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Solar Energy Advantages and Disadvantages - The basics

Updated on October 11, 2013

Solar Power Systems

The usage of solar power, basically energy harnessed from the suns emissions, is growing at almost 20% a year.

Solar energy is a renewable and inexhaustible source of energy. It is friendly to the earth but less friendly to the pocket. To answer this and other 'to use or not to use' questions, here is a list detailing the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.

I had always heard the usual solar power information, that it was green and better for the earth. Truthfully that never really bothered me. I live in Africa and believe we have not yet contributed our quota of greenhouse gasses to global warning.

However when there was a three week power outage where I live, I embarked on this quest to find the advantages and disadvantages out more about of solar energy.

The Sun

The Sun - The center of the solar system and the source of all life on earth
The Sun - The center of the solar system and the source of all life on earth | Source

Coal Power Plant circa 1950s

Coal belching power plant, finally closed down due to public complaints
Coal belching power plant, finally closed down due to public complaints | Source

Solar Energy Use

I would like to use solar energy because

See results

Advantages of Solar Energy

1 Solar power is Clean Energy - No green house gas

Most people that go solar, do so because it does not produce the gasses that lead to global warming. The use of solar energy leads to only minimal pollution( from the manufacturing processes needed to produce solar panels etc)

2 Source of Solar Power is free

You will never have to pay any money to God to use the sun. All you have to do is think of how to harness it.

3 Long Lasting

Solar Panels can last 30 years or more before there is any need to replace them. Most manufacturers give warranties of 20 years.

4 Rural Electrification

It is more cost effective to provide electricity to remote and far flung areas via solar energy. Areas like mountaintops and dwellings in the center of large forests are examples.

In most parts of Nigeria, the government has built solar vaccine refrigerators. Over time it has proven to be the only reliable way to ensure the cold-chain is maintained

5 Decentralize Power Resources

Almost everywhere on planet earth gets a period of sunlight daily. The same can not be said for the availability of coal or crude oil. A major advantage of solar energy is that you cannot legislate the sun away from any location.

6 Self - Reliance, Going off grid

While solar is advantageous for people in remote areas who of neccessity must be off-grid, a number of others, even city dwellers just want to be self reliant.

Deepwater Horizon Oil Spill

 Deepwater Horizon Fishing closure
Deepwater Horizon Fishing closure | Source

7 There are no solar spills

Pictures and videos of oil spills are heart rending.

The pollution caused by deepwater horizon oil spill created a fishing dead zone and killed millions of aquatic creatures.

Mistakes happen, but because of the toxicity of crude oil, and the locations where rigs are sited, accidents cause an unprecedented amount of environmental damage.

Switching to solar will help you feel more comfortable each time drowned seagulls are shown on television.


8 Flexibility

Solar panels and systems have been designed for various specific needs and are flexible.

One of the most interesting is building movable tents/sun shades with solar panels on the roof. So while you rest under the shade, you can recharge your batteries or even the car.

Also see the picture of a mobile solar charger for phone and other small electronic accesories

8 Making money off Solar Power

One of the best advantages of solar energy is that you can sell some back to the grid. Call the utilities in your area to find out if they will buy your excess energy.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

If solar power was only good without any drawbacks, many more of us would use it. Here I have tried to put together an objective list detailing the disadvantages of solar energy.

1. Initial Installation cost

This is the most common reason why we demur to use solar power. Installing solar for a few appliances may cost a couple of thousand dollars. To run the entire house (2 level, five bedrooms) may be as much as $30,000 -$40,000.

While the cost of solar power is high, in many countries the government provides subsidies to make it more affordable.

Solar Energy

Solar Power - Use of renewable sources of energy like solar power is on the rise
Solar Power - Use of renewable sources of energy like solar power is on the rise | Source

Solar House


2. Solar power is weather dependent

For someone living at the poles, it may be difficult to survive on solar year round. During the height of winter in most places, there are only a few hours of sunlight or none at all, making it difficult to be solar energy reliant.

3. Collecting Solar energy is not very efficient

While you can build an oil or gas powered energy station on a couple of hectares and it would power an entire town, you can not do the same with solar. You need row upon row of solar panels to collect an appreciable quantity of energy. however the panels are getting more efficient.

4. Night Use

An obvious major disadvantage of solar power is that it cant be harnessed at night. You can buy batteries for energy storage. they are expensive, wear out every 3-5 years and occupy a lot of space.

5. Fragility of solar energy systems

Solar panels are very fragile. Hailstorms will wipe out almost any solar installation. You cant put solar panels on a low room in a residential area with small children and not incur damages. Also extreme heat like in deserts degrades the energy system rapidly leading to frequent panel changes.

Solar Appliances - Solar Food Dehydrator

Imagine that - Dry out your yams and maize, ready for grinding and storage.
Imagine that - Dry out your yams and maize, ready for grinding and storage. | Source

Smoke Belching Diesel Truck

Good ole diesel truck belching out smoke. I look forward to a time when even the heavy trucks are solar powered
Good ole diesel truck belching out smoke. I look forward to a time when even the heavy trucks are solar powered | Source

Solar Power, its advantages and diadvantages

For me, if I had as deep a pocket as I dream off, I would go fully solar.

I would build a house designed from the start to function on solar energy.

Which means I would have angled the roof for efficient harnessing of the suns rays.

The windows would be placed to facilitate maximum air flow. My personal reason would be to be power independent.

As I mentioned, we had a three-week power failure and had to go to a neighbors to charge our phones with a solar charger.

The noise of a hundred petrol generators at night was terrible, the fumes intolerable.

It got me thinking - I live in Africa, with no winter and hours of sunshine everyday, why am I not using solar energy.

What do you think?


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    • profile image


      5 years ago

      It is surprisingly easy to convert your home to using sustainable forms of electricity. Silicon Solar is an affordable company offering solar panels for on and off-grid use to convert your home's electricity source from fossil fuels to renewable energy from the sun. There are numerous federal financial incentives (and many state incentives) for encouraging residences and businesses to convert to renewable energy sources, such as solar water heaters/panels.

    • jabelufiroz profile image


      5 years ago from India

      I like your solar house, Akhil.Jariwala. Voted up and useful.

    • Zubair Ahmed profile image

      Zubair Ahmed 

      5 years ago

      Very good hub, for someone looking into solar energy this is real good info. I just hope the cost of solar power systems do start to climb down a little so that we can all benefit with them. One shame for me is that the country I live in is always dark and dismal, we get very little sun, which means my solar power system will not be working at 100% capacity wen I do finally put one in.


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