Solar energy is one of the most cost-effective and efficient sources of power, which has gained immense popularity over the years. Although solar energy is usually considered safer in comparison to other conventional power plants and generators, the overall operation of a solar-powered device may not be completely safe or ecological. People usually have this misconception because the solar power they are using comes from batteries, which in return makes the usage of electricity much safer and more comfortable.
However, to burst their bubble, that is not entirely true. To add to the fact, they are somewhat dependent on environmental conditions and may represent potential health risk factors due to the toxic chemicals and byproducts associated with their operation, which may also result in electrical failures and cause a fire. This, therefore, can cause severe injuries to individuals, including death.
Are Solar Panels Safe?
Like any other modern-day electronic appliance, solar panels are also prone to system failures. Solar panels (may be polycrystalline or monocrystalline) or modules generally have a lower voltage, leading to the idea of a safer option; however, the lowest voltage believed to have caused an individual’s death is around 60 volts.
Therefore, let’s quickly go through the possible dangers of solar panels and discuss them in detail:
1. Danger Of Electric Shock:
In case of excess electricity usually generated by a solar panel, it is stored either in one or a group of batteries kept inside the house. These batteries possess the ability to store up to 600 volts of electrical power and remain charged even after being removed from the energy source system, which can lead to several health risks in general. The mishandling of these batteries can cause permanent electrical damage, cause fire and even, be responsible for an individual’s death.
Additionally, the direct current or DC produced by the solar modules is significantly more hazardous to human beings in comparison to alternating current or AC. This is because that way, it affects the muscles of the body more. Although in many cases, the said modules may not produce more than 30 volts by themselves, they may be connected in series to deliberately produce much higher and dangerous voltages. Therefore, this also reveals that we must be very careful while handling solar panels and not completely ignore the possible dangers of their usage.
2. Danger Of Fire:
One of the most common potential risks when it comes to solar panels is the danger of causing a fire. It can be caused due to many reasons such as loose or poorly connected wiring, a weak ground connection, or even the usage of parts that do not match the specific unit. Additionally, spontaneous combustion, either from the parts within the collector or even in the surrounding environment resulting from higher levels of heat production, may also generate fire. Interestingly, the chances of causing fire due to solar power installations are comparatively less, although the risk may increase if careless wiring or improper equipment has been used.
3. Danger Of Toxic Chemicals:
Solar panels and batteries are manufactured in a process involving many toxic chemical materials such as arsenic, cadmium, etc., that generate hazardous byproducts like hexafluoride, silicon tetrachloride, sulfur, etc. Therefore, as an obvious fact, these chemicals impact the surrounding environment negatively and pose serious threats to human and animal health.
4. Dangers With Batteries:
Batteries store an excessive amount of energy, making them prone to danger when and if dissipated in a short period. To provide an estimate, the energy contained in a battery specifically for an off-grid system may be around 20-60 KW/hours. Thus, when this energy is released over a shorter period of time, a large amount of heat may be generated, ultimately causing a short circuit and/or fire.
In the case of lead-acid batteries, they mostly give out hydrogen while being charged, which is generally combustible and can become explosive when mixed with air. There are many cases that indicate serious injury in people caused by vehicle battery accidents, which may store 1/100th of the energy of a solar-powered battery.
5. Danger Of Earthing:
To begin with, whether the solar panel is connected to an already existing network or independent, it must be grounded. This is a basic safety rule which upon neglecting may ignite an electrical malfunction, ultimately causing serious damage to the electrical appliances.
Thus, to conclude, home solar energy is essentially a type of electrical power that is required to be treated with caution and care, just like any other type of electrical power. Additionally, increasing solar energy can result in increased incidences of cervical and liver cancer, as per research, studies, and cases recorded.
Solar panels consist of solar cells made up of semiconductor materials that cause electrons to break from their atoms and flow as electricity under direct sunlight. Therefore, homeowners may choose to install solar panels on their roofs (check how to clean solar panels on roof) in case they wish to switch over to solar energy.