The Carbon Footprint of Solar Energy
“How does solar energy have a carbon footprint?”
Renewable energy is marketed as being clean and healthy for the planet. However, like all industrial processes in this world, its manufacturing phase produces pollutive byproducts. Solar panels are made through the extraction of minerals such as quartz and the use of high temperatures. All of these actions are not only energy intensive but also creates greenhouse gasses. But even through solar panels have a carbon footprint associated with their construction, the fact that they do not produce any climate externalities during operation mean that they will emit much less carbon over their lifetime than traditional energy sources. In fact, research has shown that by displacing other more carbon intensive energy sources they can pay back their production pollution in as little as a few months (Comodi et. al. 2016) ! And with more and more factories adopting renewable energy as their power source and using cleaner production methods, the The Carbon Footprint of Solar Energy will only shrink in the future.
Comodi, G., Bevilacqua, M., Caresana, F., Paciarotti, C., Pelagalli, L., & Venella, P. (2016). Life cycle assessment and energy-CO2-economic payback analyses of renewable domestic hot water systems with unglazed and glazed solar thermal panels. Applied Energy, 164, 944–955. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.apenergy.2015.08.036