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What are the advantages and what are the disadvantages to solar energy? Solar energy has a lot going for it and the benefits keep growing as we get a better understanding of how to use solar energy and new technology allows us to get more out of what we can use. But there are some inherent disadvantages to using solar energy as well. Most of the advantages do have an opposing view of why it’s not as good as it seems. If you look hard enough though I think you will find that almost any disadvantage that solar energy has there is a solution to work around this problem. You may even find that some drawbacks have benefits themselves that you may not have thought of. So lets take a look at some of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy.
Advantages of Solar Energy
- First – Solar energy is free
- Second – Solar energy is everywhere
- Third – Solar energy is a renewable resource
- Fourth – Decentralizing the power grid
- Fifth – You can be off the grid entirely
- Sixth – Using solar energy is getting cheaper
- Seventh – You can make money selling power
- Eighth – Solar energy does not create air pollution
- Ninth – Solar energy does not create noise pollution
- Tenth – Solar energy could save you money from day 1
- Eleventh – Solar energy can be harnessed many ways
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
- First disadvantage of solar energy – Solar energy Will not work when it’s night time
- Second – Solar energy setup is initially high
- Third – Solar energy just is not efficient enough
- Fourth – Solar energy does not perform well in poor weather
- Fifth – Solar energy system require large areas to work well
- Sixth – Solar energy required backup power which can be cumbersome
- Seventh – Solar panels needs to be facing the sun to work
Explore The Solar Energy Advantage
1st. Solar Energy Is Free
Free, meaning you do not have to pay for it. The energy that drives all solar powered devices and solar powered systems is completely free. This energy falls down on us like rain. This is like buying a car or a generator and never having to pay for the fuel you put in it. I’m sure we would all like that.
2nd. Solar Energy Is Everywhere
Energy sources are location specific in most cases, whether it is coal, oil, natural gas, wind, hydrogen, hydro power or what have you every other resource is location specific in some way. Solar is really the only resource that is available no matter where you are on the planet. Almost every inch of the earths surface receives solar energy on a predictable regular basis.
3rd. Solar Energy Is A Renewable Resource
We talk all the time about renewable energy, but what is renewable? What does renewable mean? Renewable basically means that if we use this fuel today it doesn’t reduce the amount of that fuel that is available tomorrow. Now yes the sun will expire some day in the distant future but as long as the earth is around the sun will be shining. So solar is definitely a renewable energy source.
4th. Decentralizing the Power Grid
I’m sure we’ve all had the annoyance of having a power outage from time to time. In most cases power is restored relatively quickly. However in some cases power does remain out for days. Why does this happen? Because we have large power plants that are centrally located that provide power along long stretches of power lines. When these lines are damaged it takes time to repair them. Going with solar power helps to limit this by spreading power production across the grid. This diversification of power production helps us all be less susceptible to mass power outages do to storms, car accidents computer errors, hackers and possible terror attacks aimed at bringing down our infrastructure. This model of diversification isn’t limited to solar either. The BLoom Box from Bloom Energy aims at doing this to. A diversified source of anything is inherently more stable. Whether you’re talking about food, fuel. money, employment, what have you. It all goes back to the saying “Don’t have all your eggs in one basket.”
5th. You Can Be Off The Grid Entirely
OK, decentralizing of the power grid is great right? How about being completely energy independent. With solar you can do this. Isn’t this a great idea. Produce your own power when and where you need it. Let’s face it some people still like to live off the beaten path or have a house on the outskirts of town or maybe on an island retreat, who knows. What I do know is this, if you want to have an out of the way place and if you want power run to it from the standard power company guess what? You’re going to pay for it. Whether your talking about power, cable or phone if you need the utility company to run a special line for you to have that service they will stick you with the bill. In the past if you couldn’t or wouldn’t pay the bill you had to do with out. Now there are more options to wirelessly get these services to you. Solar power is like wireless power.
6th. Harnessing Solar Energy Is Getting Cheaper
That’s right in a day in age where everything seems to be going up and mass inflation is looming. Power from solar panels is going down. Getting set up with solar panels now is 100’s of times less than what it used to be with the price still dropping. A lot of experts are saying that we’re hitting the bottom of the price drop but i’m still not so sure. Specialized intensives are helping with the price, new loan programs are making them more affordable, efficiency is rising and still other power sources are increasing in price. So even is solar prices level off and other power sources keep rising, solar by contrast will still be that much cheaper than conventional power sources. With all these variables I think solar is going to continue to become more and more an affordable solution in the future.
