Solar panels are still something of an enigma for most. They are popular and trendy to be certain, but there are some aspects about solar panels that can feel ‘sci-fi’. We all know they make power from the sun, but just how familiar is the average person regarding the amazing engineering behind solar panels?
And let’s be honest, solar panels even have a sort of look to them. This doesn’t help the skeptics who have concerns.
Are they safe?
Do solar panels cause radiation?
The truth can be alarming if a binary sort of stance is taken. Reality, though, is seldom absolute, choosing instead to embrace varying degrees of perspective.
For example, what might seem like cold weather for people living in Florida could be a heat wave for someone living in Alaska.
And the same is true when it comes to solar panels and emitted radiation.
The truth is, that while solar panels do cause Non-Ionizing Radiation, they are of little to no threat to the human body. In fact, most would argue that a solar panel emits less in the way of radiation, than your typical smart phone.
What Is Radiation?
In the very simplest of definitions, radiation is the movement of energy through space or material.
And while this definition may be easy to understand, it does not even come close to address the complexity that is radiation.
One example of radiation is the X-ray we get at the dentist’s office. This is a very powerful tool of the health industry that if used in moderation can be an incredible asset for your health.
Another common association of radiation is with nuclear power. Millions of homes around the world are powered by electricity generated by the super-heated water caused by radiation.
A lesser known example of radiation would be a lighted candle. Not only is light being moved through space, but heat as well.
Remember, radiation is the movement of energy – and energy has a lot of different ‘flavors’.
Solar Panels – Radiation Types
There are two main types of radiation associated with solar panels and with each type is a process worth understanding.
- Reflective – As sunshine pours down every day, the movement of energy through our atmosphere (radiation) touches our planet causing a whole host of life sustaining reactions.
Quite often this energy will be reflected off of some surface and absorbed by a living organism. A good example of this would be a tanning mirror used by sunbathers to focus sunshine on their skin.
As solar panels have a reflective surface, then they would essentially cause radiation – in the form of the sun’s energy. To be clear, in this situation the solar panels are not creating radiation, but rather reflecting energy that is already present.
It is also worth noting, that any energy that is reflected will be substantially less than the aforementioned tanning mirror as solar panels are designed to absorb energy rather than reflect it.
- Electromagnetic – One of the results of electron flow is something called Electromagnetic Radiation. As the fundamental concept of solar panels is to generate electricity (aka. electron flow) then a certain amount of EM Radiation is going to be generated.
In this case, however, the largest amount of EM Radiation is most likely not going to come from the solar panels themselves as the internal wiring (electron pathways) are actually quite small, but rather, EM Radiation is more likely to be observed in the wiring traveling from the panels, as the electron pathways are much larger – allowing for a heavier concentration of electron flow.
Solar Panels And Radioactive Material
While the function of both solar panels and nuclear power plants is to generate electricity, how they go about it is fundamentally different.
By comparison, solar panels do not use radioactive materials to generate power. Instead, the bulk of today’s solar panels mass is silicon – a very plentiful and stable material found readily here on earth.
Because there are no unstable materials present in solar panels, there is no risk of radioactive decay and thereby no risk of the related health risk from exposure.
So if your question is, do solar panels pose the same danger as radioactive material, the answer is absolutely not!
If, however, your question is more binary, then yes, solar panels do cause radiation as radiation is the movement of energy through space and material. Some of that radiation is caused by electron flow through the wiring (EM Radiation) and some of it is simply reflected sunlight.
But, in a relative scale, you are much more at risk from repeated X-rays, such as the ones done at medical institutions, then you are from a rooftop solar array.
### Food For Thought ###
It’s also worth noting that your wireless router is constantly ‘radiating’ energy through the space and material in your home, as are a multitude of internet connected devices.