The sun gives us lots of stuff. Heat, light, food, colors, a nice tan. The pros and cons of solar energy are the benefits and risks of utilizing the sun as an energy source. Solar energy is free, renewable, clean, produces no pollution, and is in plentiful supply. Many people who live in sunny areas like Arizona, California, and Texas take advantage of solar energy. They use it to power their homes and businesses. On the contrary, solar panels can impose health risks, initial setup costs are high, takes up a tons of space, indirectly increase the pollution level and power storage isn’t a feasible option yet.
Pros And Cons Of Solar Energy
- Environmental Benefits
- Flexible Application
- Dynamic Technology
- Reduced Energy Bills
- Government Incentives and Tax Rebuts
- Diversified Application
- Minimal Maintenance Cost
- Unpredicted Vulnerability
- High Setup Costs
- Space Requirements
- Expensive Energy Storage
- Indirect Pollution
Solar power had now become a popular source of renewable energy than before when it was considered expensive and futile. Governments have encouraged its use, factors such as environmental conservation motives, financial benefits, and practicability in residential, commercial, and industrial settings.
Its popularity has extended beyond generating electricity in solar lighting to applications such as:
- Solar thermal power production; a technology that harnesses solar energy and generates thermal energy used in industry
- Solar heating and cooling
- Solar water heating
- Solar transport; like the Cyber Truck by Tesla
- Solar Ventilation
- Portable Solar
These applications are each based on several solar panel technologies:
- Monocrystalline silicon
- Polycrystalline silicon
- Thin-film types; copper indium gallium selenide (CIS/CIGS)
These technologies are different between manufacturers, with top solar panel companies like Tesla, Panasonic, SunPower, and LG., for large-scale commercial applications and residential.
In the U.S., solar power is made favorable to use by the government and local authorities through rebates and incentives like the federal tax credit program. This has enabled many citizens to go solar.
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It is projected that solar energy generation and distribution will rise from 11% (2017) to 48% by 2050, to make it the primary electricity source in the U.S. In 2019, one million solar panels had been installed.
Additionally, solar energy is silent, so it doesn’t produce any noise pollution. Solar energy is also sustainable, making it a good choice for the environment. Solar energy is available to everyone in the world, regardless of income. Countries that harness solar energy can decrease their dependence on foreign oil.
Solar schemes in nations like China, Japan, and the U.S. have helped lower electricity bill. With the improving technology of solar energy system, it is speculated that their cost will go down and be affordable to many people.
If not defective and appropriately installed, solar panels can last 20 to 30 years, thus making them an attractive investment for the buck.
Compared to other renewable energy resources (Wind, Hydro, Tidal, Geothermal, and Biomass energy), solar energy is a promising venture. Solar energy is the future.
Unlike other sources of energy like fossil fuels, solar energy is a clean source. It reduces air pollution caused by fossil fuels in generating electricity.
Greenhouse gases emitted include Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide, and Fluorinated Gases. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), fossil fuels accounted for 60.3% of the total energy source, while solar energy for 2.3%, as of 2021. 78% of global warming emissions in the U.S. as of 2014 were from fossil fuels as a source of energy.
Today, the government is focused on transforming into a clean energy nation, reducing carbon footprint. People are encouraged to use solar for energy needs, with the solar tax credit and solar incentives enabling many citizens in the U.S. to convert solar users.
Other environmental benefits are:
- Reduced water usage in generating electricity. Hydroelectric sources have the potential of causing drought and affecting water life.
- Reduced deforestation in search of wood; this has been enabled by solar cooking in rural areas.
- Reduced mining for fossil fuels, especially coal and natural gas. Mining causes alternations in the soil profile, erosion, open pits, and contamination of water bodies.
- Indirectly conserves human and animal health.
Applicable Anywhere, Including Rural Areas
Solar energy technology will only need sunlight to generate electricity, and they can be installed in most parts of the world.
This has enabled remote areas where traditional power lines have not been installed to have access. For example, UNESCO developed a community solar power system enabling program in rural Africa to help residents have access to light.
UNESCO claimed to promote solar power use due to this advantage and accompanying benefits like eliminating pollution.
Other applications that have benefitted rural Africa are solar cooking, solar-powered water pumps, purification, and drip irrigation systems. This has enabled residents to catch up with the rest of the world and increased food security in those areas.
Dynamic Technological Advancements
We’ve seen significant advancements in this industry, with efficiency being improved to harness more energy.
Among others, two options are commonly used; Monocrystalline and Polycrystalline Solar panels. They use similar technology, and only monocrystalline solar panels are regarded as more efficient than polycrystalline ones.
More and more amazing features are introduced. For i:e: Tesla’s Solar Roof, Tesla Solar Inverter, and the Powerwall.
Solar Roofing allows you to replace your current roof with a fully integrated solar energy system. Your roof will be beautiful and still power your home without using rooftop solar panels.
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The Powerwall is a modern, compact battery, rated 13.5 kWh, and a 90% round trip efficiency. It is fitted with an electronic and artificial intelligence system which will help you monitor power usage and avoid power outrage. Amazing, right?