7th. You Can Make Money Selling Power
In most cases when you get setup with a solar system you are really just trying to cut your overhead, stabilize your electric bill and feel better about your impact on the environment. However in some cases you might find that you are actually producing more power than you need. In those cases guess what? You get to sell that power back to the utility company. Generally electric companies are required to buy this energy back at the rate at which they sell it to you. In some cases more than what they sell it for. If you can be in this category not only have you become energy independent but you are now a small power plant creating clean green energy for someone else to use. Not only are you removing your carbon foot print but you are now helping someone else to lower theirs as well.
8th. Solar Energy Does Not Create Air Pollution
With fossil fuels, even after you have created the machine that is capable of using the stored energy in fossil fuels the fuel itself has to be burnt. Burning the he fuel creates carbon dioxide and in most cases a lot of it. Now while there is still some pollution in the production of solar panels, using solar energy itself to create power does not. Which obviously makes solar energy a much cleaner energy solution.
9th. Solar Energy Does Not Create Noise Pollution
For some people this may not be a big concern especially when we are talking about large scale energy production. Considering that we have all adapted to the noise of what we are currently using. However for some people especially those of us who are wanting to produce our own power we really don’t want to have a loud machine making a ton of noise while it’s producing power for us. Solar panels are silent. They can sit on your roof generating power and you will never hear a thing.
10th. Solar Energy Could Save You Money From Day 1
What? I’m confused aren’t solar panels expensive to buy and setup? How am I going to save money?
Well you see prices on solar panels have dropped dramatically in recent years, Solar subsidies, SREC programs, the increasing demand that power companies produce power with clean energy are all coming together to offer savings for the consumer. Now whether or not all these government kick backs and mandates are right or wrong is for another post.. Suffice to say that these programs exist and you can take advantage of them to lower your bottom line. Power purchase agreements allow you get solar panels installed for free and maintained for the life of your contract with no charge. The saving immediately come in as a lowered electric bill. As your old electric bill would have risen sharply as it’s predicted for the future you get to enjoy an ever growing saving compared to those who are still on the grid.
You can buy your own panels and get a loan by yourself and figure out the numbers and programs that are in your area that might lower your cost. In a lot of areas you can do this, own your own panels and have a lower monthly loan payment than your old electric bill. Again this loan payment will not go up it’s fixed. While conventional power is not, this price will continue to rise. It’s like renting an apartment instead of owning a house. Mortgage payments for the most part stay the same for the life of the loan where your rent is guaranteed to go up. Navigating the incentive programs can be a pain though so that is why the Power Purchase Agreements are so popular. However there is a new program that went online a few months ago, in the middle of 2014
The Mosaic Home Solar Loan Program
Now I haven’t fully researched this option yet, but from taking a quick look at it, it pretty much looks like this. RGS Energy and Mosaic have come together to launch a home solar loan program in California specifically to help you own your own solar panels. They have bundled together all the incentive programs and what not, which presumably you are allowing them to reap some of those benefits to lower you loan payments. the end result though is a streamlined loan process which pretty much guarantees that you can buy solar panels, own them outright and have a lower loan payment then your current electric bill.
Click here for more info on the Mosaic Home Solar Loan Program.
11th. Solar energy can be harnessed many ways
The most common way people think about harnessing solar power is through PV solar panels. Although the ultimate goal is to create an ultra efficient solar panel that can produce energy that you can use any way you want is great and we will eventually get there. However there are a number of other ways we can use solar energy to our advantage.
- You can create electricity from solar energy without solar panels.
- You can heat your home in winter with solar energy.
- You can cool your home in summer with solar energy.
- You can cook with solar energy.
Electricity can be created without solar panels. Although solar panels are very popular there is a device known as a solar power dish. A popular one was manufactured by the Infinia Company. Although the company did go bankrupt this does not invalidate there product. A reflective dish simply concentrates solar energy on a device called a sterling engine. Heat causes air to expand, expanding air moves a piston, the piston turns a wheel, and this wheel then turns a magnet to create electricity. I like this process because it’s simpler technology cheaper to build and per square foot produces more energy. However you do have to work with a dish instead of a thin flat panel. The concept however is there, people have made all sorts of devices with this technology. On www.youtube.com you can find power generators like this or one guy even made a solar powered go kart that doesn’t use solar panels.
You can heat your home with solar power. Again having solar panels on your roof that supply enough power so you can just flick a switch and get what you want is what everybody really wants, simple, convenient and free we just aren’t quite there yet. If you’re willing to build a house to take advantage of natural solar heating though you can passively regulate your homes temperature. Even in winter if your home is properly built you can get all the heat you need. Just like having a gardening green house and growing plants year round. Part of your home lets in a lot of light with fixtures that are designed to absorb a lot of it and heat up. Simple concept and efficient.
