It is an accepted fact all around the world that solar energy is a great renewable source of energy, especially since it is already used so extensively. Many people use solar panels on their roofs and utilize energy derived from them to generate electricity, and even major industries are now beginning to jump onto the bandwagon of solar energy as well. The advantages are clear to see, as solar energy can be harnessed from pretty much any location on the planet, and this is a source of energy that will not be getting depleted anytime soon.
But along with these benefits, there are certain risks that accompany this energy source as well. For starters, there are no scientific studies yet that analyze the long-term effects of the electricity that is generated by solar energy. If someone were to say that there are some potential health related risks of solar energy because solar energy is created as a direct result of nuclear fusion, it would not be a completely illogical statement. After all, this is a concept used in nuclear science and carries certain amounts of harmful radiation with it too. However, this argument can be countered by saying that the solar rays which actually reach the earths surface and power these generators are devoid of the most potent and dangerous radiations as they are removed by the ozone layer present in the atmosphere.
So is solar energy really safe? The answer to that question can only be found once solar energy has been used extensively for a few more years. In case there are some long-term dangers involved, their effects will only start appearing at a later stage. For now we can only speculate about the potential solar energy risks, but this does not mean that it cannot be utilized economically and successfully.
What are the Risks of Solar Energy
One of the major risks of solar energy involves the handling of the equipment and the materials that are used for producing it. People who handle such equipment can get burned or electrocuted so they need to be very careful while doing so, in order to avoid some unfortunate and highly serious injuries. A mechanical overload can also lead to explosions and the expulsion of steam that can injure people severely. Nevertheless, this is a risk that all other forms of energy production also possess, so there is nothing unique about this. In fact, the risks of handling the equipment of solar energy are much lower than those involving other forms of energy.
One of the biggest hazards in this scenario is the risk that the solar energy equipment has not been manufactured properly. Some manufacturers create large containers that store water which is heated up with the help of solar energy, and in some cases, fungus and mold can be present inside these containers. When someone drinks or uses the water that is provided, they can suffer from some serious diseases. Badly manufactured units can also cause severe mishaps from time to time, and anyone who is handling these units needs to be careful since there is a lot of energy and hot materials stored inside these containers. Improper handling can also lead to dire consequences.
Potential Risks of Solar Energy
The panels that are used for providing solar energy are known as photovoltaic (PV) panels and the materials that are used to create these panels are made of highly toxic materials. The silicon that is used on these panels is generated by mining silicon dioxide and then subjecting it to intense heat. This releases many toxic materials into the atmosphere, and since it is also used to coat the solar panels, it can enter people's respiratory systems upon inhalation. The only reassurance is that these panels require very little maintenance and repair work, so once they have been installed they do not need to be serviced or checked too often. As a result of this, human contact with these panels is minimal.
This risk has also been dealt with by using nanotechnology in the manufacturing process of these solar panels. The cells which actually store the energy are rolled onto thin foils which are then converted into sprays which can subsequently be applied to any surface. This has minimized the risk of contamination via toxic materials. Additionally, the nanotechnology that has been used has maximized the efficiency of the cells, by capturing the sun's rays effectively, irrespective of which direction the cells are facing. Some scientists have also developed a nano-paint which can be coated on walls in order to conduct electricity more effectively.
At the end of the day, its health related risks are very few and occur very rarely as well. Not many incidents are reported where the direct cause can be attributed to solar energy. But the fear still persists in many quarters that the long-term effects of solar energy can be harmful. This is something that can only be confirmed over time and no conclusions can be drawn without proper academic studies and research regarding the same.