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Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

This article looks at the different pros and cons of solar energy. By reading this article, you will discover what makes solar energy one of the most popular renewable energy sources in use today. You will also gain an insight into the various drawbacks it can have.

Solar Energy Pros

1. Solar Energy is Renewable

Solar energy is a renewable and sustainable energy source. The sun will support life on earth for as long as it shines. Therefore, we can rely on it, unlike non-renewable sources of energy.

2. It’s Environmentally Friendly

We can use solar energy as an environmentally friendly alternative to fossil fuels. Unlike fossil fuels, solar panels do not produce carbon dioxide or methane. These are greenhouse gases that pollute the earth and contribute to global warming.

Whilst the manufacturing of solar cells does cause pollution, this will be offset once they are up and running. By using more solar energy to meet global energy demands, we can help to improve the environment.

3. The Sun is Widely Available

The sun shines everywhere on earth. This makes it an abundant source of energy. As a result of this, solar panels are a viable option for generating electricity around the world. You can find solar energy in use everywhere from Alaska to Australia. Even the South Pole has invested in solar energy technologies.

4. Solar is Versatile

You can use solar energy in different ways. You can use it to generate electricity, but did you know you can also use it to heat water? Because of this, solar energy is more versatile when compared with other clean energy sources. For example, wind turbines can only generate electricity.

5. Solar Energy Reduces Fossil Fuel Consumption

As we use more solar energy, we reduce the need to burn fossil fuels. This can help to conserve dwindling supplies of the earth’s natural resources. Fossil fuels such as coal, oil, and natural gas will one day run out.

By using more renewable energy and fewer fossil fuels, we help to conserve the earth’s resources. This not only has environmental benefits, but it also helps to support future generations.

6. Solar Panels Are Quiet

After the installation of solar panels, there is little noise associated with the technology. You might hear a slight hum if you stand next to a solar panel, but that’s about it. Because of this, many people consider solar energy to be a low noise energy solution.

Other renewable energy technologies can be noisy. For example, wind turbines can create significant levels of noise pollution. This can lead to disputes, legal action, and even protests.

7. The Sun is Free to Use

We can use the sun’s energy resources completely free of charge. After the initial cost of solar panels, there is no charge for the solar energy your system consumes.

With fossil fuels, there is a charge for the raw materials at some point in the energy production cycle. As a result of this, domestic solar panels will help to reduce your monthly electric bills.

8. You Can Install Solar Panels On Your Roof

Solar panels require a large footprint to be able to generate enough electricity to power a building. Whilst this is sometimes a disadvantage of solar energy, we can install solar panels onto rooftops to mitigate the issue.

9. Solar Panels Are Low Maintenance

One of the key advantages in our list of pros and cons is that solar panels are low maintenance. The lack of moving parts in a solar cell reduces maintenance significantly. Because of this, they can be left running for years without experiencing any problems.

You should clean your solar panels at regular intervals to ensure peak efficiency. Apart from this, they are generally low in maintenance. This can also help to provide a return on investment over the lifetime of the system.

Somebody cleaning a solar panel.
You can clean solar panels to improve their efficiency.

10. Solar Energy Has Low Running Costs

Solar energy is completely free to use. As a result, solar panels have low running costs. After installation, the only cost you are likely to encounter is for any maintenance you might need.

11. Solar Can Power Remote Locations

Solar energy has the potential to generate electricity in remote locations. It could be very expensive to run power cables to such areas. Because of this, solar energy can be a wise investment for remote electricity production.

We can also use solar energy as a portable power option. For example, devices exist that can charge a smartphone directly from the sun. Portable solar lights are another example of this. You can use them in your garden or take them on camping trips.

Even the aviation industry is tapping into the benefits of solar energy. A key example of this is the recent Solar Impulse project. This project saw a solar-powered plane fly 40,000km around the world. The project is helping to pave the way for a new generation of portable solar technologies.