You can cool your home with solar power. Emily Cummins is a girl who took an age old technology and turned it into a modern product for third world countries. A thermos sized refrigerator that will keep goods cold for days, in the middle of the desert. A lot of people don’t know this but there is phenomenon that happens all the time. Evaporative cooling. This is most commonly experienced when we sweat, when water turns into a gas and evaporates it removes energy in the form of heat from our bodies. As energy is removed we get cooler. This phenomenon has been in use all over the place and it can very well be used to cool your home with just solar energy and water. People have been able to build air conditioners that require no electricity.
You can cook with solar energy. If you have a nice sunny day and you feel like having a cook out you don’t need to burn gas or coal. With a reflective dish you can make up a solar powered grill. Or with tin foil you can make a solar oven. With this you can greill or bake tons of things with no need to burn any kind of gas.
Explore The Disadvantages Of Solar Energy
1st. Solar Energy Will Not Work At Night. This is correct and is a large setback for solar power especially when you are looking at small scale independent solar locations. There really is no way to get around this. Solar power is not available during the night. A way to get around this is always some form of supplemental power or a backup system of some sort. There are a few ways to do this and the options are getting better over time.
2nd. Solar Energy Has A High Start Up Cost. Even though solar prices have fallen drastically in the past few years it still costs a lot of money to get setup with a solar power system. Estimated costs still range between $25,000 to $60,000 and if your house is larger than average, prices will be more than this. For most people doing an addition to the house like this just isn’t in the budget and buying solar panels outright a little unnerving. What happens is something goes wrong or it doesn’t produce what you thought it would. For many people living off the grid power is just easier.
3rd. Solar Energy Just Isn’t Efficient Enough Yet. Solar panel efficiency ranges all over with high end solar panels getting close to 50%. However these high efficiency solar panels are not what are typically used for residential installations. Residential solar panels are still in a 10% to 20% efficiency range. So yes lower efficiency means more panels will be needed, less options will be available for mounting locations, and ultimately the more sun will be needed to make the system work.
4th. Solar Power Doesn’t Work Well In Poor Weather. Solar energy is great when the skies are clear and the sun is shinning but that doesn’t always happen. Some days you may not get much sun at all. These fluctuations make solar power in consistent and somewhat unreliable. The other downside to poor weather is possible damage to solar panels. Having a metal roof get dented or a shingle get cracked is minor if solar panels get damaged then not only do you take a hit to your power production but you have to get the panels fixed immediately if you want to keep your system working. Poor weather is an element that cannot be predicted and represents a level of risk when setting up with solar. Your gambling that the power production you paid for is going to pay off.
5th. Systems Still Need A Large Area To Work Well. Related to efficiency is the fact in order to collect enough solar energy you need a large area to work with. With home solar the roof makes sense, your not really using the space anyway and it a lot of cases it works out that this space is enough to make an impact on your electric bill. With large scale power production you do need a large area of almost constantly sunny weather to really make this work. Land becomes more and more of a premium as the population grows this could be a bigger and bigger issue. Large scale power production from the sun can be done with solar panels, power dishes, or large scale solar concentration. Either way to produce massive amounts of energy for a lot of people in this way requires a lot of space.
6th. Backup Power Is Needed. OK, lets just say that you do have a great solar setup, good weather, high efficiency and everything is working great. The fact remains that when the sun goes down you still need power. And for a lot of us that is actually when we need power the most. At night is when we are cooking dinner and turning on the lights. Sitting down to enjoy some TV or play some games. Unfortunately this is when your system stops producing energy. So you need to have some way to get energy after the sun goes down. There are a few options for this. You can still be connected to the grid and this is the most common. Or you can have a battery backup.
7th. The Solar Power System Needs to Be Facing The Sun. Another limiting factor is that your house may be in a good location, but if your home wasn’t built so the roof is facing the sun for the most part of the day the system won’t work for you. So the amount of people who can actually take advantage of privately owned solar panels are limited not only by weather and cost but by your very house placement. This is discouraging especially if you otherwise live in a prime location.
I hope this article has helped you see some of the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. I believe that the advantages truly outweigh the disadvantages and in the long run I believe that solar power along with other clean renewable energy will one day power everything. This will happen either by choice or by necessity as fossil fuels run out. When this happens we will truly start to reverse some of the effects we have made to the planet. A future with clean air is waiting.