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It has been replaced by
"How Sustainable is PV Solar Power (4h)?"

Advantages of Solar Power: An Online Course for Beginners

In this course, you will:

  • Discover the role solar power plays in the world's electricity supply

  • Learn how solar cells and solar panels are made

  • Determine the ecological footprint of solar power systems using life cycle anlaysis

  • Use life cycle assessment to gain an understanding of the sustainability advantages of solar power

  • Understand how solar panels can be recycled and how much waste solar photovoltaic technology is expected to generate in the future

What you'll learn

In this course, we'll cover the following topics

  • Our solar powered future

    We'll see how big a role solar power is expected to play in the global energy mix of the future.

  • Solar Panel Manufacturing

    We'll learn what solar panels are made of and how they are manufactured.

  • The Advantages of Solar Power

    We'll use life cycle assessment to determine the ecological footprint of solar PV technology. We'll look at its Energy Payback Time (EPBT), greenhouse gas emissions, sulphur oxides (SOx) and nitrogen oxides (NOx) emissions, heavy metals emissions, water usage and land usage.

  • Recycling

    Waste will be generated as solar panels are taken out of service. We'll see what this waste is composed of, how much of it there will be and how these materials can be recycled.


  • Duration : 3 hours

    This course allows participants to earn 3 engineering PDH (Professional Development hours).

  • Level: Introductory

    This course is suitable for beginners. More advanced students will benefit from this analysis of the environmental impacts of the various solar photovoltaic technologies.

  • Audience

    Engineers • Solar Enthusiasts • Anyone wanting to learn about solar PV's current status and potential

  • Requirements

    No prerequisites needed

  • Format: 100% online

    Start instantly and progress at your own speed • On-demand video and text lessons • 2-year access from mobile telephone and computer

  • Shareable Certificate: Yes

    Earn a shareable completion certificate indicating that you have earned 3 engineering PDH (Professional Development Hours).

5 Advantages of Solar Power

An overview of this online course

In 2018, photovoltaic solar power accounted for 2.4% of the world’s electricity production. 

Bertrand Piccard  

Founder, chairman and co-pilot of Solar Impulse

Solar Impulse is the first solar-powered aircraft to complete a round-the-world trip powered only by the sun, using no fuel, causing no polluting emissions and even flying at night. On July 3rd, 2015, Solar Impulse concluded a record-breaking solo flight of 5 days and 5 nights without fuel from Nagoya, Japan to Hawaii, USA. The goal of this ongoing project is to promote energy efficiency and the use of renewable energies to protect our quality of life.

The German Advisory Council on Global Change predicts that by 2100 the sun will supply more than 50% of the world's energy.  

The German Advisory Council on Global Change predicts that by 2100 the sun will supply more than 50% of the world's energy.

With such growth on the horizon, a rigorous assessment of the environmental impacts of this technology has become necessary. In this course, you will learn about life cycle analysis and use it to identify these five environmental advantages of solar power. 

Read more

Solar Energy Advantage 1Solar PV systems produce net clean electricity 93% of their lifetime.

Solar Energy Advantage 2PV technologies are amongst the cleanest electricity production methods in terms of greenhouse gas emissions.

Solar Energy Advantage 3Solar power produces very little heavy metals emissions.

Solar Energy Advantage 4Solar power requires less land than wind, hydro and biomass power plants.

Solar Energy Advantage 5Waste generated from decommissioned solar panels can be recycled.

Here's a summary of these advantages of solar power.

How much net clean energy do solar modules produce?

The production of silicon solar modules requires a significant amount of energy as silicon is processed in furnaces reaching 1400 degrees Celsius. If these furnaces are powered by "dirty energy", for example, a coal power plant, then we could argue that manufacturing solar panels is bad for the environment, and solar PV shouldn't be used on a large scale, if at all. 

On the other hand, once these solar modules are put into service, they can produce clean energy for an average of 30 years.  

In this course, you will see a study showing that solar modules produce net clean energy over 93% of their lifetime. 

Back to the advantages of solar power

Does solar PV technology cause greenhouse gas emissions? How much?

It's pretty obvious that once installed, solar modules do not produce any greenhouse gases. But what about during the earlier stages of their life-cycle, like during the extraction of the raw materials needed to make them and during the manufacturing process itself?

We answer this question using a life-cycle analysis (LCA). LCA takes into consideration the material and energy inputs to all stages leading up to and including the production of the solar modules, as well as to the processes used to manufacture what is known as balance of system (BoS) components. BoS refers to all of the components associated with the PV system other than the solar modules themselves.

This analysis shows that solar PV power plants emit 50X less greenhouse gas emissions than coal, and 6X less than gas with carbon capture. It is on par with nuclear in the United States.

Back to the advantages of solar power

Do solar modules emit heavy metals into the environment?

