"My house is solar powered. I tell Republicans, 'You can hate the subsidies - I hate the subsidies, too - but you can't hate solar panels."
Thomas Massie, Politician
Solar energy can be defined as heat and radiant light from the sun that can be used for the generation of energy.
In order to make the sunlight usable by humans, different technologies such as photovoltaics, solar heating, solar architecture and solar thermal energy are used.
Solar energy is regarded as one of the most promising renewable energy sources since it can improve our global ecological footprint significantly and may therefore also contribute to slow down global warming. However, solar energy also has some significant downsides.
In this article, all important pros and cons of solar energy are examined.
Solar energy can be regarded as quite safe when it comes to future price changes compared to other energies. Many energies, especially those who rely on fossil fuels, will become quite expensive in the future since a price is usually determined by supply and demand. If the demand stays unchanged but the supply becomes lower since resources become scarcer, prices are likely to increase for energies associated with fossil fuels.
In contrast, since the sunlight will not become scarcer but rather stays unchanged, prices for energy related to solar power will stay rather constant. Although there have to be used some scarce elements for the initial production of solar panels, the amounts needed are quite low compared to the lifespan of solar panels. Therefore, solar energy will likely be quite stable regarding energy prices compared to other energy sources.
Another upside of solar energy is that the cost per unit of energy produced are literally zero. Apart from the upfront cost for the installation of the solar panels and the storage, energy can be produced with no extra cost since no one will charge you if you use our sun for energy production purposes 😉. Thus, in the long run, solar power can be a quite cost-efficient solution compared to other energy sources.
Solar power can be regarded as renewable energy source. Although there is some material needed for the production of solar panels and for the energy storage, solar energy is considered a renewable energy which will be quite important in the energy transition process from fossil to green energies.
Even though the use of solar power has become popular over the past decades, the origins of solar energy date back to the early 19th century. Thus, solar power has a long history and plenty of research has been done until then. Therefore, solar energy can be regarded as a trustworthy and reliable technology.
Since our sun will likely have a longer lifetime than the human species, the sun’s power will be usable for human purposes until the end of history. Thus, humanity can be sure that solar power is a reliable energy source for quite a long time.
Especially for remote areas which have no good infrastructure and lack a connection to big city districts, solar energy can be a quite important source for energy. Imagine you live quite remote in the middle of a desert and you will not be able to get electricity from local institutions.
Thus, for instance, you will not be able to use electronic devices or to use lights in your house. Your only solution for electricity generation will likely be solar power. Thus, in remote regions, solar energy can be regarded as vital energy source for people to stay connected to the outer world.
Independent on the technological progress of a country or the overall living conditions, people all over the world can use solar energy. Even if solar panels would not be available in quite poor countries, people could order them from abroad due to the progress in globalization our global society experienced over the past decades. Thus, solar energy is available for almost every community on our planet.
Although solar power cannot be produced every day due to clouds or rainfalls, the supply with energy can be assured by using energy storages for solar power. By doing so, the energy that is produced during sunny days can be stored and also used for rainy days where electricity production is impossible with solar energy systems.
Depending on the solar energy system, solar power can be quite cheap compared to other energy sources. Especially in areas with high taxes on fossil fuels, solar energy can be cheaper than conventional energy sources.
Even though there has already been plenty of research in the field of sun energy, it is likely that our technological progress
will continue and this will likely also lead to a decrease in prices for solar energy which makes it even more attractive for people to invest in solar energy.
Compared to other energy sources, the production of solar energy does not include any noise at all. Apart from the initial installation of solar panels on your roof, your solar system will produce plenty of energy for a quite long time without causing any noise pollution.
Another advantage of solar power is that you actually do not even have to have space for solar panels. If you don’t live in a house, you might still participate in the advantages of solar energy bay joining solar communities, often also called solar farms.
Those farms usually produce large amounts of energy, which is then shared with the solar community so that everyone gets his or her chunk of energy. Thus, in case you do not have space for solar panels, solar communities might be a good alternative if you still want to improve your ecological footprint.
If you own a house, solar panels can be regarded to be quite space-efficient since they can literally be installed on your roof and will not take away additional storage space around your house (apart from the energy storage device). Thus, this makes solar energy quite convenient since there is not much storage space necessary to install devices.
Since solar panels are quite durable on average, the maintenance costs are quite low. Thus, once installed properly, you can benefit from your solar system for quite a long time, without worrying about high maintenance costs or other maintenance efforts that could be needed for other electricity generation devices.
In many countries, there are also significant tax benefits related to the installation of renewable energy devices. Thus, in those countries, there is an additional financial incentive to switch from conventional to solar energy, especially if you own a house and the installation of solar panels is quite convenient and storage-efficient due to that.
