pros and cons of solar energy

Pros and Cons of Solar Energy- PyronSolar Explained 2024

In recent years, technological advancement has made renewable sources like Solar Energy easily accessible and cost-effective. With the increase in streamlining of the manufacturing process, the efficiency of solar panels has substantially increased. These technical advancements have paved the way for eco-friendly alternatives by creating environmental awareness among users, thereby reducing the traces of carbon footprint.

Governments in different nations have implemented different schemes to encourage users to adopt solar energy. At the end of 2023, it was found that nearly 3.2 million houses in the U.S. have installed solar panels. Especially, individuals located in the western region are motivated to utilize solar energy effectively. Also, 36 million houses are installed with solar panels globally.

Solar Panels exist in 4 different types which can be explained in brief namely:

types of solar panels

  1. Monocrystalline solar panels: The single-crystal higher efficiency solar panels are made from pure silicon crystals. You can easily identify them as they are black or dark blue colored. The complex manufacturing process makes it expensive compared to other solar panels.
  2. Polycrystalline solar panels: It is also known as the “Multi-Crystalline” panels manufactured from multiple silicon layers having square-shaped cells and straight edges. The manufacturing process is simpler and available at an affordable price.
  3. PERC Solar panels: Passivated Emitter and Rear Cell (PERC) solar panels are manufactured by adding a layer behind the solar cells to absorb more sunlight.
  4. Thin-film solar panels: These solar panels are manufactured using the substances Amorphous silicon (a-Si), copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS), and cadmium telluride (CdTe).

You should understand the importance of weighing the pros and cons of solar energy to make informed decisions about adopting it for individuals, businesses, and policymakers. Also, it creates awareness to reduce the reliability of non-renewable sources, and the best methods to lower your electricity bills.

What is Solar Energy?

Typically, Solar energy is the transformation of powers obtained from radiant light and heat from the sun, which is utilized through various technologies to generate electricity. It is a form of renewable energy that can be used for a lifetime without any exhaustion period. Before installing solar panels, you should know solar energy in detail, and then after, you should know the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.

Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

You have to understand the Solar Energy Pros and Cons to mitigate the risks of adopting solar energy. Here is a detailed table below:

S. No Pros of Solar Energy  Cons of Solar Energy 
1. Renewable and Sustainable sources of energy Inconsistent energy production and high dependence on sunlight
2. Reduces electricity bills and long-term plan to save money  Higher initial investment
3. Low operational costs Requires a huge space for installation
4. Environmental friendly energy sources  Can have an impact on the environment during the manufacturing process
5. Creates employment in various departments Difficult to relocate 
6. Higher efficiency and cost-effectiveness  Energy storing challenges during low sunlight
7. Ideal for remote or off-grid locations  Geographical limitations with regions receiving more sunlight 

 

Advantages of Solar Energy

Unlike traditional sources of energy, Solar energy does not emit any greenhouse gases, thereby possessing the advantages of being a versatile and technology-efficient power source:

1. Reduces reliance on non-renewable resources:

Unlike non-renewable fossil fuels that were formed millions of years ago, solar energy is an infinite source of renewable energy that does not release greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides, into the atmosphere. As a result, it is a major advantage of how solar panels do help the environment by preventing global warming through the photovoltaic process.

For long-term plans, it is the best renewable source of energy and doesn’t have the threat of becoming extinct when compared to non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels. As the sun remains active for billions of years, you can extract the energy by installing solar panels on the rooftop of your residence.

According to a survey from the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE), the global energy demands for an entire year can be fulfilled in just one hour of the radiation emitted by the sun.

In contrast to the coal power plants that emit 2.2 pounds of CO2 to produce energy per kilowatt hour, solar panels emit none of them and contribute to cleaner air and a healthier environment.

2. Lowers the cost of electricity bills:

The cost of solar panel installation might be higher, but it lowers the cost of electricity bills by planning for long-term benefits.

On average, you will be able to save up to $1,600 per year approximately for a solar system that generates 10,000kW of power. The calculation is applicable if you’re paying 16 cents per kWh.

In other words, you can save from $100 to $150 per month for a residential solar system of 5kW capacity.

At the same time, your long-term savings depend on several factors like solar panel size, electricity cost in your locality, energy usage, and weather conditions.

Ultimately, your electricity bill is reduced after preferring solar energy.

3. Enhances energy self-sufficiency:

Using solar energy enhances energy self-sufficiency such that you will become energy-independent by generating electricity from solar panels on roofs and storing it for future use through batteries. A popular approach is to prefer off-grid with solar batteries. The grid connection acts as a safety net and provides additional power when required.

4. Increases Home Values:

According to a recent study Increase in Home Values was observed as it was found that systems of solar energy sold for homes were more than 4.1% on average in contrast to the residences without solar power, thereby increasing the home values with added benefits.

For instance, the 4kW size solar panel enhances your home value with an amount of $23,644 approximately. The value varies up to $59,110 for a 10kw panel size. It means that the value adds up to $5,911 for each kilowatt of solar power installed.

5. Requires minimal upkeep:

Solar panel requires minimal upkeep by focusing on basic maintenance requirements to remove dust, dirt, and other forms of debris.

Unlike any generator or turbine, it doesn’t have any breakdowns or minimal wear and results in less maintenance of solar panels without causing any repairing costs. Moreover, solar panels are built to last unpleasant weather conditions like heavy snow, rainfall, and winds. Also, the aluminum frames are corrosion-resistant.

Typically, professional cleaning may cost around $150 to $300 per year depending upon the size of your solar energy system. The ultra-thin coating developed can commence the process of self-cleaning in areas where there is huge rainfall. You can also clean with a hose by implementing the DIY method. Usually, the upkeep cost can be maintained under $3 per watt. In simpler terms, the upkeep cost of solar panels is less than 1% of the initial system cost when calculated on per yearly basis.

The solar panels generally come with a long-term warranty period of more than 25 years.

It is recommended to clean solar panels after 3 to 6 months in polluted environments or immediately after rainfall by avoiding harsh chemicals to rinse thoroughly.

6. Offers Diverse Applications:

There are diverse applications for using solar energy that help in electricity generation and heat production:

  • Generate Electricity: By using the photovoltaic (PV) effect, solar panels convert sunlight into electricity to run home appliances, businesses, and factories.
  • Heat Generation: On the other side, solar thermal collectors use the radiation of the sun to heat water for residential, commercial, and industrial purposes.
  • Solar Cookers: In rural and urban areas, solar cookers help to cook food without relying on the standard fuel sources in remote locations.
  • Power in remote locations: Especially, in rural areas where power grid installation becomes impossible or too expensive, solar energy is used in various electrical appliances like solar charges, streetlights, flashlights, and water pumps. You can use it in off-grid locations.
  • Distillation process: Furthermore, the sun’s radiation can be used in the distillation process. As a result, clean water is easily obtained in arid and coastal regions by removing impurities. A shallow basin surface enclosed by a condenser covering sheet enables evaporation of water by making use of solar radiation.
  • Solar-Powered Vehicles: These days many solar-powered vehicles like cars, boats, and airplanes install solar panels on their surface. It helps to capture sunlight to provide additional power.
  • Daily applications: By using solar thermal technology, air conditioning systems can be run efficiently. Also, it can be used for agricultural purposes like water pumping and irrigation. Various home appliances like fans, washing machines, security systems, and several others can be operated using solar energy.
  • Solar in space: To make solar power a reliable and sustainable source of energy, space applications like power satellites, spacecraft, and space stations.

7. Allows Selling of Excess Electricity:

A net metering system allows the Selling of Excess Electricity such that owners can gain extra revenue by selling their excess power to the grid and experience the possible benefits of using solar energy.

The excess power produced by the solar panels is sent to the grid, which can be utilized when not in use, particularly at night.

8. Provides earnings through SRECs:

The SRECs – Solar Renewable Energy Credits can provide considerable income to owners having solar energy.

The additional income earned can benefit you financially in the forthcoming years. As a houseowner, you can earn 1 SREC per megawatt (MWh) or 1000 kilowatt hour (kWh). It is the best scheme to acquire monetary benefits when you’re investing in solar panels to save electricity.

For producing renewable energies, utilities are permitted to get Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs) to qualify for the standards required and avoid paying any fines.

9. Advances in Technology:

Over the past few years, Advances in Technology have been observed through the solar energy industry as it contributed vastly by increasing the capacity of solar batteries to store more power. At the same time, the battery cost has been reduced by making it affordable for middle-class consumers.

Another reason behind increasing the efficiency is using thin film solar cells that are lightweight and cheaper than conventional silicon cells. These cells are cheaper by including a variety of combinations like cadmium telluride (CdTe) and copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

Furthermore, solar tracking technology increases the energy production rate by up to 25%, thereby increasing the efficiency and making it affordable by reducing the cost.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

As solar energy possesses certain benefits, simultaneously has its disadvantages, despite being a renewable and clean source of energy. Examining the drawbacks is crucial for a detailed evaluation of its workability and its impact on the future:

1. Involves High Initial Investment:

Solar Energy has major drawbacks that involve High Initial Investment. Mainly, the solar panel installation charges are higher, which might not be easy to accept for a certain set of users who are planning for long-term benefits to save electricity consumption.

You need to know that the upfront cost of solar power systems for residential purposes ranges between $3,500 and $16,000.

It is estimated that in 2024, the average cost of installing solar panels ranges between $17,430 and $23,870 depending on the size and location.

According to federal law, users are provided with a maximum of 30% income tax credit for purchase and installation of up to $2,000. These are the top 7 states that provide the best solar incentives namely:

  • New York: 20%
  • Idaho: 30%
  • Illinois: 30%
  • Maryland: 30%
  • Oregon: 60%
  • South Carolina: 25%
  • Texas: 30%

2. Depends Heavily on Sunlight:

The efficiency of solar panels depends heavily on sunlight as it drops on cloudy or rainy days, thereby relying on sunlight. It is expected that they produce only 10 to 25% of normal power output depending on the thickness of the cloud cover. At the same time, the performance drops when the surface of the panel reaches a temperature above 77°F. Many solar panels function at 50% of their normal efficiency during extreme fog conditions.

To overcome this problem, the extra power generated during the day is stored in a solar battery solution like the Tesla Powerwall. The stored energy in the battery can be used to power your home when the solar panels are in sleep mode during the night.

There are some of the cloudiest cities in the USA where solar panel works and the majority of people prefer to install them due to high electricity costs namely:

  • New York
  • San Francisco
  • Milwaukee
  • Boston
  • Seattle

3. Uses A Lot Of Space:

You need to remember that Solar Panels use a Lot Of Space as you need a minimum roof area of 500 sqft to install with a capacity of 5kW solar panels at your home.

For instance, the average American household requires 17 solar panels, if the daily energy consumption is estimated at around 30 kWh. Also, the average peak hours of the sun is 4 to 4.5 hours per day. Furthermore, a solar panel has a typical power rating of 350 to 400W to run basic home appliances.

4. Complicated Relocation Process:

There are several Complicated Relocation Processes of solar panels from one place to another:

  • Reinstallation: Uninstalling and reinstalling can be expensive and complicated processes which can start from a few thousand dollars.
  • Less Compatibility: Your existing solar system might not be compatible with the new roofing structure of your house.
  • Logistics and transportation challenges: It becomes challenging logistically to find a qualified solar installer, who should be capable of handling solar panels safely to a new location. As a result, it requires specialized transport arrangements.
  • Performance and efficiency: The new environment has different sunlight conditions, thereby altering the efficiency and performance of solar panels.

5. Manufacturing Process Contributes to Air Pollution:

A Hazardous Manufacturing Process Contributes to Air Pollution by using materials like Cadmium (Cd), Lead (Pb), and Arsenic (As) in the manufacturing process of solar cells.

