As people and governments worldwide search for sustainable power solutions, solar has emerged as a frontrunner — especially for consumers.
Solar energy is clean, renewable, and more sustainable than fossil fuels at every stage of the energy production process. Electricity from fossil fuels requires finite and limited resources, like oil or coal.
Additionally, burning fossil fuels is responsible for producing up to 70% of greenhouse gas emissions — the primary driver of human-induced climate change.
In contrast, solar energy is abundant and infinite because it comes from sunlight. Photovoltaic panels convert sunlight into electricity for an unlimited supply of clean energy.
Here, we’ll cover everything you need to know about the sustainability of solar so you can decide if it’s worth making the switch.
What Are the Advantages of Solar Energy?
Solar power outshines other forms of energy production in ways that are better for you and the planet.
Assuring Energy for the Long Term
Solar power comes from converting the rays of the sun into usable electricity. It’s virtually infinite and guaranteed to be around for the long haul. Unlike fossil fuels, solar power will be available as long as there is sunlight.
According to NASA, the sun has about 5 billion years left. So, there’s no need to worry about running out of this renewable energy source anytime soon.
Whether you’re interested in just powering a few devices with the sun or investing in a solar-powered Whole Home Generator, you can trust that your power source is sustainable for billions of years to come.
Not only does solar power provide you with a reliable energy source, but it also saves you money over the long term.
Once your solar payback period is complete, the money you save by reducing or eliminating your electricity bills goes straight into your pocket.
Many people switch to renewable energy to offset rising utility prices. Petrol, electricity, water — the prices are all going up and creating financial hardship for many.
Investing in solar power can come at a substantial upfront cost, but there’s never been a better time to do it. Not only has residential solar technology significantly improved in recent years, but thanks to increased demand, it’s also come down in price.
If the upfront investment is still a stretch, many manufacturers and installers offer low or no-interest financing options — and you still may qualify for government incentives.
Solar energy doesn’t harm the environment like other forms of energy production. Burning fossil fuels like natural gas and coal to produce electricity significantly contributes to global warming and climate change.
In contrast, solar is much more eco-friendly. Some environmental impact is associated with manufacturing the necessary components — like solar panels and batteries. But solar power systems use nothing but sunlight to produce electricity once installed. Unless you replace a part, no further use of fuels, minerals, or metals is necessary.
Generating electricity using off-grid solar power alone essentially reduces your carbon footprint to zero.
Protects Human Health
In addition to helping protect the environment, solar energy is much better for public health. Reducing reliance on fossil fuels for power means a decrease in emissions of harmful gases, resulting in clean energy with fewer adverse health outcomes.
Burning fossil fuels emits pollutants into the air, resulting in health problems, including childhood asthma. Replacing fossil fuels with renewable options like wind and solar significantly reduces particulate pollution. The World Health Organization (WHO) attributed “4.2M premature deaths worldwide” to air pollution in 2019.
According to Harvard, burning fossil fuels “leads to early death, heart attacks, respiratory disorders, stroke, asthma, and absenteeism at school and work.”
Reducing pollutants from fossil fuels can save lives and presents numerous public health benefits.
Protects Land and Habitats
Both extracting (mining) and burning fossil fuels harm wildlife and habitats. The extraction, transportation, and refining of fossil fuels routinely result in oil spills that devastate wildlife, communities, habitats, ecosystems, and shorelines for decades or more.
Solar is a way to protect not only human health but also the health of non-human creatures and the ecosystems we inhabit.
Renewable and Infinite
Non-renewable energy sources like oil, coal, and natural gas are finite. On the other hand, solar, wind, and hydropower are renewable. As long as the sun shines, the wind blows, and the water flows, we don’t have to worry about running out.
The Potential Drawbacks of Solar Energy
While many aspects of electricity generation from solar power are 100% sustainable, there are currently no renewable or non-renewable energy sources with zero environmental impact.
With solar power, most of the negative environmental impact comes from production and manufacturing.
Here are a few areas of concern:
- Photovoltaic Panels: Silicon and glass are two essential elements in the manufacture of solar panels. Both sources are abundant, but extracting and refining them requires energy, water, and other resources.
- Solar Batteries: Solar power systems do not produce electricity around the clock. Neither does wind or hydropower. Solar panels still gather energy on cloudy and rainy days but at a reduced rate. And, of course, they don’t collect sunshine at night.Off-grid solar systems require solar batteries to ensure a consistent source of electricity. Depending on the battery chemistry, the materials used can have a significant environmental — and social — impact.For example, the lithium-ion batteries (Li-Ion) found in most solar power systems rely on cobalt to function. About 70% of the world’s cobalt comes from the Democratic Republic of Congo and is mined under extraordinarily harsh and unethical labour conditions.
Fortunately, newer subsets of Li-Ion batteries, like lithium iron phosphate (LFP/LiFePO4), don’t require any cobalt, have longer lifespans, and operate efficiently in a broader range of temperatures.
You can learn more about these and other potential drawbacks of solar energy here.
Additionally, the manufacturing, recycling, or disposal of PV panels requires energy. However, solar panels typically generate the amount of electricity consumed to produce them within one to four years.
With an average lifespan of 30 years or more for quality PV panels, this is a sustainable tradeoff.
In the end, the advantages of renewable sources vastly outweigh the drawbacks when it comes to sustainability.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is Solar Sustainable or Unsustainable?
Like any other renewable source of electricity, solar energy isn’t a perfect solution. However, it provides outstanding benefits and significant strides toward sustainability with few downsides — especially when compared to fossil fuels.
Solar is far more sustainable than most other forms of energy production. It provides consumers and society with many benefits beyond sustainability, including improved public health, reduced electricity bills, less reliance on ageing infrastructure, and much more.
Is Solar Energy 100% Environmentally Friendly?
No source of electricity generation is 100% environmentally friendly. Wind, solar, hydro — even emerging tech like hydrogen and nuclear fission — negatively impacts the environment to some extent. All energy generation (even lighting a fire) requires resource consumption. With solar, most of that happens when the metals and other materials needed are extracted and processed — and during manufacturing. Once a solar power system is up and running, its environmental impact is nearly zero unless you need to replace or repair a component. The environmental benefits far outweigh the costs, particularly when compared to fossil fuels.
There are many benefits to investing in solar power for your home.
One benefit is sustainability, but it certainly doesn’t stop there.
Switching to solar can save you a significant amount of money over the long term. It reduces (or eliminates) your reliance on ageing infrastructure and the unpredictable costs of fossil fuels.
Solar power is a reliable and eco-friendly form of energy that produces no harmful emissions, emissions when operating — making it better for your family and the planet.
So, is solar power sustainable?
The short answer?
While nothing is perfect, solar is an enormous improvement on traditional sources of electricity production in terms of sustainability — especially fossil fuels.
Not only that, it’s the only form of clean, renewable energy that’s easily accessible to consumers.
Wind and hydropower make substantial contributions to producing sustainable energy for the grid, but the solutions are too large-scale to be accessible for most homeowners.
Are you ready to make the switch to the sun?
Check out our industry-leading off-grid solar power solutions at EcoFlow.