With ever-developing technology in the renewable energy market, it is almost hard to imagine why the world has not fully converted to renewable energy options like solar energy. At all times there is approximately 173,000 terawatts of solar energy striking the surface of the Earth. This is by far, more than enough energy to support the current energy demands of mankind.
This means that the “fuel” for solar energy is readily available, we just have to harness its power and convert it into usable energy for our homes, businesses and even our vehicles! Let’s take a look at the top five advantages and disadvantages to solar energy, and maybe we can better understand just why we have not completely transitioned to solar energy.
As we just read, there is more than enough solar energy to go around, so how do we capture it and put it to good use? That’s one great thing about solar energy, it can be collected almost anywhere on the planet. This allows solar to be implemented in locations where there may already be infrastructure like homes, or oﬃce buildings.
Another great aspect of solar power is that solar power plants will not create any new pollution in our air or water, and there is no noise pollution either! Compared to fossil fuel plants that we currently use for energy production, solar power does not create any greenhouse gases, and although solar power plants may aﬀect wildlife in some areas, the environmental impact is far less aggressive on our planet and ecosystems. In addition to being safer for the environment, solar power plants are typically considered to have less safety risks than fossil fuel plants as well. With all of these great advantages, what are the downsides to solar energy? Let’s take a look at the disadvantages of solar energy next.
The first disadvantage may also seem to be the most obvious– there is no way to collect solar energy at night. This means, that unlike other renewable energy resources, like wind energy, solar energy can only be collected when the sun is out during the day. With that being said, there are many ways to store unused solar energy, like in a battery pack.
Another downside to solar energy is that there is never a guarantee as to how much solar energy will make it to the solar panel. This amount can vary depending on location, season, and time of day. For example, on a cloudy and rainy day, there will be much less energy collected than on a bright sunny day in July. The top performing solar panels only have about a 20% eﬃciency rate, which is not a great conversion rate for usable energy. This is perhaps the most significant reason why solar has not grown faster than what we have seen so far.
Although they are not the most eﬃcient way to produce energy, another disadvantage faced by solar energy is the cost. A typical residential installation for solar panels will cost an average of $20,000. When used in the power plant setting, the cost is also higher than other energy options. For example, it costs a solar power plant 11 cents per kilowatt hour to convert solar energy using photovoltaic methods, whereas a coal plant or natural gas plant will own spend about nine and six cents per kilowatt hour, respectively.
So as we can see, the advantages of solar energy certainly do outweigh the disadvantages. As solar energy become more popular and in demand, many of the costs associated with installation, maintenance and operations will most likely see a decline. This will in turn, allow even more individuals and companies to make the switch to solar energy.