- Renewable & Alternative Energy
Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Solar energy has become increasingly popular in the United States over the past fifteen years. This rise in popularity can be attributed to people becoming more aware of the environmental effects of traditional energy methods such as the burning of fossil fuels. These methods produce hazardous byproducts that pollute the air and damage the atmosphere.
The method of solar energy collection consists of using solar photovoltaic cells to capture energy from the sun. One reason why solar has become so popular is that the sun is a seemingly endless source of energy, not to mention it has much less of a negative effect on the environment when compared directly with fossil fuels. And while support for solar energy has been growing exponentially in recent years, there are technological and economic drawbacks that have hindered solar energy from becoming largely mainstream. I will now discuss these disadvantages as well as detail some advantages of solar energy.
Ways to Take Advantage of Solar Energy In Your Home
ADVANTAGES OF SOLAR ENERGY
Solar energy collected from the sun is considered to be "renewable" and does not have hazardous by-products associated with it. On the other hand, traditional energy methods such as fossil fuels release toxic chemicals like carbon dioxide and nitrogen oxide into the atmosphere. Solar energy also helps reduce the buildup of green house gasses by replacing traditional fuels. Lastly, there is no toxic waste produced as a result of collecting, storing, or using solar energy.
The fact that solar energy can be collected anywhere that sunlight is available means that there is no need to tie into any grid. In fact, solar energy can be used independently in areas where there is no electrical or gas grid available. This makes solar energy a great option for cost-effectively powering cabins, homes, or anything within reason, even in a very remote area.
Little to No Maintenance Required:
Solar collectors usually consist of few parts that do not need to be maintained or replaced for quite some time. The parts included in the system don't move or make any noise so the chance of failure is always minimal. There is also no need to add any fuel. Overall, solar energy systems are extremely reliable. Also, once your power needs have outgrown the output of the system it is very easy to add more panels and batteries to it.
DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR ENERGY
High Up-Front Cost:
Although solar panels and components are slowly becoming more competitively priced, the fact is that system components such as panels, batteries, controllers, wiring, etc. are expensive to buy. Much of this cost is comprised of the conducting material in the panels which is very expensive to manufacture. Installation is also expensive and depending on the extent, it can be as much as the system itself. Until there is better competition in the manufacturing and distribution of solar energy products, high up-front costs will remain the biggest reason why most do not use solar energy.
Low Panel Efficiency:
Solar panel technology has remained much the same in recent years. And as a result the amount of energy that can be collected by a certain area of a collector is not high enough to make solar a serious competitor in the energy market. Factors such as weather, air pollution, and limited hours of sunlight decrease the efficiency of solar panels and make solar energy less viable than traditional energy methods. Until the solar energy market develops newer technology that is more efficient and reliable, it will not be as popular as fossil fuels.
Storage of Energy:
Solar energy can only be harvested from the sun during hours of daylight which means that energy needs to be stored in order to use while there is no sunlight. Storing solar energy is accomplished with large battery banks which have a limited storage capacity. And although it is fairly easy to add more batteries to your system, the bottom line is that these batteries are very expensive, not to mention bulky and heavy.
The Future of Solar Energy
Although there is growing support for solar energy in the United States, the fact is that until advances have been made in the manufacturing and engineering of solar panels, solar energy will not be a viable alternative to traditional fossil fuels. It is important that we continue to research and explore alternative energy methods including hydroelectric and wind. As it stands now, alternative energy methods only account for around 7% of total energy use in the United States. It is clearly important for both the environment, and our country that this number continue to grow in the future.