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From Sunbeams to Solutions: Solar's Surprising Path to Climate Change Victory or Failure?

(Author : Mahima, Insta @19mahima)


Year after year, the growing effects of climate change, ranging from deadly floods to challenging droughts, highlight the grave implications of human carelessness and selfish motives. Despite several initiatives ranging from creative solutions to conventional sustainable practices, our efforts to address the situation appear to fall short. Initiatives ranging from the most commonly adopted to the least frequently adopted strive to reduce our carbon footprint. From the advancement of renewable and electrical energy generation technologies to the commitments made by nations in UNCOP meetings pledging to achieve Zero carbon goals, the question remains: Are these measures truly effective, or are we simply seeking refuge in seemingly progressive initiatives while ignoring the magnitude of the challenge at hand?


Image credit (Mahima)


Electricity is undeniably important in today's world. Given its involvement in every area of our life, from giving light to permitting cooking, a single hour without it may feel like an eternity. However, the paradox is that our necessary growth demands frequently conflict with nature.

While hydroelectricity has traditionally been seen as a clean source of energy, worries about its environmental effect are mounting. Dam building may damage ecosystems, displace communities, and destroy aquatic life. Furthermore, climate change can have an impact on water flow and hydropower output, raising concerns about the technology's future.

In response to these issues, solar energy has emerged as a possible option. Unlike hydro, solar panels do not need large-scale infrastructure projects that might destroy ecosystems. They also emit no greenhouse gas emissions while in operation, making them an important role in the battle against climate change. Soaring energy costs, combined with the urgency of climate change, have thrust rooftop solar panels into the limelight. Advocates hail them as the answer to sustainable energy, promising lower carbon footprints, more energy independence, and even financial rewards. But can these rooftop panels deliver on their lofty promises?


Image credit (Mahima)


An average rooftop system saves 4-7 tonnes of CO2 per year, which is the equivalent of planting 100 trees or removing 8 automobiles from the road for a year. Solar energy generation emits no pollutants into the atmosphere, eliminating smog, acid rain, and respiratory ailments, resulting in healthier communities(“Solar Panels Reduce CO2 Emissions More Per Acre Than Trees — and Much More Than Corn Ethanol,” 2022). Many nations provide tax credits, rebates, and net metering rules that can lower upfront costs (up to 30%!) and reward surplus energy output. The IEA research emphasises solar's dropping prices and forecasts that it will be the most inexpensive power source in most nations by 2030. Rooftop solar will become a strong instrument for lowering carbon emissions and addressing climate change as a result of its low cost(“Documenting a Decade of Cost Declines for PV Systems,” n.d.).

Rooftop solar helps to create a more decentralised and robust electricity infrastructure, making it less susceptible to disturbances and blackouts.



The cost of solar continues to decline across residential, commercial, and utility-scale PV systems, driven largely by increased module efficiency as well as lowered hardware and inverter costs(“Documenting a Decade of Cost Declines for PV Systems,” n.d.).


We might witness a reduction in global energy supply to 73%, down from 80% for more than a decade. The move indicates a good reaction, but if we see the same trend in demand for fossil fuels that we have seen for oil and gas, the objective of achieving net zero emissions will be significantly more difficult than projected (“World Energy Outlook 2023 – Analysis,” n.d.).


Challenges:

  • While rooftop solar is growing in popularity, its geographical reach is limited. Towering metropolitan environments and expansive megacities face logistical challenges, while budgetary restrictions and a lack of adequate rooftop space further limit its reach.

  •  Low-income households, who are disproportionately affected by energy expenses, sometimes find the initial investment prohibitive, compounding existing energy imbalances. 

  • Furthermore, contradictory government policies and complicated regulatory frameworks can create lengthy shadows of uncertainty, discouraging potential users. 

  • Excess solar energy storage battery technology is still in its early stages and can be costly. Solar adoption may pressure the grid until effective and economical storage alternatives become widely accessible.

  • To handle variations and preserve grid stability, integrating significant volumes of variable renewable energy like solar into current networks necessitates infrastructure modifications and sophisticated management technologies. This can be an expensive and time-consuming procedure.

These constraints function as an unseen barrier, preventing rooftop solar from achieving the heights required to have a significant impact on world energy output and being a significant player in reaching our climate change goals. 

Rooftop solar can address climate change, but there are limitations. Overcoming them will need technical developments, government assistance, and grid upgrades. Remember, it's only one piece of the problem; a comprehensive strategy that includes renewables, efficiency, and behaviour change is essential for a sustainable future. Let us capitalise on rooftop solar's promise for a better, more climate-resilient future.


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