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  • Writer's pictureBrian Harbin

How Solar Farms Affect The Environment

The Sun is an enormous energy source that humanity has begun to tap into only quite recently. The Sun is able to provide an immense amount of resources that can result in the generation of electricity that is clean, sustainable and does not cause pollution.

The collection and storage of solar energy allows it to be used all over the world, perhaps eventually replacing traditional energy sources, and solar energy has only increased in importance as time has gone on.

There are a number of environmental benefits to the use of solar farms when compared to more traditional sources of energy, although there could be negative implications for the environment when deploying these systems on a large scale.

The environmental impact on land and ecology

In order to be able to generate electricity on a scale that can be used in utilities, it is necessary to have large areas of land set aside for solar farms to allow them to collect enough energy. Because of this these farms may have an impact on the existing use of said land and affect areas such as the likes of recreational management or wilderness locations.

The need for materials to ensure such energy systems function can also result in incrementally high energy footprints thanks to the exploration, extraction, manufacture and eventual disposal of such materials. Some land may be exploited for energy in a manner that makes returning them to the state prior to that exploitation a very costly and time consuming endeavor, or in some cases be so dramatically changed that reversing the process is impossible.

The environmental impact on air, soil and water resources

Constructing solar farms on large areas of land means clearing and grading, which can result in soil compaction, increased levels of erosion and changes to drainage channels. The consumption of water is necessary for central tower systems, which could be cause for concern given that available water resources could be strained by an increase in demand.

Air quality can also be threatened by solar farms, as is the case with any large-scale industrial development.

Heavy metals

While some have argued that new solar technologies make use of dangerous heavy metals, the same substances are used by oil and coal and on a much bigger scale, sometimes up to 300 times more than is the case with the manufacturers of solar panels.

How solar farms fight climate change

Using solar energy has been shown to limit the fallout of global warming, with tons of carbon emissions being eliminated by solar farms and solar arrays all over the world. According to new studies, solar farms that have been properly integrated into their surrounding environment can actually encourage life and the diversity of species such as butterflies, birds, broad-leaved plants, bumblebees and other natural species.

Proper planning can also see solar farms easily integrated into the likes of grazing meadows and crop lands without interrupting their natural life and ensuring that solar farms actually have a positive effect on biodiversity.

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