The solar industry is booming all across the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a developed country or not, many governments and corporations are jumping on the bandwagon. They’re all joining hands to fight climate change and also reduce their electricity bills at the same time to boost profits. There is so much talk about this incredible renewable source of energy. It is set to change the course of world history and business. But there is there a dark side to this energy derived from sunlight? Here we discuss the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy and you can decide for yourself if it is good for our planet or not.
Top Advantages of Solar Energy
1. Clean Energy
Fossil fuels, which are at the moment the main source of the world’s energy, release toxic chemical compounds such as carbon dioxide, carbon monoxide, and other greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Use of solar energy helps in reducing the discharge of greenhouse gases primarily carbon dioxide, nitrogen oxides and reduces the emission of sulfur dioxide(burning of fossil fuels). The toxic gas sulfur dioxide combines with water and air and is responsible for acid rains.
This is one of the main causes of climate change. Mining for fossil fuels causes the destruction of forests and the pollution of our environment. Additionally, there have been numerous cases of oil pipelines leaking into streams, rivers, seas, and soil over the years. These pipeline leakages have corroded our soil and led to the poisoning of groundwater affecting the planet’s flora, fauna, marine life, and humans on a large scale. Solar power is an alternate source of clean and renewable energy. It neither pollutes the environment nor destroys forest cover.
Solar energy which converts the sun’s light and heat into electricity is renewable and inexhaustible until the death of our sun, which would take around 5 billion years. Solar panels are fitted with photovoltaic cells that convert the ever abundant sun’s rays into electrons and turn it into electricity.
3. It’s Free
Since the sun does not belong to any government, corporation or person, it has not yet been taxed. This means that once solar panels are fitted, the energy harnessed is absolutely free.
4. Low Maintenance
Once solar lights are installed, it does not cost much to maintain them. Good quality solar lights last for decades without the need to service or maintain them.
5. Multiple Uses
Solar Energy is generally associated with lighting up houses, streets, communities, villages, towns and so on. However, solar energy is not restricted to this. There are multiple other uses such as heating water at home, keeping houses warm, powering vehicles, powering airplanes, cooking, powering calculators, watches, clocks and many more.
6. Conserves Wildlife
Fossil fuels destroy our planet’s ecosystem and forests, leaving tens of thousands of species of birds, animals, and insects homeless. Due to this many of our planet’s species face mass extinction. There are so many species that have been eradicated from the face of the Earth while thousands of others are on the verge of extinction. We can take solace in the fact that this form of renewable energy does not cause any damage to our planet, thus allowing the world’s ecosystems to thrive.
7. Saves Water
Water is an ingredient that is used to generate electricity. There is, however, a shortage of fresh water throughout the world. The use of solar energy does not require the use of water. Since the energy from the sun is plentiful, solar energy indirectly helps in the conservation of water.
Though there are seemingly loads of advantages when it comes to generating electricity through solar energy, there are a few disadvantages as well.
Top Disadvantages of Solar Energy
1. Solar Energy is Initially Expensive
The cost of setting up a solar power plant is high. This is due to the demand and supply curve. As the demand for solar energy increases, the cost would also decrease in time. However, since the energy generated after installation is absolutely free, in the long run, it works out to be the most inexpensive option for power generation.
2. Sunlight Availability
Though there is no shortage of sunlight on our planet, there are places in where the sun’s rays barely reach the surface. It is also possible that more than one solar panel may be required to light up a house depending on the amount of sunlight available. Some parts of the world are too cloudy, shady or windy to effectively generate solar energy and light, which reduces the effectiveness of solar energy.
3. Solar Energy is not always Reliable
Solar energy is very dependable. However, not all solar panels work at night. If the solar panels are not charged enough during the day, the efficiency is reduced. It would then not be reliable enough to provide a good amount of power to sustain an entire household or village.
4. Installation Requires Space
Installing solar panels at home or in corporate and IT parks require a good deal of empty land. This land should also be exposed to the sun. Due to this factor, not too many companies or houses have installed solar panels.
Most solar panels are not 100% efficient. A good amount of electricity is generated using solar energy but 60% of energy ends up being wasted. Only 40% is actually utilized. To counter this, one has to conduct proper research and make sure that the solar panel being used is set up right and manages to harness most of the sun’s rays in order to produce a good amount of electricity and increase its efficiency.
Though solar energy has its disadvantages, it is negligible when compared to energy produced due to fossil fuels.
6. Weather Dependency
Solar panels dependence on the type of weather is another disadvantage. This is because more power is generated only when solar panels receive direct sunlight. The output of solar panels is dramatically decreased when the weather turns cloudy. While there are several areas around the world which receive adequate direct sunlight, there are others which spend much of the year under the clouds.
The primary concern for safety is due to the use of chemicals and toxic materials used in the manufacturing of photovoltaic cells. Some of the thermal solar systems use fluid to transfer heat. These fluids are might be hazardous. In case of leaks, it might be harmful to the nearby areas and the environment as a whole.
Water is also required for cooling of the generators and cleaning solar panels. If the solar power plant is located in an area which is dry or barren, it could affect the ecosystem of the area.
How solar energy benefits environment?
- Creates clean & renewable energy from sun
- Reduces reliance on fossil fuels
- Reduces carbon footprint
- Decreases greenhouse gas emissions
- Reduces environmental pollution
How solar energy benefits society?
- It Reduces respiratory & cardio health issues which primarily are caused due to burning of fossil fuels
- Reduces financial costs for electricity in long run
- Reduces dependency on nuclear power
- Preserves habitats affected by mining
- No power disruptions like with grid electricity
- Brings in energy efficiency
- Energizes rural communities
- Inexhaustible source of energy
- Universal access to energy
- Ethical investment avenue
How does solar energy benefit the economy?
- Decreases usage of foreign imported oil
- Creates more jobs as solar industry is labor intensive
- Provides stability to economy with fixed costs
- No expense on raw materials for generating electricity
- Multiplier effect in spurring the economy with abundant energy
What are disadvantages of solar energy compared to fossil fuels?
- Solar energy is initially expensive
- Government subsidies are required for keeping solar costs low
- Not everyone can pay for installation of solar power set up
- Energy storage solutions need to be improved for solar power
- Solar energy technology still needs lots of improvement
- Availability of sunlight is globally uneven
- Solar panel installations require space
- Most solar panels are not 100% efficient
- Production of solar energy is not constant & depends upon the weather
Advantages of Solar Panels
- It has no mechanical or moving parts
- Operating & maintenance costs of solar panels is low
- Solar panels can be installed almost anywhere where there is sunlight
- They are environmental friendly
- Solar panels do not produce any harmful greenhouse gases
- They work silently & do not cause any noise pollution for generating electricity
- Residential solar panels are easy to install on rooftops
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
- Quality & quantity of generation of energy with solar panels gets affected by weather conditions
- Unpredictability of solar panels makes them a less reliable solution
- Solar panels also require additional equipment for electricity production including storage equipment
- Investment costs of solar panels & other equipment is still high
- Land mounted solar panels require large areas of deployment
- Solar panel efficiency levels are relatively low
- Solar panels are fragile & can be easily damaged