Is solar energy really green

Generating electricity with a photovoltaic system: is it really sustainable?

The prices for solar modules have been falling for years, while electricity prices continue to rise. Having your own power plant on the roof of your house seems to be a good idea to protect yourself from rising electricity costs, to say goodbye to coal or nuclear power and thus to protect the climate and the environment.

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But of course solar energy is not "free", as it is sometimes called - neither financially nor ecologically. In photovoltaics, too, energy expenditure stands against energy gain. What the balance sheet looks like in the end is one of the questions we will answer for you here.

Advantages: Photovoltaics use the power of the sun so efficiently

To stop climate change, switching to renewable energies is essential. In addition to wind and water power, the sun is the most important source of energy for climate-friendly electricity.

1. Switching to photovoltaics reduces CO2 emissions

The Federal Environment Agency has calculated that a photovoltaic system avoids a little more than 0.6 kilograms of CO2 per kilowatt hour of electricity over its entire service life compared to conventional electricity. Depending on the size of the system, the savings in a single-family house add up to six to ten tons per year.

2. The in-house power plant supplies "real" green electricity

Not all green electricity tariffs from energy suppliers are really as "green" as they claim. Solar power from your own roof is one hundred percent green power.

3. No additional space required

In contrast to large wind or solar parks, small PV systems simply use the existing roof area and thus conserve resources.

4. Small PV systems promote the major energy transition

If electricity is generated and consumed in a decentralized manner, this relieves the power grids. There is a tendency for fewer power lines to be built.

5. Energy amortization after a few years

It is a false rumor that the manufacture of PV systems supposedly consumes more energy than they generate during their lifetime. Depending on the location, typical plants in Germany have "paid back" the amount of energy used for their production after two to three years.

Disadvantages: Solar power also has its downsides

Even though photovoltaics is generally a good thing, there are a few points that can affect its sustainability.

1. Not all solar modules have a top balance

PV modules from Chinese production have a worse carbon footprint than those from European origin. Because more fossil fuels are used in China, the CO2 emissions for production are around twice as high and the "energy payback time" is correspondingly longer. Viewed over the entire service life, they still save far more CO2 than was released during manufacture.

2. Photovoltaics can lead to waste of electricity

Consuming a lot of electricity with a clear conscience? This is also not a good idea with solar power. The most sustainable energy is still the one that is not used.

3. Displacement of solar thermal energy

Electric heating was frowned upon for a long time because a lot of energy is lost when converting electricity into heat. The booming photovoltaics are now helping electric heating to make a comeback and thus displacing another solar technology: solar thermal, which can be used for direct heating with solar energy. Solar thermal in particular is very sustainable and requires little roof space to provide heat for service water or heating support.

4. Pollutants in solar modules

Depending on the technology, PV modules contain at least small amounts of pollutants, for example lead in silicon modules and cadmium in thin-film modules. It has not yet been possible to completely replace these substances. As a rule, however, they can only get into the environment if disposed of improperly.

Conclusion: This is how your photovoltaic system becomes sustainable

A photovoltaic system on the house roof makes you less dependent on rising electricity prices and makes a significant contribution to climate protection. So that your own electricity production is really sustainable, you should not only pay attention to the price, but also to the quality and longevity of the modules and not to resort to absolutely cheap products. You can generally rely on the products of well-known manufacturers. This also applies to well-known suppliers from the Far East. However, their carbon footprint is usually less favorable.

In addition, the more efficient a system runs, the better it is for the environment. Good planning is therefore important. You can use the Co2online solar roof check to check whether your roof is suitable for photovoltaics.