Environmental disadvantages of solar energy include habitat loss, land use disruption, pressure on water resources, exposure to hazardous materials, and pollution of soil, air and water resources. Large-scale utility solar panels take up a lot of space, which can lead to environmental degradation and habitat loss. Solar farms that cover a large amount of land are likely to have an impact on local fauna and flora, especially birds. Solar farms can also inhibit the growth of local vegetation and damage agriculture.
Unlike wind energy, solar panels cannot share the land they occupy for other uses. The key arguments against solar panels are that they require more energy and equipment that burns fossil fuels to extract, manufacture and transport than they save. Another argument is that toxic chemicals are used in the manufacturing process that cause more harm than good. Such threats include the release of soil-borne pathogens and result in an increase in airborne particles that have the effect of contaminating water reservoirs.
The rate at which solar panels degrade and lose effectiveness also depends on when they were manufactured, although all solar panels have reduced their effectiveness each year after they were manufactured. The use of solar energy can have a positive and indirect effect on the environment when solar energy replaces or reduces the use of other energy sources that have greater effects on the environment. If the creation of solar panels requires more energy than they will produce over their lifetime, or similarly, if the initial effects of manufacturing solar panels are worse than the operational benefits, the technology is fundamentally flawed. However, sometimes, the large-scale deployment of such systems has to face potential negative environmental implications.
In terms of solar fields and large-scale solar energy, the amount of land needed for these operations can have negative environmental effects and adverse effects on wildlife. However, there are some negative effects on the environment, health and safety of solar panels that tend to be overlooked, even in the process of manufacturing and disposing of or recycling solar panels. Clearing land for construction and placement of the power plant can have long-term effects on the habitats of native plants and animals. In addition, dry cooling technology is significantly less effective at temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit.