Solar energy is a hot topic in the renewable energy sector. Gotten from the sun’s radiation and harnessed with solar panels, solar power is efficient, cost-effective, and clean. Just one hour of sunlight to the Earth could meet global energy needs for one year. Sadly, due to technological limitations, we are only capable of harnessing just 0.001 percent of that energy. But before you tap into this green energy opportunity, ask yourself: What are the pros and cons of solar energy?
Pros of Solar Energy
The most significant element of solar energy is that it is a renewable energy source. You can harness it all day without it running out. Unlike other types of traditional electric sources, solar energy is limitless. According to scientists, sunlight will be accessible to us as long as the sun shines for another 5 billion years.
- Lower electricity bills
Solar energy is capable of meeting a significant percentage of your energy consumption. This way, you can save a lot on your energy bill. Depending on the size of your solar system and heat or electricity usage, investing in solar energy means spending less money in the long run. If your solar energy system is connected to the grid, there is a chance of getting paid if you generate more energy than you can use and then export the excess back to the network. This is possible with the current net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes in the US.
- Various applications
Solar energy has multiple uses. Whether you’re generating heat through solar thermal or generating electricity through solar panels, the form of solar energy is limitless. The possibilities are endless from powering space satellites and solar-powered cars to running your home’s cooling system.
- Lower maintenance costs
Solar energy systems don’t need regular maintenance to work correctly. Just clean them a few times annually, and you will be fine. Many solar panel manufacturers offer over 20 years warranty. Again, you don’t run the risk of wear, tears, or noise pollution as solar panel systems have no moving parts. This makes solar energy a more favorable renewable technology when compared to wind turbines. The most crucial maintenance comes from changing the inverter every 5 to 10 years and checking the cables. It should be smooth sailing from then on if you can cover the initial cost of installing the solar system.
- Possible technological improvement
The future of the solar power industry is promising. And with more technological advancements in design and nanotechnology, the effectiveness of solar panels is expected to increase current electrical input. As the solar panel cells become more effective at converting solar energy into electricity, solar energy will become more widely used.
- Green energy
Solar energy should interest you if you’re environmentally conscious. When you harness solar power, you do not pollute the environment, unlike using electricity generated from fossil fuels.
Cons of Solar Energy
One daunting thing about solar energy is the initial cost of installation. This involves getting solar panels, wiring, batteries, inverter, and paying installation fees. If you can get past the first hurdle of investing in a solar energy system, it’s going to get cheaper than purchasing electricity from the utility. And with technological advancements, the prices of solar energy systems will lower in the future.
- Weather dependent
While solar energy can be harnessed on rainy and cloudy days, the efficiency of the solar system is reduced. Even during the day and at different times of the year, sunlight intensity will vary. Since sunlight is a significant factor for solar panels, you might not be getting enough energy during not-so-sunny days. Also, you cannot harness solar power at nighttime. So you have to invest in batteries to store up energy.
- Costly solar energy storage
To use solar energy 24 hours a day, energy storage is necessary. Here, solar energy is stored in large batteries during the daytime and used during nighttime. However, solar energy storage technologies are relatively expensive. That is why many homeowners prefer to use solar energy during the daytime and use the grid at nighttime.
- Takes a lot of space
You need a lot of solar panels to harness enough sunlight if you want to generate a large amount of electricity. Solar PV panels need a significant amount of space on your roof. And if you own a small roof, you may run into some trouble with installation. This means you would have to install some of the panels in your sunlight, especially where it is accessible to sunlight. And if you don’t have sufficient yard space, you would have to install fewer panels to meet some of your energy needs.
- Rare production materials
One of the reasons solar systems are expensive is the usage of rare and expensive materials in its production. This is particularly correct for thin-film solar cells made with either copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS) or cadmium telluride (CdTe).
- Cost of transporting to a new house
When moving to a new home, removing your solar panels and reinstalling them can get expensive. The smart thing may involve selling your house with the solar energy systems as they have been proven to add significant value to properties.
- Not so green
While the solar energy system runs on a clean and renewable system, its manufacturing components can still be linked so some pollution. While solar energy is cleaner than traditional energy sources like fossil fuels, transportation, solar system installation components still contribute to greenhouse gas emissions. In the production of solar panels, some toxic materials and products indirectly pollute the environment. Potent greenhouses gases like sulfur hexafluoride and nitrogen trifluoride, for instance, have been linked with solar panel production. These greenhouse gases even have a more significant impact than carbon dioxide when it comes to global warming.
Nevertheless, solar energy pollutes far less than fossil fuels. Moreover, nothing is risk-free in the energy sector. Going for the cleanest technology is the smart thing to do.