- PV systems cannot be regarded as completely eco-friendly systems with zero-emissions.
- The adverse environmental impacts of PV systems include land, water, pollution, Hazardous materials, noise, and visual.
- Future design trends of PV systems focus on improved design, sustainability, and recycling.
- Incentives and research to close the gaps can offer a great platform for future legislations.
Solar energy is, by far, one of the best sources of power the world has, especially for progress toward a more environmentally friendly future. Yet, it’s not without its drawbacks.
Although most people don’t realize it, these systems emit greenhouse gases (GHGs), too. Scientists report that PV systems release 14–73 g CO2-eq/kWh (kilowatt-hour) on average. Now, this is 10–53 times less than burning oil (742 g CO2-eq/kWh). Still, these are preventable emissions.1
Yet, the researchers suggest that these five steps could dramatically improve solar panels’ functionality and eco-friendliness:
- Optimizing PV systems’ designs
- Innovating new, more sustainable materials
- Minimizing the use of hazardous components
- Improving recycling practices for PV system parts
- Better, more careful standards in site selection for PV system installation
Tawalbeh’s team estimates that these changes would reduce GHG emissions, decrease solid waste coming from solar energy systems, and help preserve water resources.1
More specifically, they estimate that merely switching to “novel manufacturing materials” would decrease PV systems’ carbon footprints by one order of magnitude. (One order of magnitude is a factor of ten.) Additionally, increasing recycling of solar cell materials would reduce GHG emissions by 42 percent.5
Renewable energy developers are showing more interest in the voluntary carbon offset market as a potential source of additional revenue for their projects.
Most trading is over the counter. There are various exchanges on which trades can be made. Prices for “avoidance” offsets, which are the kind generated by wind and solar projects, were averaging $7 a ton in February as the NewsWire went to press.
Technology companies, airlines and oil and gas companies have been among the early buyers.
Demand is expected to increase as more companies look to offset their carbon emissions for reputational reasons.
The type of project from which an offset is created is another key driver of valuation. Carbon credits can be categorized into two broad categories: projects that avoid emitting greenhouse gas emissions elsewhere and projects that remove greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Avoidance projects include wind, solar and other renewable energy projects, while removal projects include carbon recapture and reforestation.
Carbon offsets generated by removal projects tend to trade at a premium. For example, nature-based removal offsets (those that fall within the forestry, farming and land management category) were trading at a near record high of $22.30 a ton at the beginning of February 2022.