A solar panel system produces electricity on the go and even stores the excess. Suppose your solar panel system is well set for your entire electricity needs. In that case, your electricity bills will reduce and even be eliminated in some cases. Returns on investment are high.
The average monthly electricity bill for a typical U.S. citizen is $110.76, with about 877 kWh consumption. Using solar technology, the cost of electricity bills will go down. However, this will vary between regions, solar equipment, solar installer companies, and other cost factors.
Surplus solar energy generated from your home could be exported back to the grid and earn you income. This is done through Smart Export Guarantee after specific criteria are met.
U.S. Federal Tax Benefits And Local Incentives
If you are planning to go solar, the U.S. and local governments will support you. The Energy Act Policy of 2005 in the U.S. has a section that introduced the Solar Tax Credit, allowing citizens to deduct 26% of the cost of installing a solar energy panels from their federal taxes.
A shopper will benefit from the tax credit and averagely save $9,000 on the cost of going solar. As of 2021, a cost of $10,000 will secure you a solar tax credit of $2,600. Further, state incentives will bring this cost down even more.
The Solar Tax Credit is a limited initiative, set to expire on 31st December 2023.
With the possibility of being portable and easily modified, solar energy has been used to solve many energy problems worldwide:
- Recently, solar automotive have been invented, proving to be effective without gas. Cyber Truck, which is yet to be released that is powered by batteries and chargeable using solar energy, adding 15 miles of range per day.
- Produce electricity in areas off the grid.
- Solar heating, cooling, and ventilation.
- Solar-powered water pumps in areas dry regions with water shortages and no access to traditional electricity.
- Water distillation and purification in an area with clean water problems.
- Solar cooking in areas where wood and gas are distant.
- Solar energy systems can now be integrated with building materials, and such customizations will increase the amount of energy harnessed.
Solar Energy Systems Increase Home Value
The value of a home will increase with a unit decrease in energy cost. An appraiser should evaluate the solar value-added of a home. This is approximately $20 for every dollar saved as energy cost.
The solar value-added will be higher in regions where solar energy saves a considerable electricity bill, a high amount of solar energy is generated, and conducive state incentives.
After incurring the initial cost of installation, maintaining solar panels and batteries will be gentle. However, you have to ensure that installation is done correctly to prevent damage from human activities and environmental conditions.
With no moving parts, there is no wear and tear in solar panels, only the inverter, which has a lifespan of approximately 10 years. All you have to do is keep your system clean to maintain its efficiency.
like any new technology, there are some cons that come with using solar power. These cons are often overshadowed by the many advantages of solar energy, but they deserve to be recognized just the same. Let’s take a look at some of the cons of solar energy. Panels and cells can break sometimes, needs regular cleaning, Inefficiency, setup costs, limitations, expensive storage, indirect pollution etc. are the major cons of solar energy.
The efficiency of solar panels is affected by the amount of sunlight reaching them. On cloudy days, electricity generated is not to its full potential. This will depend on the thickness of clouds and other surfaces blocking sunlight from reaching the panels.
On a partly cloudy day, electricity production could drop by 10% to 25% on average, depending on how much clouds block the sun.
Another element is temperature. High temperatures will increase the output of current exponentially and reduce the voltage produced linearly. This reduces efficiency by 10% to 25%.
The solar panels have different temperature coefficients, are said to have a peak efficiency between 59°F and 95°F, and generally begin to lose efficiency at 77°F.
However, the solar module is not damaged by extreme temperatures but hailstorms can cause severe damages to panel and equipment.
A single panel will cost around $100, plus other accompanying solar equipment and installation cost. In most cases, a single solar panel may not meet your consumption levels.
For an average homeowner, you will likely need a 10-kWh solar panel, which will cost you between $10,000 and $31,900 in the U.S. In some other parts of the world, they can be even more expensive, up to $11,000 for the 5-kWh solar module. This cost excludes inverters/chargers and installation costs.
Most countries don’t have solar electricity programs and rebates, making the cost to go solar very high and unaffordable. The U.S. is prominent for the solar tax incentive, allowing citizens to install at 26% lower the total cost. Italy also incentivizes solar panel installation.
With advancing technology, it is speculated that this cost would reduce.
The more energy you want to harness, the more solar panels you will need. Technological advancements have not yet reached a point where solar panels can be made compact and produce the same or more energy output.
This will limit you if your roof (or land on your home) is not enough to fit solar panels that will meet your energy consumption level for residential use.
Large-scale solar installations will take a lot of space to generate sustaining energy. For example, Bhadla Solar Park in India occupies 57 square kilometers, their commercial solar panels yielding a total capacity of 2,245 Megawatts. Solar Star in the U.S. occupies 13 square kilometers (1.7 million solar panels) and generating a capacity of 579 megawatts.
Compared to other sources, the amount of energy generated per square meter is lower for solar energy. Even though land used to set up solar panels is usually hot and unproductive, space is typically an issue.
