Solar Energy and the Environment
Environmental Impact of Solar Power Plants
The environmental impact of electrical energy production is an important subject. Humanity needs more and more energy to sustain its civilization but it also needs to maintain an inhabitable environment, to protect nature and not to waste resources. Solar energetics, as one of the renewable energy sources, is characterized by its minimal impact on the environment.
A photovoltaic farm produces clean electric energy throughout its whole life-span without the need for refuelling, refilling with expensive working media and without any emissions or wastes. It is also completely silent. The only negative impacts such a farm can have are the high energetic and financial costs of solar cell production during which fossil fuels are burnt. Investment costs, however, are decreasing as new and more efficient technologies emerge thus making solar power more competitive.
Solar thermal power plants utilize the same principle as other, conventional Rankine cycle power plants (like coal, or nuclear). The only difference is in the heat source for steam generation. Solar power plants use heat from solar radiation concentrated into an absorber. They do not burn anything so they release no pollutants or greenhouse gases in the air and they produce no waste.