Luckily for the future of our planet, solar panels do not cause cancer. Solar energy is clean, efficient, and increasingly affordable– but there are solar panel conspiracy theorists out there who mistakenly believe that solar is dangerous. These are probably the same people who don’t believe in climate change. We will debunk two of the most outrageous myths right here, right now.
- Solar panels do not increase the amount of UV rays that hit a given area.
- It is impossible for solar panels to "soak up the sun" or steal it from plant life and vegetation.
As with every technological advancement, be it microwaves or solar energy, there will be those who aren’t ready to accept change. Everyone is entitled to their own opinion, but when that opinion is halting the clean energy industry in areas where it can thrive, then it’s likely that people are going to be upset.
Do Solar Panels Cause Cancer?
Fortunately for all organisms of planet Earth, solar panels do not cause cancer.
Yes, UV radiation is a known carcinogen, but solar panels do not increase the amount of UV rays that hit a given area. The whole point of a solar farm is for the sunlight to hit the photovoltaic (PV) panels, so they are specifically designed for incoming sunlight to be concentrated onto a designated space.
There is little risk of those UV rays harming a person since you probably don’t hang out on a solar farm. Even if you did decide to climb a solar panel, you would likely die of burns before you developed cancer.
The argument that there is a link between solar panels and cancer comes from outdated facts that stem from one of two schools of thought:
- We don’t know enough about solar panels to say for sure that they don’t cause cancer.
- The radiation that comes from solar panels seeps into your home and heightens the risk of cancer.
These ideas are simply not true. Over five decades of research have established that solar panels are safe to use.
The utilization of solar panels has grown tremendously in the last few decades. Solar energy appeared on the market in 1956, and the first U.S. solar plant began in 1982. The U.S. military, the oil and telecommunications industries, and freaking NASA have been using solar power for decades because it is so dependable.
We’ve had over 50 years to test it out, and SURPRISE! We’re going to be okay.
From 2010 to 2013, the amount of solar photovoltaic systems installed in the U.S. jumped more than 485 percent. Thousands of homeowners currently benefit from the technology, with tax incentives and a clear conscience topping the list of reasons to go solar.
Tax incentives vary by state, but until 2019 you can claim up to 30 percent of the cost of your solar energy system on your federal taxes.
In fact, if more people used solar energy in their homes – or approved solar farms in their town – we would be more than okay.
Bottom line: Don’t suntan on a solar panel farm, and you’ll be just fine.
Do Solar Panels Use Up All Of The Sunlight?
Another big fat nope. The reason solar energy is classified as a renewable resource is that, for all intents and purposes, the resource is not finite.
Think back a few years when wireless Internet was still a new fangled technology, and your un-tech-savvy family member warned you about “using up the Internet.”
That’s what it’s like to worry about solar panels sucking up or stealing sunlight from plants or other living organisms. If there is dead grass around the solar panels, it’s likely that they are located beneath a panel and therefore are not receiving light. But as for a solar farm stealing sunlight from crops? Not a problem.
Dr. Justine Alford, Ph.D, news editor of IFLScience, sums it up for us:
Just to give you an idea of how little energy we use compared to what is produced, the Sun puts out 3.8 x 1026 Watts, or Joules per second. The Earth’s population consumes around 15 terawatts of power (one terawatt is 1012 Watts, so this would be 1.5 x 1013 in total). So that’s 380,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000 compared with 15,000,000,000,000. But that is still irrelevant because we don’t physically drain it anyway. The Sun is a finite source of energy; it will burn out one day, but that’s not going to happen for a very, very long time (5 or so billion years).
Bottom line: There is no limit to how much sunlight we can use. Photons constantly stream towards the planet, whether we use them or not. It doesn't matter if sunlight heats a rock in the desert or a solar panel in North Carolina; the amount released by the Sun remains the same.
Safe, Reliable, Solar
According to the Environment America Research and Policy Center, 10 states are responsible for 86 percent of today’s solar electricity capacity in the U.S., and although North Carolina is one of those top 10 states, not all North Carolinians are on board.
Recently, the town council of Woodland, North Carolina voted to ban solar panel farms indefinitely. Among the reasons for rejecting this clean energy source was the fear that solar panels cause cancer, and they will “suck up all the sun,” leaving no sunlight for the plants. As a farming community, this could be a valid concern – if it were true.
After that article went viral, the town received unwanted judgment and global-scale eyerolls for their decision. Snopes even covered the article and contacted the original reporter to gauge whether he felt that he objectively reported on the town meeting. (He did.)
According to Snopes, residents argued that there were other other repercussions of the existing solar panel farms in the area. Residents argued that their property value has dropped, and the job market has suffered, so passing legislation to approve more solar panel farms would only do more damage.
Maybe the town of Woodlands isn’t wrong in proceeding with caution, but when your opinion rejects clean energy solutions that will have a positive impact on the environment, then I hate to say it, but you're asking to be schooled.
So let’s drop some knowledge on the solar panel conspiracists of the world and settle the debate once and for all. Solar panels do not cause cancer!