The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy
In our continuing efforts to live a greener life we have been contemplating solar panels for our roof. Of course there are pros and cons to using solar energy, but it seems to me that the advantages outweigh the disadvantages. Unfortunately two of the disadvantages are large enough for us (they may not be for you) that we probably will not be purchasing solar panels. But I am hopeful that our research will benefit other people that are interested in using solar energy.
One of the biggest advantages I see to having solar panels is that aside from the cost to purchase them, solar energy is free. It is renewable and does not deplete any of Earth's resources. It is a clean energy and omits no pollution. It seems like the ideal way to go for everyone and I wonder why more people and companies don't use this amazing energy source.
When I look at the cost to purchase the panels I understand why. They are very expensive. Solar panels have really come down in price though and between federal and state funding the average person could end up saving 50% of the cost. Once the panels are installed, your electric bill should be next to nothing each month. In fact you could even make money. Many people that have solar panels sell excess energy back to the power companies and make money from them. All of this combined means that your payback time on purchasing solar panels could be just a few short years. If you are planning on living in your home for a long time, they could very well be worth it to you financially. When you combine that with the benefits to the environment it seems like a great idea.
In order to make a decision for yourself you definitely need to calculate how long your payback time would be. You also need to look at statistics for your area to see if it is sunny enough to support solar panels, because the sun has to be shining in order to produce energy. The occasional cloudy day will be fine because you will have energy stored up with the power company. If you live in Ohio like me though, when it can go a month without sun the payback will be much longer. Combine that with lots of large trees that overhang our house and I seriously doubt we would ever get our money back from solar panels. Between that and the cost (I don't think anyone should go into debt to purchase solar panels) they just aren't right for us.
If you live in a very sunny place solar panels should work beautifully for you. The aesthetics of them are not for everyone, but typically if you are interested enough in clean energy to be considering solar panels then the looks won't bother you. One of the great things about solar panels is you can have as many or as few as you need. You can add more at any time. Once the panels are installed there are not any recurring costs, which is very nice.
An added benefit for having solar panels is that energy can be stored in batteries for use at night or during a black-out. Suddenly you really aren't dependent on a power company. It is like having an automatic generator. I really like that idea! If you can't afford solar panels to power your whole house, consider solar panels to heat your water. Heating water for a household can be up to 30% of your electric costs and it could be well worth the money to get a system set up to cover just the hot water heater.
I truly believe that the world needs to make a large push to using renewable energy such as solar panels or wind turbines if we are going to be able to make our resources last. Solar panels need to become more affordable and common place for this to happen. I am very disappointed that they probably won't work for us, but still have hope that someday they will.