12. Solar Energy Offers Return on Investment

A well-designed solar energy system should provide a return on investment (ROI) over its lifetime. Government tax credits and state grants are sometimes available to help speed up ROI and help turn a profit.

Some countries offer a ‘feed-in tariff’. This process allows any excess electricity a solar panel might produce to be sold back to the grid. This can help to accelerate ROI and bring in a steady income.

13. Solar Increases Energy Security

We can use solar energy to reduce our dependency on foreign energy supplies. As a result of this, we can increase our ‘energy security’. This is a term we use to describe the association between national security and the availability of natural resources for energy consumption.

War, sanctions and other political issues can all have an effect on a country’s energy supply. Therefore, when we produce our own energy, we are less vulnerable to such factors.

14. Solar Panels Are Efficient

Technological advancements in the solar energy industry are helping to drive the efficiency of solar panels. Modern solar cells are far more efficient than those made only five or ten years ago. Whatsmore, they are on track to see a further increase in efficiency over the coming years.

15. The Solar Energy Industry Creates Jobs

The emergence of solar energy technologies has led to a big increase in demand for such systems. As a result, this has helped to create a global industry of manufacturers, suppliers, and installers. This industry has created jobs for many people right across the globe.

In 2018, the solar photovoltaic (PV) industry employed over 3.6 million people worldwide. This is a massive amount of jobs and shows how important the industry is to the global economy. Data for this statement was taken from IRENA’s annual review of renewable energy and jobs. We used the 2019 annual review which you can find here.

Solar Energy Cons

1. Solar Panels Are Expensive

The upfront costs of installing home solar power systems can run into the tens of thousands of dollars. This upfront capital is hard to find for many homeowners. Some people might even choose to take out loans to fund their project – a process that would add even more cost.

The initial cost of solar panels is one of the most important factors in our solar energy pros and cons list.

2. The Sun Doesn’t Shine All Day Long

The sun only shines during daylight hours. Because of this, we can’t use solar panels to generate electricity during the night. This makes them useless when it’s dark.

We can use batteries to store electricity for use at night. The problem with batteries is that they are expensive and take up lots of space. Most importantly, they might not provide enough energy storage for the needs of a busy household. This can lead to electricity shortages during the night.

Seasonal changes in daylight hours further influence this disadvantage. Solar panels will generate less electricity when the nights are long and more when the nights are short.

Solar panels before a beautiful sunset.
Solar panels can’t generate electricity in the dark.

3. Solar Panels Are Vulnerable to Atmospheric Conditions

Various atmospheric conditions can have a negative impact on solar panels. Long lasting periods of heat and humidity can reduce the performance of a solar cell. Delamination of solar panels can sometimes occur in these conditions.

Pollution can also reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Because of this, they can be a less viable option for those living in highly polluted towns and cities. Cloud cover and fog can also reduce the efficiency of a solar cell.

4. Sola Panels Have a Large Footprint

Solar panels often require a large footprint to provide enough electricity to power a building. Compared with other renewable energy technologies, solar panels have the largest footprint for the power they generated.

Because of this issue, some homeowners worry about not have enough space for the installation. You can, however, mitigate the problem by installing solar panels on your roof.

5. Manufacturing Solar Cells Causes Pollution

Although solar cells don’t produce pollution themselves, the manufacturing of them does. Solar cells contain silicon which is extracted from raw materials in a blast furnace. This process releases large quantities of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere.

As a result of this, the manufacturing process of solar cells can be bad for the environment. On the other hand, once they are up and running, they will help to offset their carbon footprint. This is based on the assumption that they are now generating energy that would have previously been generated from the burning of fossil fuels.

Summary

We can summarize that on the plus side, solar energy is both sustainable and environmentally friendly. We can use it to generate power and heat water in many parts of the world. On the downside, the technology is relatively expensive and can only generate power during the day. It is also sometimes vulnerable to atmospheric conditions that affect its efficiency.

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