Solar Panels – Are They a Threat to Biodiversity?
Solar panels are gaining more recognition as key ingredients to produce eco-friendly and renewable source of energy. With growing need for more energy, there will be in future, a plethora of solar panels all over the world. Now this has become a source of eco-conservative concern, according to Mr. Bruce Robertson, Research Associate, from Kellogg Biological Station, Michigan State University.
Threat to biodiversity:
Mr. Robertson sounded a warning about a possible threat to biodiversity. He noted that the shining dark surfaces of the solar cells, which reflect light, resemble water surfaces resulting aquatic insects like mayflies depositing their eggs on the solar panels. The solar panels are posing a false habitat hazard to more than 300 species of insect. This leads to a reproductive failure which may have far-reaching cascading adverse effects to the food chain. The insects fall a prey to predators. This data was discovered from a research held at Hungary.
After their research at Hungary, Mr. Robertson and his colleagues published an online article in ‘Conservation Biology.’ Reflected sunlight from expanses of dark surfaces that are shiny like glass-clad buildings, even vehicles, solar panels of all sizes, becomes a worrisome new source for polarized light pollution. This is what causes the caddis flies and other aquatic insects to mistake shining surface to be water surface to lay their eggs.
Mr Robertson estimated that white marking the solar cells may reduce this threat to a great extent. He calculated that the efficiency of solar cells is not too greatly affected by the white grids. While humans may recognize reflected sunlight as glare, the group discovered that the aquatic insects can be warned off by fixing white-color grids and other methods to break up the polarized reflection. Non-polarizing white-grid use is a new approach for habitat fragmentation, used beneficially here.
Supported by Great Lakes Bio-energy Research Centre, U.S. Department of Energy and the Hungarian Science Foundation, Robertson and his team conducted his research at Hungary. The team consisted of scientists from Eotvos University in Budapest and Szent Istvan University in Godollo, Hungary.