What are the Pros and Cons of Solar Energy?
Solar energy is changing the way the world produces power. However, like any new technology, it comes with some pros and cons. Today, we’re discussing everything you need to know about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
Pros of Solar Energy:
This is the first and most obvious benefit of solar energy. It’s renewable. The sun will die eventually – but it will take 5 billion years. For now, the sun’s energy is completely renewable. That energy is hitting our planet every day. Solar technology just lets us take advantage of energy that’s already hitting our planet.
One of the annoying thing about wind power is that wind turbines can be noisy. Other forms of energy production can also be loud. Solar energy, however, is completely quiet. Solar radiation quietly hits your solar panels, or gets absorbed into your home as a type of heating. There’s no noise involved.
With solar energy, we don’t have to extract anything from the earth. We don’t have to spend energy to make energy. Sure, you need energy to produce solar panels – but that energy is minimal compared to the amount of energy produced by solar panels over their lifetime. Overall, solar panels are one of the most eco-friendly forms of energy production – and improved efficiencies are making solar panels more eco-friendly every day.
An incredible amount of solar energy hits our planet every day. Estimates vary, but one report from 2002 showed that the earth absorbs more solar energy in one hour than we consume in one full year. It’s an abundant source of energy that isn’t going to disappear for 5 billion years. That energy is just hitting our planet, waiting to be captured. It’s very abundant.
Can Be Used in Multiple Applications
When people talk about solar energy, we generally assume they’re talking about solar panels and electricity. However, solar energy can be used in many different applications. Technically, your home uses solar energy to heat itself. Some homes are specifically designed to capture this solar energy (this is called “passive” solar energy production). In any case, the uses for solar energy involve more than just electricity and solar panel systems.
Other uses for solar energy include using it to distill water in Africa and bring clean water to at-risk communities. Or, it can be used to generate electricity in places far off the grid – like Arctic research stations and remote jungle villages.
Financial Support from Governments and Organizations
Today, governments around the world are dedicated to reducing their nation’s dependence on unsustainable, non-renewable resources. Solar is one of the best forms of renewable energy we’ve identified in terms of return on investment. That’s why many local, regional, and national governments are promoting solar energy use with rebate programs, tax incentives, and more.
Technology is Becoming More Efficient
Solar panel technology has improved significantly over the decades. Today, solar panels are cheaper and more efficient than ever before in human history. Next year, we’ll be able to say the same thing. As solar panels become cheaper and more efficient, they’re becoming a more viable option for people around the world.
Little Maintenance Required
Solar panels require surprisingly little maintenance over the years. Typically, solar panel owners only need to clean their panels once or twice a year. Solar panels are also famously durable. Most solar panel manufacturers offer a 20 or 25 year warranty on their solar panels.
Cons of Solar Energy:
High Upfront Costs
There’s no getting around it: solar panels have a high barrier to entry. Solar panel technology is cutting-edge stuff. You’re not going to get the panels for free, and you’re not going to install them on your home or business for free.
Fortunately, we have more options for cheap solar panels today than ever before. There are a wide range of manufacturers building solar panels for all budgets. There are also subsidy programs and tax incentives in place.
In recent years, we’ve seen the rise of solar panel leasing programs. Companies will install solar panels on your home totally free of charge. The company makes money when you lock into a 20 or 25 year contract to purchase energy through that provider. The company is responsible for ongoing repairs and maintenance, and the homeowner doesn’t own the solar panels (although there’s typically an option to buy the solar panels at the end of the contract period).
Ultimately, solar panels are undoubtedly expensive. However, solar panels have never been more affordable than they are today – and the price continues to drop every year.
Intermittent Power Generation
Solar panels are fantastic if you live in sunny climates. Most of us, however, don’t live in a perfectly sunny climate. Most of us live in a place with seasons, weather, clouds, rain, and other things that can disrupt your solar energy production.
Regardless of your weather, solar panels can’t access sunlight at night. Overall, the intermittent power generation of solar panels means they’re not an ideal choice as your only energy source.
Expensive Energy Storage
Energy storage systems are the best way to solve the intermittent power generation of solar power. However, today’s energy storage systems – like batteries and battery systems – are expensive.
Requires Significant Space
You might live in a sunny climate that’s perfectly suited for solar panels. However, if you don’t have enough space on your roof or your property, then you won’t be able to produce much solar energy. Solar panels require significant space.
Remember up above when I said there are cheap and expensive solar panel manufacturers? The most expensive solar panels maximize your square footage and provide the best “power density”, measured in watts per square meter. Cheaper solar panels take up more space while producing less energy.
Like any new technology, solar panels aren’t perfect. There are some downsides to solar panels. However, most will agree that the benefits of solar power far outweigh the costs.