Expensive Solar Energy Storage
When using Solar energy, you have two options; use it actively, or store it for later use and at night using batteries. The cost of these batteries is high, based on the material used to make them and the amount of energy they provide. For a 5kW, you will pay a rough price of about $10,000 and $14000 for a 10kW battery. On average, you will pay $1,000 per kWh for a battery.
These prices include only the cost of the battery itself. Now, proceed and include inverters, solar installation, and other necessary equipment. A young family will consume about 20 kWh per day, needing a battery size of about 3.5 kWh. This will cost around $3400 for the battery and a total cost for the system of about $5,800 (Battery, inverter, etc.).
The Powerwall 2, which was considered the best value A.C. battery system in the market, goes for $6,500. The total cost of the whole system installation is $12,000.
However, experts predict solar batteries will fall in price soon. Go ahead!
Linked To Pollution And Health Risks
Even though pollution is minimal in using solar energy, manufacturing, transportation, and installation processes are based on fossil fuels which emit greenhouse gas. Their pollution magnitude is therefore indirect.
According to SCDHEC, solar panels are neither considered electronic or universal waste. This poses a threat of hazardous wastes polluting the environment. A study by IEA-PVPS showed that lead, cadmium, and selenium were the common pollutants. Other pollutants are gallium arsenide, Copper Indium Gallium Diselenide, acids like hydrochloric, nitric, and sulphuric acids.
Although the batteries are recycled up to some extent, however the process of battery disposal can cause damage to nature too. Commercial solar farms can cause habitat degradation and reduce life expectancy.
Comparison Between Solar And Other Renewable Energy Sources
Other renewable energy resources besides Solar include:
Electricity is generated through converting wind by turbines and conversion systems. There are 3 types of wind energy, classified according to power generated;
Electricity produced ranges from 100 kilowatts to 1.5 megawatts, and a wind farm of these could generate an overall of 1.2 gigawatts.
Constructed on lakes and oceans. The speed of wind in these water bodies is high and consistently uniform, making wind turbine generate more energy up to 4.8 gigawatts like the Dogger Bank wind farm in the U.K.
Usually consists of couple of wind turbines and generates below 100 kilowatts.
This is energy harnessed from moving water directed by plants to turn turbines. A generator then converts the mechanical energy of turbines to electric power. With an efficiency of 90%, this technology accounts for 24% of the world’s electricity and 12% in the U.S.
Energy is generated from turbines and paddles moved by tides. Tides are caused by the gravitational effect between the moon and the sun on earth. Tides are more predictable than wind and solar energy, making them a major potential source of energy for the future.
It is generated from heat energy stored in the earth’s core. It has applications like generating electricity, heating buildings, greenhouses, and water. Geothermal emits steam which makes it a clean renewable energy source.
This is energy from animal material and/or plants used as fuel to generate electricity or heat. This technology is common in agriculture and forest-based industries. For biomass fuel, corn grain is commonly used; for ethanol.
Renewable energy resources accounted for about 23.12% of the total share of energy sources as of 2020. Among the renewable sources, wind energy is widely used, followed by hydroelectricity and solar energy.
Biomass is the only renewable dirty energy. However, it is carbon neutral.
Hydroelectricity is the most efficient among renewable sources of energy, followed by tidal energy. Tidal energy is, however, not widely used but seems to be a promising venture.
Of the six renewable energy resources, solar, biomass, and wind are usually used directly to generate energy in households. Hydroelectricity, tidal and geothermal are always entirely government or large-scale investments due to their high initial costs to set up plants; wind and solar also take up large-scale farms.
Solar energy has proved to be efficient, reliant, and applicable in many aspects. Further, with the world aiming to conserve the environment, solar energy will emerge as one of the best sources of renewable clean energy.
Technological advancements will make solar energy a more viable option for many people. The following scenarios verify this speculation.
As a rule of thumb, technology will always make things cheaper and more efficient. Installing solar energy systems will become more inexpensive compared to setting up plants and farms to generate energy.
Solar pv panels were only used to power satellites. Today, installing a residential solar energy system will cost you around $31,900 for a 10kWh output. From 2000 up to 2021, the cost has fallen by 80% and still falling. By 2030, the cost will fall by 34% of the current cost.
Customized And Additional Applications
As seen with Tesla, electric cars charged with solar panels have become a possibility. Further, solar roofing makes your roof bean energy source, and the Powerwall battery with additional artificial intelligence feature to study weather forecast and consumption patterns.
Solar cell are made compact and with the advanced capability of tripling the amount of energy generated.
If you’re are planning to go solar, remember that you’re doing the environment a huge favor to conserve it by reducing pollution and diminishing non-renewable energy sources.
Unlike before, when solar energy systems were seen as ineffective, you now don’t need to worry about the short lifespan of solar panels, fast battery drainage, and high cost of getting a solar panel.
With advancements in technology, these shortcomings are fixed and you know the pros and cons of solar energy, you will not regret taking my advice on going solar.
However, do background research to be sure what kind of solar panels, batteries your home needs, and the solar company before making your decision.