Are Solar Panels Sustainable? | Yes, Here Are 5 Reasons Why.

An image of solar panels surrounded by trees. Are Solar Panels Sustainable?

By definition, sustainability means that we fulfill our current needs while preserving the Earth for future generations. And, by now, we’ve all heard the talk about solar panels being environmentally friendly and good for Mama Nature… Or are they? Truly, are solar panels sustainable?

The short answer is: Yes. Compared to fossil fuels that eventually run out (hence the rising cost of power), solar panels generate electricity through the sun’s energy which, by the way, is infinite. There are a few caveats to the sustainability of solar panels, though.

Hence, why this article is going to unpack both sides of the spectrum. Feel free to tap on the bullets below to jump sections.

5 reasons why solar panels are a sustainable power supply

1. The sun is a powerful source of renewable energy.

One interesting fact about solar power is that an hour of sunlight has enough energy to power the entire world for a year. Yes, it’s that powerful.

But here’s the thing: The best monocrystalline solar panels, which are the most commonly used type of module in Australia, can only convert up to 22% of the sunlight that hits them.

There are other types of solar modules on the market, too, such as polycrystalline and thin film. They’re less efficient but with enough panels on your roof, they can still provide your home with enough solar energy.

2. The sun is an infinite source of energy.

An illustration depicts a comparison between a solar array in sunny weather and a factory emitting smoke.

Not only is the sun’s energy powerful, but it also doesn’t run out.

This is particularly important since, according to studies, fossil fuels like gas, coal, and oil will run out as soon as 2112. That immediately affects us in terms of rising electricity prices but it’s going to be even worse for our grandkids and their children.

Thankfully, the sun is here to stay – and so are solar panels.

3. Solar energy is everywhere.

All parts of the world receive sunlight. Some more than others. But, regardless, there’s hope for solar power wherever the sun shines.

To put that into perspective, even the Faroe Islands – the part of the world that receives the least amount of sun – has a solar park.

As you know, Australia doesn’t have that problem as there are days when we receive nearly 12 hours of daylight. Especially when your system includes a solar battery, that’s more than enough time to gather solar energy.

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4. Solar power is a clean energy source.

Solar PV systems don’t emit greenhouse gases when they produce electricity.

These gases aren’t bad themselves. But, in excess, they trap heat from the sun which, in turn, raises the Earth’s temperature. Hence, global warming and the terrors that it potentially brings such as land loss, floods, and negative effects on the world’s biodiversity.

Australia sees this and responds with the APS Net Zero 2030 policy. Understandably, the goal here is reducing carbon emissions to zero by 2030, thus the multiple financial incentives from the government for homes planning to switch to solar power.

5. Producing solar power doesn’t need water.

Unknown to many is that extracting, processing, and using fossil fuels need water. For example, extracting and processing coal back in 2009 required an estimated 1.3 to 4.5 billion cubic meters of water.

This reliance on water has caused numerous spills that contributed to water pollution.

Solar panels, on the other hand, do not need water to generate electricity. Sure, you might need to wash your modules from time to time but that is nowhere near as significant as the water needed to use fossil fuels.

There are a few caveats to the sustainability of solar power, though.

It’s expensive.

The table provides a comparison of the average cost per kW and the estimated cost for a 6 kW solar power system in Australia in 2010 and 2023.

As of right now (2023), expect to spend $1000 per kW if you’re planning to switch to solar power.

To be fair, that’s the lowest it has ever been because of advancements in solar-powered technology as well as the Australian government’s numerous incentives. Back in 2010, you’d have to spend an average of $7,170.

To put that into perspective, the average Aussie household would need roughly 6 kW of solar power. Today, that’s going to cost around $6000 versus $43,020 back in 2010. It’s comparatively cheaper, yes, but 6000 AUD is still a lot of money.

The high upfront cost of installation is part of what bars solar panels from being installed in every home, thus affecting their sustainability. What many don’t realize, though, is that there are multiple financing options available in AU, such as green loans and solar leasing agreements.

For further reading: Our comprehensive solar 101 guide covers your financing options.

Manufacturing solar panels require finite materials.

Solar panels are made from a variety of things layered together. Some of them are abundant, such as silicon and aluminum, so they aren’t necessarily problems. Some, however, aren’t so easy to find.

In particular, modern solar panels rely heavily on silver for their superior conductivity, stable temperature coefficient, and safety. This metal is a large reason for the advances in solar technology.

The problem is that mining silver is highly unsustainable because of corrosion. As of today, 1.4 billion kg of silver has already been mined but only less than half of that still exists as a metal.

The good news is that this problem is being solved as we speak, as experts in the industry are finding ways to further advance solar technology using more readily available materials.

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What Is The Biggest Drawback Of Solar Panels?

As of right now, the biggest drawback to solar panels is the high upfront cost. Granted, it has been the cheapest it’s ever been in Australia due to numerous incentives but expect to pay $1000 per kW for your system.

Are Solar Panels Worse For The Environment Than Fossil Fuels?

No. Solar panels are better for the environment compared to fossil fuels because the sun is an infinite source of energy, it’s readily available everywhere and every day, and processing it doesn’t produce Earth-warming emissions nor does it even need water.

Can You Power A Home With Just Solar Panels?

Absolutely you can power your home with just solar panels. That being said, your system needs to be large enough to produce enough electricity for your entire household. You would also need a battery so you can still use solar power at night.

Conclusion: Are solar panels sustainable?

In a nutshell, yes, solar panels are sustainable. They can produce electricity without emitting any greenhouse gases; the sun produces an infinite supply of readily available raw materials, and unlike fossil fuels, they don’t need water to generate electricity.

However, solar power as a sustainable power supply does have its problems. For one, it can still be a pricey investment for many of us. But, perhaps more importantly, manufacturing solar panels also requires the use of finite materials.

Both problems are being solved, though. The Australian government has made investing in renewable energy the cheapest it’s ever been through rebates and other incentives. Scientists are also finding ways to harness the sun’s energy without butchering the Earth’s supply.

That being said, allow me to leave you with this: If you’re ready to make the switch, we can provide you 3 quotes for FREE from our network of pre-vetted installers.