When talking about solar farms or just solar in general, there always seems to be common misconceptions that arise. Today, we are going to talk about them and figure out what really is true about solar farms and what is myth.
Solar still works with cloud cover. Although clouds can sometimes reduce efficiency by 10-25%, the solar panels are still producing energy. Some panels use a backside mirror. This allows light photons that are not absorbed on the first pass to have a second chance of absorption. Some solar cells are designed to capture a broader range of UV light (ex. Red and blue wavelengths contribute to higher production in various weather conditions. Depending on the region and the type of panel used, the efficiency of the production could vary. Nonetheless, solar panels defiantly produce energy in cloudy conditions.
Solar farms destroy the land it's on. This couldn't be further from the truth. Solar developers will pay anywhere between $600-$1,500 an acre every year for the lifetime of the project (30 years) and it auto-adjusts to account for inflation. Solar can produce 30 times the energy per acre compared to corn. (ethanol) Not only that but, 40% of US farm crops are used for ethanol! Solar farms allow the land to rest. 30 years without crops or chemicals allows the land to turnover as organic as well as grow pollinators and native grasses. Giving the land time to rest is one thing, but additionally, all equipment in a solar farm is temporary. Leaving no trace of existence once removed. Solar panels are NOT footed with hundreds of yards of concrete. They are standing structures with no permanent fastening system to the land, simply fastened to pillars that are driven directly into the ground.
Solar farms can’t be recycled. This is a common misconception but totally not true. Glass, representing the majority of the panel can be melted and recycled into new products with no loss of quality. Plastic makes up roughly 10% of the panel and of course, is recyclable. The downside is that the plastic is typically harder to recycle due to the cost of extraction of the plastics. The rest of the panel is aluminum, copper, and silicon. These materials are high quality and high cost materials. This makes up for most of the value in recycling the panel. Processing the silicon wafers to prepare for the recycling process can be difficult, but the number of facilities capable of breaking down solar panels continues to increase. Alike other consumer products, some people choose to dispose of solar panels rather than recycling them, out of convenience.
Solar Farms are certainly a great option for the community to be able to benefit from renewable energy without the worry of causing negative effects on the planet. Make sure when researching the renewables options, you dive in with an open mind. Just like anything else, there can always be those myths that can be misleading.
SunPower. “Do Solar Panels Work on Cloudy Days.” SunPower, 3 Aug. 2022, https://us.sunpower.com/home-solar/do-solar-panels-work-on-cloudy-days.
09, Dec. “Will Solar Destroy the Land or Conserve the Land?” Farm Progress, 9 Dec. 2021, https://www.farmprogress.com/commentary/will-solar-destroy-land-or-conserve-land.
Richardson, Mark. “Solar Myths Debunked: Solar Panel Recycling.” US Light Energy, US Light Energy, 13 July 2022, https://uslightenergy.com/news/solar-myths-debunked-solar-panel-recycling/.