Using solar panels in Saudi Arabia for electricity generation has several positive environmental impacts. It provides energy independence and reduces climate change. It also reduces the effects of ocean acidification. However, the environmental impact of solar power differs depending on the technology. Its negative side includes air pollution and land use changes.
The manufacturing process of solar panels uses hazardous materials. It can also release toxic waste. It is important to dispose of these materials properly. Some manufacturers do not recycle their byproducts.
The amount of sunlight that hits the earth varies by location and time of day. In addition, the amount of sunlight varies depending on the weather patterns. This can affect the amount of rainfall. It can also alter the local bird habitat. The overall effect of a solar power plant on local avian populations can have a significant impact.
Solar power plants can also increase dust and air particulate matter. In addition, the construction of a solar facility can affect the soil, drainage channels, and vegetation structures. It can also introduce exotic species into the area.
There are also concerns regarding the decommissioning of a solar facility. It can release soil-carried pathogens and chemicals. A chemical spill from a solar facility can cause groundwater contamination. Other concerns include biodiversity loss, water competition, and habitat destruction.
The total land area required for a solar power project varies with the technology used. For example, concentrating solar thermal (CSP) facilities require between four and sixteen acres of land per megawatt. For utility-scale PV systems, estimates range from three to ten acres of land per megawatt. The construction of a solar facility can lead to increased erosion and soil compaction.
In addition, the manufacturing process of solar cells uses hazardous chemicals. These chemicals are harmful to human health and contribute to air pollution. Silicon wafers are encapsulated with ethyly vinyl acetate to produce a standard solar module. They are then heated in a furnace at a high temperature. This results in the emission of sulfur dioxide, hydrochloric acid, and other chemicals. Some solar panel manufacturers do not recycle byproducts.
The life cycle assessment of solar energy focuses on the greenhouse gas emissions associated with the upstream, downstream, and operational stages of energy generation. Considering the cumulative environmental impacts of the entire life cycle is vital to solar energy’s success.