When evaluating the heavy metals emissions of PV technologies two aspects must be considered; direct emissions and indirect emissions.

Direct emissions of heavy metals could occur during the mining and the processing of raw materials and also during the manufacturing of PV modules.

Indirect emissions are those associated with the generation of the energy used in the mining steps and the industrial processes that make up the PV life cycle.

One heavy metal of particular concern is cadmium since once released, it can persist in the environment for a long time. It can be transported from one location to another, either by the wind or by water, potentially causing damage to human health and wildlife.

In this course, you will see that the cadmium emissions of all solar PV technologies, including CdTe (cadmium telluride), are comparable to nuclear and natural gas.


Back to the advantages of solar power

How much land does a solar PV power plant need?

A major concern regarding the grand-scale global deployment of solar PV technology is the amount of land that would be needed for the installation of the solar arrays.

In this course, we will present estimations of the land usage of 14 renewable and non-renewable energy resources. We will show that solar PV is the 6th least land-intensive resource for electricity production. Solar PV will require less land as the efficiency of solar cells increases and new photovoltaic technologies emerge. For example, solar power-producing building materials like roof shingles and windows. 

Back to the advantages of solar power

Can the waste generated from decommissioned solar modules be recycled?

Growing PV panel waste presents a new environmental challenge but has also led to innovations in the recovery of raw materials. 

Recycling: A Solar Panels Life after Death [infographic]

Back to the advantages of solar power


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Watch Intro Video

How clean is solar energy?

The Environmental Advantages of Solar Power


What engineers are saying about this course


- SS from Manitoba

Thanks I really got more knowledge in the solar energy

- HA from Saudi Arabia


Shareable Certificate

Enroll in the full course

Instantly download your completion from your student dashboard. It will state that you've earned 3 professional development hours (3 PDH). 

Share your certificate by:

1. Posting directly to social media:  Linkedin, Facebook and Twitter

2. Sharing its link

3. Downloading it as a PDF

Free Preview & eBook Download

Access this course from your desktop or mobile device

See the first two sections of this course and download the complete course notes for FREE. No credit card information required.


Chemical Engineer

Marianne Salama, Eng., MBA

Marianne is the president and founder of iPolytek, a company whose mission is to provide training on the latest developments in engineering and relate these innovations to the most pressing issues of our time: climate change, water quality, air quality, and sustainability.

Marianne is a chemical engineer with over 18 years of experience in the field of air and water treatment using ozone. She is a graduate of McGill University (B.Eng.) and holds a Masters in Business Administration (MBA) from the John Molson School of Business. A member of the Order of Engineers of Quebec (OIQ) and the International Society of Sustainability Professionals, Marianne writes about a variety of subjects, including environmental technologies, renewable resources, and the energy transition.

" For me, engineering is about making the world a better place: one idea, one design, one project at a time. "

Frequently Asked Questions

  • Are you an approved professional development course provider in Canada?

    Approval is not required. Canadian engineering boards do not approve, recommend or endorse any professional development course providers or courses.

  • Are you an approved professional development course provider in the USA?

    Approval is not required with the exception of the following states: Florida, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, and Indiana.

    iPolytek has not yet sought to be approved in these states. Therefore, engineers from these state should not use our courses to accumulate professional development hours. If you are from one of these states and would like to take our courses in the future, let us know.

  • How long do I have to complete the course once I have purchased it?

    You have 2 years to complete this course. You can find the course expiration date on the invoice saved in your account's order history. You will receive a notification email 30 days, 7 days and 1 day before your enrollment expires.

  • What is your refund policy?

    Due to the digital nature of our courses, we do not issue refunds. We encourage you to preview our courses and download the course notes for free before purchasing.


    The engineering boards of Florida, New York, New Jersey, North Carolina, Maryland, and Indiana require pre-approval of professional development course providers. iPolytek has not yet sought to be approved in these states. Therefore, engineers from these state cannot use our courses to accumulate professional development hours.

Professional Development

This course has been written to meet the professional development requirements defined by the orders of engineers of the following Canadian provinces and territories and the engineering boards of the following US states. These governing bodies do not require pre-approval of courses or course providers. For more information on the continuing education requirements set forth by your order or board, please click on your province or state below. 




AL, AK, AZ*, AR, CA*, CO*, CT*, DE, GA, HI*, ID, IL, IA, KS, KY, LA, ME, MA*, MI, MN, MS, MO, MT, NE, NV, NH, NM, ND, OH, OK, OR, PA, RI*, SC, SD, TN, TX, UT, VT, VA, WA*, WV, WI, WY

* These states do not have a professional development policy at this time.

It remains the engineer’s responsibility to determine whether an activity meets the guidelines set by their licensing body. It is also the engineer's responsibility to maintain and submit records of professional development activities to their engineering board.