Can You Make Solar Panels Without Fossil Fuels?

Every nature lover wants to take steps that leave the least to no carbon footprint in the environment. For them, solar energy always comes to the rescue as the best and most environmentally-friendly power source. But, to their surprise, studies have shown the opposite results!

Are Fossil Fuels Used in Solar Panels?

Manufacturing solar panels and their components depend on fossil fuels because they can convert them into reusable substances. However, researchers have found negative impacts of the entire process on the environment.

They found multiple flaws and issues that used to affect the surroundings in one way or the other. With that being said, the need to figure out solar panel manufacturing without fossil fuels is created that has to be answered as soon as possible. Let’s dig deeper into the problem and find solutions by analyzing different aspects:

Efforts by BioSolar- Use of Fossil Fuels in Solar Panels

Since the process of generating solar energy requires the involvement of fossil fuels- not just to produce power but for components themselves, be sure to find petroleum in some of them.

One of the mega producers of solar photovoltaics (crystalline silicon cells), BioSolar has always been on the lookout for ways to eliminate the use of petroleum (Biello, 2008).

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They aim to manufacture photovoltaic cells through conventional plastic polymers to add a protective layer, called backsheet- which are primarily made of petroleum, yes!

BioSolar makes sure not to use genetically modified crops, thereby reducing more toxins from the atmosphere.

Considering that the company uses cotton rags to produce solar components, one thing is certain they have no control over the degree of toxin reduction. That means they still utilize a certain amount of petroleum in cotton crops to resist herbicides, insects, and the like.

Nonetheless, if the cost of caster and cotton-based backsheet appears to be lesser than petroleum, then removing some of the fossil sunshine is still a good decision.

Manufacturing of Solar Panels with Fossil Fuels

Practically, there is no involvement of fossil fuels in electricity generation, but the manufacturing process of solar panels does need help from them. Some components are completely made from solar panels, while others contain crystalline silicon.

From the beginning, manufacturing asks for power and heat from fossil fuels like natural gas, coal, and petroleum to carry out different activities. Moreover, the smelting process of crystalline silicon also needs fossil fuel energy.

The back sheets and protective backing also comprise plastic polymers derived from non-renewable fossils, particularly petroleum. Other than that, solar systems use them to transfer materials and solar panel deployment. Though the amount is quite less, that doesn’t negatively impact the efficiency of solar panels.

Which Is Cleaner- Fossil Fuels or Solar Energy?

No doubt, solar energy has a better reputation for cleanliness than fossils. Studies have also proven its sustainability in comparison to other renewable energy sources.

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Also, fossil fuels cause more carbon footprint than solar energy because of the production of more carbon dioxide and pollutants affecting the Earth’s ozone layer. This eventually causes a significant increase in global warming (Karim, 2020).

Solar energy prides itself on being an environmentally-friendly power source that reduces greenhouse gasses to bring an impact on climate and global warming. Last but not least, converting to solar power can sustain natural resources for better usage and make a healthier environment.

For How Long Can Solar Panels Work?

There are many factors behind the workable life of solar panels, but one solar panel lasts for around 25 years or more. Many come with warranties from their manufacturers, meaning that any panel or part can be replaced within this time.

Though, don’t expect them to work as efficiently and effectively as they were doing in the beginning. Their performance decreases with age, while their deterioration is due to temperature changes, bad weather, and increased humidity.

What Are the Downsides of Using Solar Energy?

Even though solar power is the best form of renewable source, it still has some negatives that no one can overlook. Let’s have a look at them:

  • High Investment: Installation of a solar system always requires a high amount of investment. Every component needs to be purchased, followed by paying installers for their assembly. Users always have to pay for maintenance annually or monthly. 
  • Weather Dependency: As an intermittent power source, solar energy is of no use at night. However, its efficiency may be affected during the day due to weather conditions like rain and snow. The system might produce a different amount of electricity than it used to.
  • Occupies the Space: Before placing the system, it’s important to decide on the right space because once it is installed, no one can move them. Be sure that they take up a lot of space, which is why it’s recommended to dedicate the compound or roof. But, if there isn’t enough space, downsize the solar system.
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How to Control the Negatives? 

  1. Go for leasing, not buying: Every solar company has its own credit and installment options considering their high prices. However, you can choose another option, i.e. leasing the solar system or buying it on loan. There are many financial institutions and government schemes concerning the matter.
  2. The storage battery is important: Nowadays, solar systems provide heavy-duty batteries that can store electricity for night use. They have a special storage capacity that can even keep energy during bad weather.
  3. Go for solar roof tiles: Having limited space means it’s time to install them. Special panels can cover the entire roof without asking for a smaller solar system.

Wrapping Up

It is evident from the above discussion that solar panels are capable enough to work on their own. They do not rely upon fossil fuels for energy.

Even then, the indirect use of fossil fuels cannot eliminate the risk of contaminating the environment with a carbon footprint.

References

  1. Biello, D. (2008, August 13). Making a Solar Cell Component without Using Fossil Fuels. Retrieved from SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN ARABIC: https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/making-solar-energy-without-fossil-fuel/
  2. Karim. (2020). Do Solar Panels Use Fossil Fuels? (6 Questions). Retrieved from Ecowut: https://ecowut.com/solar-panels-fossil-fuels/