Solar panels are growing in popularity because they provide us with renewable energy. However, just because they use renewable energy doesn’t mean that the solar panels themselves are renewable.
Solar panels harness the power of the sun to keep our appliances running. They trap the light energy it provides and redirect it to our homes so we don’t have to rely on electricity made by burning coal or oil.
The panels themselves are harmless. They’re made of metals, glass, and a small amount of plastic. They’re not considered disposable as we use them for decades at a time.
Solar panels can therefore be considered a renewable source of energy. They enable us to make use of a renewable energy sources in the place of fossil fuels, which is great news for the planet.
Let’s go through what renewable really means.
What Does Renewable Mean?
Solar energy is energy sourced from the sun. This is a renewable resource. Renewable means we can use the resource repeatedly and it’s naturally replaced by nature, thereby never running out.
Solar energy is one of the cleanest forms of energy. It’s also the most abundant energy resource we have access to, meaning there’s a lot of it available for us to use.
This is important because the resource we have been using to create electricity is non-renewable. This means that there’s only a certain amount of resources available. Once we’ve used it all, it won’t be replaced by nature.
The resource currently used to generate most electricity is coal. This is a fossil fuel. Coal is created by through a natural process, but it’s not as readily available as solar power.
Coal is considered non-renewable because it takes millions of years to form, so there’s also a limited amount of it available.
There’s an added problem when we burn coal to make electricity. Burning coal releases huge amounts of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. This is one of the gases contributing to climate change because it traps the Earth’s heat.
When we do this on a large scale as we have been doing, we damage our planet. Solar panels are a great substitution.
Solar panels provide us with a clean, renewable source of energy. By taking a look at how solar panels are made, we can see that they absorb and store energy from sunlight. This energy is then transferred to your home’s electricity grid using wires.
Seeing as harnessing solar power is relatively new, it’s only normal to consider solar panel safety. Aside from just whether they’re safe to use when installing them, this also means that we need to think about their long-term safety and the planet.
Are All Solar Panels Renewable?
The metals used in solar panels are mainly silver and copper. Silver isn’t considered renewable but it only makes up a small portion of solar panels. Copper, the metal mostly used in solar panels, is considered one of the most renewable metals.
This is because it can be reused and recycled many times without deteriorating in quality. There’s no loss in performance when it’s reused, so we don’t face the problem of running out of copper provided we’re careful about how we dispose of it.
The other main component of solar panels is silicon. Much like copper, we can reuse silicon many times. It’s not a renewable element, but because we can reuse it, it’s not considered a bad product to use.
It’s much better than plastic, which largely makes single-use products.
Some consumers worry about their solar panels' fire safety because of the materials used to make them. The good news is that the process used to generate electricity, the photovoltaic effect, doesn’t pose a fire risk.
There’s some risk in poorly installed panels and defective connections though. You should make sure it’s installed professionally to avoid any fire risk.
Which Solar Panels Aren’t Renewable?
So, are there any types of solar panels that aren’t renewable?
Considering the reason most solar panels are renewable is that they’re made of materials we can reuse, any solar panels made with different materials might be considered non-renewable.
There are some solar panels that don’t use silicon as their main component. There’s a solar cell called a Perovskite solar cell. It’s made of lead, iodine, and bromine instead of silicon.
Iodine and bromine can’t be reused in the same way silicon can. This means that Perovskite solar cell panels aren’t renewable or made of reusable materials.
These materials are often used in cheap solar panels. You need to make sure to check what type of solar cells are used in your panel if you’re opting for a cheap model but also want to make sure your panels are renewable.
What Can Solar Panels Power?
Solar panels can power your entire house if you have enough of them. To move completely to solar power, you’ll need around 20 to 25 panels on your roof. You can also purchase solar panel kits, which provide everything you need to go solar at an affordable, bundled price.
Most people opt for partial solar power in their homes. This means they use solar panels for specific appliances and use traditional electricity for others.
An example of this is having a solar-powered geyser. This means your carbon footprint is lowered, as is your electricity bill. You’ll only need one to two solar panels for this, depending on the size of your geyser. This means your startup cost is kept to a minimum as well, making it a great option for beginner solar power users.
One of the best parts of installing solar panels in your home is that they pay for themselves over time. You need to pay for them upfront, but as they create electricity for your house and eliminate that expense, they pay for themselves.
The amount of time they take to pay for themselves varies depending on how sunny your area is, and therefore how much electricity they’re able to create.
You’re looking at a period of between five and fifteen years for your solar payback period.
Solar panels provide your home with a renewable energy source. They’re also made mostly of reusable materials, meaning they’re a renewable source when compared to the traditional electricity-making method.
This traditional method releases harmful gases into the atmosphere. Solar energy is our best alternative because sunlight is a highly renewable resource, with nature providing endless amounts of it.
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