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Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Updated on March 3, 2011
A large set of parabolic solar collectors at Kramer Junction in the Mojave desert, California.
A large set of parabolic solar collectors at Kramer Junction in the Mojave desert, California.

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.


Environmentally Friendly:

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.

Independently Used:

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.


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.


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    • profile image


      6 years ago


      Solar panel is a perfect renewable energy, it could help us to go through the energy crisis and leading human-being to enter a new energy technology age.

      This might be what you are looking for! Find out more about the information about solar energy and panels in the following link below:

    • Anna Sternfeldt profile image

      Anna Sternfeldt 

      7 years ago from Svenljunga, Sweden

      Interesting hub and I read the disadvantages on your provided link as well, and I think you got the point there about cadmium and other materials. It is not really the "price" that is the issue, well, not in money anyway, as that is just a matter of exchange. Something that is worthwhile for the planet could be subsidised, there is always a solution for that sooner or later. The issue is sustainability. The problem is about limited resources and damage to the environment. These are the issues we must solve. To find materials that is enough in amount and which don’t harm the environment is what we need, and an efficient way of storage. I have heard about some projects storing the heat from the sun in water, have you heard about that? I don’t know how efficient that is, and it is likely more suitable for warmer countries. Someone said here that solar power need space, but I presume that we today allow a lot of negative stuff to take up a lot of space – like high ways and parking houses – so using space for solar power may likely be a bit more defendable. The deserts provide some good space. And we have a lot of roofs.

      One interesting thing here, and important, is your number of that only 7% of the energy in US comes from renewable energy. But US is a horrendously huge consumer of energy, which is not ethically justified at all. We need to focus a lot on reducing our consumption of energy in general, and who knows, maybe theses 7 % could go a long way if we really changed our life style. Actually, I think there are countries around the globe that don’t have as much as these 7% of energy for their whole energy usage. So we need to rethink our ways of living. If people use public transports instead, which I think should be the right choice if caring about our planet, the environment and other humans, we would save a lot. Who says we should drive in our own cars, if being healthy humans?

    • profile image

      Kuwar v. D. 

      7 years ago

      I Want to Start Solar Project At My Village For Unemployee People &

      Power Genration For Villagers & Help to All Childs , Students & Helpless Peoples

      I want to start installation business of solar panels in India

      Maharastra Please mail Me at

      Vijay D. Kuwar Daul MH India Mobile : 09420603024

    • profile image

      shrirang muttepawar 

      7 years ago

      I want to be start 100 mw powar plant in Nagpur reagon which is hot temperature area and round the year sunny and grid the power to main streem. for this i need financial support techinal , method for huge land aquigation and how will be earning source . complete guidence for errection commissioning the project

    • profile image 

      7 years ago

      Please guide us, I want to start installation business of solar panels in India, specially in Maharashtra region.


    • Chin chin profile image

      Chin chin 

      8 years ago from Philippines

      Thanks for sharing the info in this hub. We want to have solar panels in our home but we have to think more about the pros and cons you shared.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      did you know that now its $1 per watt? that's 33 times better than in 1970! cool, huh?

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      I would like to add my 2 cents worth info ..

      Solar is also land intensive and needs water to cleaning up the dust on the panels.So if large PV installations are made in deserts, how does one clean up the panels?

    • CJamesIII profile image


      9 years ago from Minneapolis, MN

      Cool hub! Great pie chart! That sounds silly, but what I mean is that it shows what it is supposed to show and is very clear.

    • wsupaul88 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      SunSeven: I really hope solar energy comes down in price in the near future! Thanks for your comment!

    • SunSeven profile image


      9 years ago from Singapore / India

      Yes. Its the high up-front cost that is detrimental. Perhaps, in near future they will come up with cheaper ways to tap solar energy. Well written hub. Thumbs up for you!

      Best Regards

    • wsupaul88 profile imageAUTHOR


      9 years ago from Seattle, WA

      Thanks Bob! And here is a good link that goes into detail about some other disadvantages to solar energy.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      Great website though list more disadvantages


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