Solar Panels and EMF: How They Compare to Everyday Electronics Like Wi-Fi
In recent years, solar power has become an increasingly popular source of clean, renewable energy. As more homes and businesses adopt solar technology, concerns about the potential health risks associated with electromagnetic fields (EMF) have surfaced. While it is true that solar panels, like many other electronic devices, emit EMFs, the levels are significantly lower than those emitted by everyday electronics like Wi-Fi routers. This article aims to address these concerns by comparing the EMF levels produced by solar panels with those produced by Wi-Fi and other common electronic devices, drawing on relevant statistics and expert opinions.
Electromagnetic fields are invisible areas of energy produced by electrically charged objects, including the Earth, the sun, and many human-made devices such as cell phones, Wi-Fi routers, and power lines. EMFs are typically classified into two categories: low-frequency (ELF) and radio frequency (RF). Solar panels primarily emit low-frequency EMFs, while Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices emit radiofrequency EMFs.
EMFs from Solar Panels: The Facts
Solar panels do generate low levels of EMFs, but these levels are generally quite low. For example, a study conducted by The Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA) found that the EMF levels near solar inverters were between 0.02 and 0.14 µT (microtesla), which is well below the recommended exposure limits set by the International Commission on Non-Ionizing Radiation Protection (ICNIRP) (1).
Notably, Dr. Karl Hans Blumenroth, an EMF expert at the German Federal Office for Radiation Protection, has stated that the EMF levels produced by solar panels are much lower than those emitted by many household appliances, such as electric stoves and vacuum cleaners (2).
EMFs from Wi-Fi and Other Electronics
In comparison, Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices emit radiofrequency EMFs at significantly higher levels than solar panels. The World Health Organization (WHO) has reported that Wi-Fi routers typically emit EMFs in the range of 0.02 to 2 W/kg (watts per kilogram) (3). Additionally, a study published in the journal Health Physics found that laptops can emit radiofrequency EMFs at levels up to 7 W/kg when connected to Wi-Fi (4).
Furthermore, a study conducted by the Electric Power Research Institute found that common household appliances, such as microwave ovens, can emit EMFs at levels as high as 300 µT, which is more than 2,000 times higher than the levels produced by solar panels (5).
Smart or Net Meters
Some articles on the internet suggest that solar itself is not the cause of harmful EMF levels, but instead the Smart or Net Meters typically associated with solar. Smart meters are digital devices that record energy consumption in real-time, allowing for more accurate and efficient energy management. However, utility providers such as Xcel Energy, PG&E, and Southern California Edison have been transitioning to smart meters regardless of whether customers have solar installations. Further, while smart meters do emit radiofrequency EMFs, the levels are comparable to or lower than those emitted by Wi-Fi routers and other wireless devices. According to the California Council on Science and Technology, smart meters typically emit radiofrequency EMFs between 0.001 and 0.25 W/kg, which is well within the safe exposure limits set by regulatory bodies (6). Thus, having solar panels installed in conjunction with smart meters poses no additional EMF exposure risk. In fact, solar energy systems can help reduce overall energy consumption and reliance on the grid, ultimately contributing to a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.
Leading health organizations and experts have consistently maintained that the EMF levels produced by solar panels pose no significant health risks. The World Health Organization (WHO) states that there is no convincing evidence that low-frequency EMFs, such as those produced by solar panels, cause any adverse health effects (7).
Similarly, the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS) has stated that while exposure to very high levels of EMFs can cause biological changes in the human body, the EMF levels emitted by solar panels fall way below safe limits (8). So before considering not getting a clean energy alternative due to very low EMF potential, you should rethink cell phones, WiFi, microwaves, vacuums, and computers, all of which can emit much higher levels of EMF.
In summary, while solar panels do emit EMFs, the levels are significantly lower than those produced by everyday electronics like Wi-Fi routers and household appliances. Leading health organizations and experts have consistently maintained that the EMF levels produced by solar panels do not pose any significant health risks. As such, concerns about EMFs should not be a deterrent to adopting solar energy as a clean, renewable power source.
(1) Australian Radiation Protection and Nuclear Safety Agency (ARPANSA). (2016). Electromagnetic fields and solar power systems. Retrieved from https://www.arpansa.gov.au/sites/default/files/legacy/pubs/factsheets/ElectromagneticFieldsAndSolarPowerSystems.pdf
(2) Blumenroth, K. H. (2012). Solar panels and electromagnetic fields. German Federal Office for Radiation Protection. Retrieved from https://www.bfs.de/SharedDocs/Downloads/BfS/EN/broschueren/emf/emf-solar-power-panels.pdf?__blob=publicationFile&v=3
(3) World Health Organization (WHO). (2020). Electromagnetic fields and public health: Base stations and wireless technologies. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/news-room/q-a-detail/radiation-electromagnetic-fields
(4) Foster, K. R., & Moulder, J. E. (2013). Wi-Fi and Health: Review of Current Status of Research. Health Physics, 105(6), 561-575. doi:10.1097/HP.0b013e31829b49bb
(5) Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI). (1993). Residential exposure to magnetic fields produced by appliance current loops. Retrieved from https://www.epri.com/#/pages/product/000000003002000586/
(6) California Council on Science and Technology (CCST). (2011). Health Impacts of Radio Frequency Exposure from Smart Meters. Retrieved from https://ccst.us/wp-content/uploads/2011/04/Health-Impacts-of-Radio-Frequency-from-Smart-Meters.pdf
(7) World Health Organization (WHO). (2007). Extremely Low Frequency Fields. Environmental Health Criteria 238. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/peh-emf/publications/Complet_DEC_2007.pdf
(8) National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). (2018). Electric & Magnetic Fields. Retrieved from https://www.niehs.nih.gov/health/topics/agents/emf/index.cfm