Demand for energy has been increasing in the global economy over time. Most of the world energy is obtained from fossil fuels such as diesels, natural gas, and petroleum among others. However, there has been increased awareness of the environmental impacts of the fossil fuels use. In addition, the non-renewability feature of the fossil fuel has led to the demand for alternative sources of energy, as the fossil fuels are becoming exhausted. The cost of fossil fuels has also increased tremendously in the last decade. For example, there was an increase in global oil prices, which contributed to the global financial crises (Bonnot, 2012). However, the adoption of the renewable sources of energy has been faced with various challenges such as inability high energy density.
This paper seeks to determine the effect of solar panels on various ethical issues in terms of production or consumption. It also seeks to establish the effect of solar panels on medical and health issues in the process of production and consumption. The indirect and direct environmental concerns regarding the use of solar panels will be in the focus of this paper. In summing up the impacts of solar panels on various areas of life, the paper seeks to determine their impact on the economy.
Solar Panels and Ethical Issues
Ethical considerations regarding the use of solar panels can be evaluated through determining the performance of solar photovoltaic panel manufacturers’ ethical issues. There are various ethical issues relating to controversial activities relating to pollution of environment by the organizations. In addition, the organizations have been attributed to producing toxic materials, where questions are raised regarding the disposal of such toxic wastes. For example, the use of Cadmium Telluride, which is one of the cheapest raw materials in the production of the solar panels, contains highly toxic compounds. These compounds have been attributed to increased muscle pains, fever, and increased extreme cases of renal failure (Schienke, 2007).
There are various codes of ethics for various expertise that is used in the production of solar panels, which present ethical dilemma in the use and production of solar energy. Some of the scripted codes of ethics affected the profit generation by these organization, which may lead to loss of jobs. The ability of an organization to ensure sustainability of their activities and production process can facilitate dealing with ethical issues regarding adoption of solar energy. Sustainability ensures that all stakeholders in the organization are treated in the most appropriate way while ensuring organization’s profitability (Schienke, 2007). The ethical consideration is inefficiency of solar energy in the production of energy as compared to other sources of energy such as fuels. The inefficiency leads to increased cost of producing energy, which is of low density as compared to that produced by fuels.
Impact of Solar Panels Health
Solar energy has increasingly been gaining popularity in various parts of the globe, as government encourages people and business community to adopt the use of the renewable sources of energy. However, some of the technologies that were adopted for the purpose of solar energy production have dire health implications to the people. For example, people who are electromagnetic hypersensitive are affected by the small amount of electromagnetic radiations on electronic devices. However, when people are affected by these, solar panels attribute the symptoms to other causes without understanding that solar panels are the major cause of their problem (Soriano, 2013).
The various components that are used in the manufacture of solar panels can lead to long-term health implication on people. For example, silicon is one of the major components in the manufacture of solar panels. The dust that is produced by silicon can lead to long-term health concerns, especially when inhaled over a long period of time. Long-term silicon dust exposure results in a disease that is referred to as silicosis, which leads to formation of scar tissues in the lungs. This has the effect of reducing the capacity of the lungs to process oxygen and, hence, the development of lungs’ inefficiency to circulate oxygen in the body. The non-recyclability of solar cells materials reduces the aspect of environment-friendliness of waste disposal from solar panel production. This increases exposure to health hazard materials in the society.
Solar heat systems expose electrical and chemical components, which pose health risks to electrically sensitive people. Solar hot water systems are used in warming bath water or warming up a house through the use of solar collector, which takes the heat from the sun. Cadmium Telluride, which is another major component of photovoltaic material that is used in the process of solar panel production, is a highly toxic substance. For example, the material has been banned in Europe for the purposes of electronics devices production. Cadmium contains compounds that are carcinogenic and can cause muscle pains, fever, and lead to renal failure in extreme cases (Soriano, 2013).
Environmental Impacts of Solar Panels
Solar energy provides an alternative source of energy, representing a shift of the global source of energy from biofuels to renewable sources of energy such as solar energy. Solar has been termed as the cleanest source of energy as compared to other forms of energy. However, various organizations have raised potential environmental concerns on adoption of the solar energy. Biofuels are the major sources of carbon dioxide, which has been attributed to the climate change in the global economy. Production of solar power is emission-free and greenhouse gas emission in solar energy production is negligible (Anderson, 2012). Therefore, solar energy plays a pivotal role in reducing production of greenhouse gases, which leads to extensive climate change on the globe.
However, there are various environmental concerns as for the production of solar energy. Some of the materials that are used in production of solar panels are unrecyclable. This reduces the ability to use environmentally friendly materials that can be recycled, increasing the disposal of waste in the environment. Electricity production is water intensive leading to withdrawal of freshwater used for consumption. Although photovoltaic systems do not use water in the process of energy generation, some solar thermal systems use water in energy production; however, this water can be recycled. For example, utility scale parabolic and central tower solar energy system requires the use of steam in the energy production process for the purpose of cooling. If such system is used in arid areas, it can cause a strain in water resources, hence, affecting the environment. Some materials that are used in solar energy concentrating system, such as oils and molten salts, are hazardous. Despite various environmental issues that are associated with production of solar energy, it is more considerably clean as compared to fossil fuels (Bonnot, 2012). The increasing prices of oil prices and exhaustion of these resources will present solar energy production as an alternative effective and environmental source of energy.
Economic Impact of Solar Energy
Solar energy production has been despised in the global economy due to the high cost of its production. Therefore, solar energy was perceived as uneconomically viable for organizations and households due to cost ineffectiveness. However, solar energy has various positive impacts in the economy in terms of energy production and employment creation. Most economies import energy from other countries in terms of fuels used in production of energy. Fuel importation has been among the major foreign importation cost in most economies in the globe. The importation leads to increased trade deficits, as more money is spent on oil purchase. Solar energy presents an opportunity for an economy to produce renewable and sustainable energy, which can enable such an economy retain expenditures in oil. The increasing prices of fuels in the global market have led to increased adoption of renewable sources of energy, hence, increasing the employment opportunities in the economy (Ricci, 2010). Most countries in the global economy have also created incentives for organizations producing renewable energy, which has led to increased growth of renewable energy producing firms for local and regional market.
The transmission of electricity along the national grid systems involves transportation of electricity power for long distances. Adoption of solar panels by households and business community reduces the cost of installing expensive infrastructure that is required for the transportation of such energy. Solar energy is available everywhere, which makes the process of energy harvesting easy. Solar panels can be placed in the roof tops of local buildings, hence, reducing the space that would be required for large plants. In addition, they create employment to local people, since they will be employing the local people for installing the systems (Anderson, 2012). This would have an effect of increasing employment opportunities in the local economies and, hence, act as the stimulants of local economies.
In conclusion, solar energy provides an effective alternative source of energy with low environmental concerns and high economic benefits. Although, solar energy has various health implications, the benefits that are associated with its production outrun the costs that are involved. Solar energy has negligible effect in production of greenhouse gases as compared to fossil fuel. It also has myriad of benefits to the economies improving the balance of trade and increasing employment opportunities in the economy.