What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
1. Renewable Energy Source
Among all the benefits of solar panels, the most important thing is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. We cannot run out of solar energy, unlike some of the other sources of energy. Solar energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun, therefore sunlight will be available to us for at least 5 billion years when according to scientists the sun is going to die.
2. Reduces Electricity Bills
Since you will be meeting some of your energy needs with the electricity your solar system has generated, your energy bills will drop. How much you save on your bill will be dependent on the size of the solar system and your electricity or heat usage. Moreover, not only will you be saving on the electricity bill, but if you generate more electricity than you use, the surplus will be exported back to the grid and you will receive bonus payments for that amount (considering that your solar panel system is connected to the grid). Savings can further grow if you sell excess electricity at high rates during the day and then buy electricity from the grid during the evening when the rates are lower.
3. Diverse Applications
Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes. You can generate electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar thermal). Solar energy can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distill water in regions with limited clean water supplies and to power satellites in space. Solar energy can also be integrated into the materials used for buildings. Not long ago Sharp introduced transparent solar energy windows.
4. Low Maintenance Costs
Solar energy systems generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. You only need to keep them relatively clean, so cleaning them a couple of times per year will do the job. Most reliable solar panel manufacturers give 20-25 years warranty. Also, as there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The inverter is usually the only part that needs to changed after 5-10 years because it is continuously working to convert solar energy into electricity (solar PV) and heat (solar thermal). So, after covering the initial cost of the solar system, you can expect very little spending on maintenance and repair work.
5. Technology Development
Technology in the solar power industry is constantly advancing and improvements will intensify in the future. Innovations in quantum physics and nanotechnology can potentially increase the effectiveness of solar panels and double, or even triple, the electrical input of the solar power systems.
Solar Energy Disadvantages
The initial cost of purchasing a solar system is fairly high. Although the UK government has introduced some schemes for encouraging the adoption of renewable energy sources, for example, the Feed-in Tariff, you still have to cover the upfront costs. This includes paying for solar panels, inverter, batteries, wiring and for the installation. Nevertheless, solar technologies are constantly developing, so it is safe to assume that prices will go down in the future.
2. Weather Dependent
Although solar energy can still be collected during cloudy and rainy days, the efficiency of the solar system drops. Solar panels are dependent on sunlight to effectively gather solar energy. Therefore, a few cloudy, rainy days can have a noticeable effect on the energy system. You should also take into account that solar energy cannot be collected during the night.
3. Solar Energy Storage Is Expensive
Solar energy has to be used right away, or it can be stored in large batteries. These batteries, used in off-the-grid solar systems, can be charged during the day so that the energy is used at night. This is a good solution for using solar energy all day long but it is also quite expensive. In most cases, it is smarter to just use solar energy during the day and take energy from the grid during the night (you can only do this if your system is connected to the grid). Luckily our energy demand is usually higher during the day so we can meet most of it with solar energy.
4. Uses a Lot of Space
The more electricity you want to produce, the more solar panels you will need because you want to collect as much sunlight as possible. Solar panels require a lot of space and some roofs are not big enough to fit the number of solar panels that you would like to have. An alternative is to install some of the panels in your yard but they need to have access to sunlight. Anyways, If you don’t have the space for all the panels that you wanted, you can just get a fewer and they will still be satisfying some of your energy needs.
5. Associated with Pollution
Although pollution related to solar energy systems is far less compared to other sources of energy, solar energy can be associated with pollution. Transportation and installation of solar systems have been associated with the emission of greenhouse gases. There are also some toxic materials and hazardous products used during the manufacturing process of solar photovoltaics, which can indirectly affect the environment. Nevertheless, solar energy pollutes far less than the other alternative energy sources.