Additionally, certain harmful chemicals like cadmium telluride, copper indium selenide, copper indium gallium(di) selenide, hexafluoroethane, and several others used in solar panels contribute to air pollution.

Using these hazardous materials and chemicals, there is a severe impact on the environment causing air and water pollution, depletion of water resources, high energy consumption leading to greenhouse gas emission, loss of natural habitat, and many more…

Additionally, some raw materials used to manufacture solar panels which have limited availability such as Polysilicon, Indium and Gallium, Silver, and Tellurium.

6. Limited Recycling Options:

The solar panel recycling rate is limited to around 10 to 15%, which is typically very low. Furthermore, there are many complications faced during the recycling process such as:

  • The inclusion of toxic materials in the PV panels like Lead can cause environmental pollution. Also, the disassembling process becomes complex.
  • Mainly, the current recycling infrastructure is not suitable to handle a bulk volume of solar panels, thereby ending up piled in landfills.
  • Advanced technologies are required to separate and recover valuable materials from hazardous ones.
  • The cost of recycling the solar panels is costlier than the price value of the recovered materials.
  • Possibilities to emit greenhouse gases during the process.

Is Solar Energy Worth It?

Ultimately, investing in Solar power is truly worth it and could prove to be your valuable asset in the forthcoming years. At the same time, you should consider certain factors before installing solar panels on the rooftop of your house:

Is Solar energy environmentally Sustainable?

It is usually considered environmentally sustainable by simultaneously acknowledging the pros and cons of using solar panels. It indicates the positive and negative impacts of solar energy on the economy and safety:

Positive Impact:

  1. Job opportunities: The solar industry offers plenty of employment opportunities in various departments like manufacturing, maintenance, research, and development contributing to economic growth.
  2. Health and Safety: Solar energy while generating heat or electricity cuts down air, water, soil, and noise pollution. They do not emit dangerous amounts of radiation and focus on improving human health and safety.
  3. National security: By functioning as a distributed energy system, the entire nation is safeguarded from natural disasters and reduces dependence on foreign energy sources. Such a system is less vulnerable to terrorist attacks when compared to a centralized power grid.

Negative Impact:

  1. Manufacturing and disposal of solar panels: The manufacturing process of solar panels involves using hazardous materials and toxic chemicals. As a result, the disposal process can cause severe damage to the environment.
  2. Negative energy balance: Based on the global economy, solar energy cannot be a completely reliable source of energy to satisfy every individual demand as it is still under development. Sometimes, it is forced to rely on fossil fuels thereby, creating a negative balance in the energy.
  3. Increased demand for raw materials: Solar energy has expanded tremendously in such a way that the demand for raw materials has increased, leading to environmental degradation.

Although I have listed some points here, there is a lot more to know about the sustainability and environmental impacts of solar energy.

Is solar energy reliable and efficient enough to power a typical home?

Yes, Solar energy can be reliable and efficient for powering typical homes. According to the latest survey, only 0.05% of PV modules fail per year during their lifetime. Similarly, solar panels can attain the highest efficiency up to 25%. However, you need to consider some crucial factors before making any decisions:

  1. Location: Ensure that your locality has enough sunshine and avoid shading obstacles near the solar panels. You should analyze your roof’s size and angle before planning for any installation.
  2. Energy requirements: To determine the size of the panel, you need to calculate the energy consumption on a daily or monthly basis to meet your requirements.
  3. Life span: Solar panels have a minimum degradation over their lifespan with a warranty of 25 to 30 years.
  4. High-Quality components: Select from a reputable manufacturer to ensure that the components are made of superior quality for optimal performance.
  5. Financing options: Though the initial budget is higher, you should plan for the best financing options with various incentives and rebates offered by the government to make your investment much more affordable.
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Ray is an avid reader and writer with over 25 years of experience serving various domestic and multinational private and public energy companies in the USA.

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