Solar energy technologies and power plants do not produce air pollution or greenhouse gases when they operate. The use of solar energy can have a positive and indirect effect on the environment when solar energy replaces or reduces the use of other energy sources that have greater effects on the environment. The key arguments against solar panels are that they require more energy and equipment that burns fossil fuels to extract, manufacture and transport them than those that save. Another argument is that toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process that do more harm than good.
As the sun emits solar radiation, photovoltaic technology uses cells to absorb that radiation and convert it into electricity. Leading manufacturers have secretly concealed the environmental impact of photovoltaic panel manufacturing processes. Solar energy is not perfect, but overall it provides a net positive environmental impact and a financial impact. Solar panels are predominantly made of glass, but contain cadmium and lead, which are classified as carcinogenic.
Nowadays, because old photovoltaic panels cannot be conveniently recycled, they are usually dumped in landfills. The topic of recycling old photovoltaic panels has not received much attention, as the first sets of panels installed are starting to expire. These environmental drawbacks, together with the limited capacity of solar energy to generate enough energy to maintain the grid, must be considered by both residents and decision makers. It is used in solar panels seen on the roofs of homes or businesses, or as part of larger solar parks.
Coal is the main source of energy used in the photovoltaic panel production process, which is directly related to the increase in carbon emissions. Even the worst estimates for solar PV are still 3 times better than the best estimates for coal (both situations are unlikely to be true). Other studies and meta-analyses have been carried out confirming the environmental impacts of solar panels compared to other fuel sources found by the NREL. In fact, over the past decade, solar energy has grown at an annual rate of 42% due to cheaper installation costs and demand for renewable energy, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association.
For example, to build the Ivanpah solar farm in California, near the Nevada border, developers hired biologists to pull threatened desert turtles out of their burrows.