While there is considerable debate over the reason behind it, the shrinkage of the polar ice caps is undeniable. Ice that has been in place for thousands of years is melting. And while I am, admittedly, not a studied climatologist, I would have to imagine that there would be some sort of environmental impact from this – especially when you consider the scale of this loss.
Currently, the majority of scientist point to greenhouse gases as the cause.
As a family who is passionate about bettering our environment, we live on off-grid solar to power our home.
This type of lifestyle promotes a lot of questions, one of which is, ‘do solar panels release greenhouse gases?’
Answer: Solar panels do not release any type of CO2 or greenhouse gases during their day to day operation of generating electricity.
It is possible that CO2 was generated in the manufacturing and distribution of the solar panels. However, once they are installed, there really is no means for your panels to emit any type of climate warming gas.
How Are Gases Created?
The Law Of Conservation Of Mass (greatly simplified), states that matter can neither be created nor destroyed. Instead, it simply changes states. For example, gases over the ocean can be cooled and consolidate into a liquid.
Likewise, this liquid can be heated and returned back into a gas.
Nothing has truly been created or destroyed, it has simply changed from one form to another.
With this in mind, we can begin to understand that any fuel that is consumed has not truly disappeared, but rather changed its form.
Think about this the next time you are stopped by a train carrying tons and tons of coal. The material it is moving – mined from deep underground – isn’t simply disappearing, it is changing forms and entering our atmosphere.
To put this into a more accurate picture, according to the EIA – US Energy Industry Administration, 2020 saw the lowest coal consumption in the United States since 1949. This low amount of consumption came in at 477,000,000 tons.
In other words, we have changed a minimum of 477,000,000 tons of solid material (coal) into a gas, every year… for the last 71 years.
And that is just in the United States.
Solar Panels Are Non-Consuming
Solar panels are different from conventional coal and gas power plants in one major way. Energy is produced without the need for matter to change from one form to another.
Need proof? Try finding an exhaust pipe on a solar panel. There isn’t one!
Solar panels are basically static until photons from the sun slam into them. At which point matter is moved, but does so without changing forms – this includes greenhouse gases.
Also worth noting is that the electrons that are in motion, producing your electricity, are mostly contained (efficiency varying from install to install).
This is why solar panels will always be superior to conventional power production. Matter is not being transformed into a greenhouse gas, but rather simply moving by the impact of photons present in sunlight.
For an in-depth look at this, please read, ‘How Do Solar Panels Work?’
Regardless of which side of the environmental argument one chooses to stand on, the changing of matter from solid/liquid into a gas should not be taken lightly – especially on the scale of which we currently are.
Solar panels provide the means to power our lives without this.
Admittedly, there are examples of greenhouse gases being formed during the production and distribution of solar panels. However, it should also be acknowledged that this is a one time event.
And once the panels are operational, they can perform for decades without ever producing any greenhouse gases.
I challenge you to compare this to the normal day to day operation of your local power plant.