater emissions of carbon.
Additionally, once solar panels are installed they reduce a household’s carbon footprint and help save money spent on electricity bills.
How to reduce the impact of carbon emissions
- Use more sustainable and eco-friendly raw materials.
- Eliminate the use of hazardous materials in manufacturing solar panels. It will make it easier to recycle solar panels when their useful lifetime is over.
- Optimising solar system designs. It enhances the efficiency of the panels and improves their productivity to further reduce reliance on fossil-fuel-based electricity.
How to reduce your carbon emissions
There are a few ways we can all reduce our carbon footprint. Below is by no means an exhaustive list.
- Install rooftop solar.
- Use a hybrid or electric car.
- Use public transport where possible.
- By local instead of imported products.
Are solar panels harmful to the environment?
There are some downsides to solar power, namely the minding of the raw materials to produce the panels, the production process and the disposal of panels after they no longer produce power.
1. Exposure to hazardous material
Solar panels are delicate and brittle which causes them to break easily. Broken solar panels expose people and the environment to hazardous materials. Usually, that is how broken solar panels are labeled.
A lot of heavy metals are used to manufacture solar panels. These metals are harmful to the environment.
2. Alteration of land use
Solar panels are used for large-scale power production. It needs vast swathes of land to install a solar panel grid. Thus, it leads to changing the use of land and making it less productive.
Solar parks cannot share the land with agriculture or forests. Thus, you cannot plant trees on this land to avoid shading the solar panels. As a result, you will increase the impact of global warming on the region.
Eventually, if the solar panels are ever removed from that land, it will be difficult to revert to their original use.
3. Environmental pollution
Setting up a large solar farm requires a large piece of land to be cleared. It leads to topsoil erosion and soil compression which ensures that nothing can grow on that land.
If any of the solar panels break, the harmful parts will be left on the ground leading to soil, air, and water pollution.
What are greenhouse gas emissions
Greenhouse gases are gases that trap heat in the atmosphere and make the planet warmer.
CO2 is a form of greenhouse gas
Many daily activities release greenhouse gases into the environment. The higher the greenhouse gases, the higher the temperature of the earth increases.
Is solar energy sustainable
Solar energy is sustainable. First, solar panels convert sunlight to electricity. Depending on where you live, the sun is in the sky for about 8 to 9 hours every day. It is ample time for your solar panels to capture and convert free sunlight into electricity.
Second, solar energy is renewable energy. It avoids the use of fossil fuels that are harmful to the environment and that diminish with use. The sun is unlikely to go dim.
Third, solar panels are eco-friendly. When handled with care, they have a 25-year lifetime of perfect use with zero pollution to the environment.
High upfront costs and the manufacturing process of solar panels may sometimes cause solar energy to look unsustainable.
Is nuclear energy better than solar?
Nuclear power is better than solar. It has the highest capacity factor of all other sources of energy. Thus it is the most efficient energy source.
Additionally, nuclear energy is emission-free. Making it eco-friendly and sustainable.
Further, nuclear power plants require little to no maintenance.
Efficiency of solar panels
Solar panels are 16% to 22% efficient. On average, solar panels are 19.2% effective. In Australia, solar panels have a much higher efficiency due to the high amounts of sunshine. Thus, solar panels in Australia are 25% – 25.54%.
The more efficient a solar panel is, the more power it produces. The more power it produces, the more carbon it offsets.
Extensive research on the available brands is necessary before you purchase your solar panels. Modern manufacturing technology of solar panels makes them more efficient.
Types of solar panels
There are three types of solar panels you can find on the market.
Monocrystalline solar panels. They are made with the purest silicon. They are the most advanced technologically and have the highest efficiency. They are the most eco-friendly and ensure that your property has a much lower carbon footprint.
Polycrystalline solar panels. They are not as efficient as monocrystalline solar panels. However, they are more affordable.
Thin film solar panels. They are based on old technology and are the least efficient of the three types.
Around the world, solar power is not as highly adopted as other sources of energy. However, around 30% of Australian homes have rooftop solar panels. It is estimated that 3 million homes in Australia use solar.
First, solar panels are expensive to purchase and install. It costs thousands of dollars to purchase and have solar installed in your home. Many low-income households cannot afford large enough solar systems for their electricity needs.
Secondly, you must live in a location where the roof can receive sunshine unobstructed. If your roof is shaded, you cannot install solar panels on it. You will have to find a place in your compound without shade to fix the solar panels and then connect them to your home.
In places with little sunshine, it may not be worth it to install solar panels as they will produce insufficient power.
There are many solar panel manufacturers and brands in the market. Before you choose a solar panel for your home, carry out extensive research to find out the best solar panels in the market.
Consult professional installers on the best type of solar panels to purchase. Get at least three quotes before you commit to purchasing from a retailer or installer.
Assess your electricity needs. It will help you identify the size of the solar system you need and a price estimate. The more your electricity consumption, the larger the solar system and the more you pay.
Find out your roof design and the direction of your home relative to the sun. A professional installer can assess your roof for a fitting solar system.
Additionally, solar panels must be installed in a particular orientation based on your location. Wrong orientation will cause the panels to produce less power than they should.
How much electricity your solar panels produce depends on how much sun they receive. Therefore, during the day you have a lot of electricity produced by your solar panels.
At night, your solar panels may have a little power that you can use for basic lighting at home.
On cloudy days, solar panels produce little power so you cannot run all the appliances in your home.
To enjoy solar power without sunshine, you will need to install a solar battery system. It stores the excess power produced by your solar panels so that you can use it at night and on cold and cloudy days.
Author: Ben McInerney is a renewable energy enthusiast with the goal of helping more Australians understand solar systems to make the best choice before they purchase. Having an accredited solar installer in the family helps give Ben access to the correct information, which allows him to break it down and make it easily understandable to the average homeowner.