Apart from the initial production of solar panels and of the solar energy storage, there is virtually no additional pollution associated to the generation of solar energy. Thus, solar energy can be regarded as one of the cleanest and greenest energy sources that is developed enough to deliver serious amounts of electricity that we currently have on our planet.
Apart from the financial upsides, it may be quite interesting to produce your own electricity.
You may see this project as a kind of challenge and may be quite happy when you finally accomplished to produce your own electricity, so you can be independent of the community electricity system.
This may also give you a feeling of security since you know that even when the local community energy system breaks down, you will still be able to supply yourself with power.
If you own a large area of land, you could also consider to open your own solar farm from which you could supply many households with electricity from solar energy and therefore make an even bigger positive environmental impact.
However, building a whole solar farm can be quite costly and you should consider to have plenty of consultation with experienced people in this field in order to protect yourself against enormous costs and risks.
Although there are no direct environmental costs once the solar panels are set up, the initial installation and production of the solar panels implies the use of precious resources and also contributes to several kinds of pollution. Thus, solar energy is also not fully green. However, compared to other energy sources, it can still be considered as one of the greenest sources of energy we currently have on our planet.
Moreover, also the upfront costs of solar panels can be quite high. Depending on the brand and the quality of the solar panel, it could be a financial burden to initially install solar panel systems.
However, over time, these high upfront costs will often be surpassed by the savings on conventional energy due to the use of solar power.
Therefore, although there is a financial burden for the initial purchase of solar panels, the benefits are often much higher in the long run.
Similar to the high upfront costs for solar panels themselves, also the costs of solar energy storage devices can be significant. However, the whole system will often amortize in the long run and will often lead to financial upsides over the lifespan of a solar system. Therefore, you should not be scared about the high initial costs, but should rather make calculations for the long run.
Since there is not only good weather, depending on the region, there might be many days or even weeks with rain or clouds and your solar energy panels will not be able to generate enough electricity. Thus, you may run out of electricity in rainy periods. However, this problem can be overcome by using energy conserving devices.
With those devices, you will be able to store the energy produced in sunny periods for rainy days so that you can constantly use the energy produced by your solar system, independent on the current weather conditions.
One downside of solar power is that it cannot be generated at night. Thus, half of the day is essentially not suitable for solar energy production. Other alternative energies like wind energy will be able to generate energy 24/7, since wind is also available at nighttime.
However, the amounts of energy that can be generated during daytime is often sufficient to cover the energy needs of the whole family. Thus, it is not too crucial that half of the day cannot be used for electricity generation.
Especially if you are not gifted in a technical way, you might need help to install your solar panels. You could ask your family or friends if they can help you to install your solar power system. You can also pay a company to install it for you.
Another interesting way in which you could learn a lot and which might also be fun is to use a do-it-yourself guide for the solar panel installation. DIY has the advantage that you learn a lot and are also better prepared in case there is a need for reparation.
In areas with high levels of air pollution and smog, solar panels will not be able to generate as much electricity compared to areas with a good air quality. Thus, if you live in areas with high levels of pollution, you might want to ask an expert if solar power is the right way to go for ensuring your energy supply.
If you consume large amounts of energy, you might not be able to produce enough energy from solar panels on your roof. This is especially true if you have a business which needs big machines and you work from home. In this case, you should get consultation or inform yourself via other media in order to be able to ensure your electricity supply.
Although solar energy can be regarded as one of our most environmentally-friendly energy sources, the production of solar energy via solar farms can also have some severe downsides. For solar farms, large areas of land have to be used, which in turn often implies the destruction of habitats for a variety of animals and plants.
Moreover, those areas cannot be used for producing food or for other important purposes anymore. Thus, your rooftop should be preferred over joining solar farms as the right location for solar panels.
Some components of solar panels are made of scarce resources, which may contribute to resource depletion in the long run. However, the amounts needed for the production of solar panels are usually quite low, which makes solar energy still one of the most ecologically-friendly energy sources.
Some elements of solar panel systems are also made out of hazardous materials, which can potentially contaminate our environment. Thus, it is crucial that you dispose your solar panels in an appropriate manner so that those harmful components cannot pollute our ecosystems.
If you don’t own your house but rent it, you will often not be able to take your solar panels with you since the installation and the removal will be quite time-intensive and may also involve quite high costs.
Thus, it is crucial that you make an agreement with your landlord in which potential compensations are arranged.
Therefore, you can be sure not to spend plenty of money on the initial installation if you know you will get no compensation in case you move to another home.
Like many other products out there, solar panel systems also significantly vary in quality. For low maintenance costs and efforts, it is therefore crucial that you inform yourself about the best solar panels on the market. Even if the best ones are more expensive in the short run, they may save you plenty of money in the long run.
Apart from the financial and economic downside, many people also regard solar panels on rooftops as rather unattractive and may feel disturbed due to that. However, compared to our other energy sources, solar energy implies one of the least levels of visual pollution.
Think about the emissions of power plants or the size of wind wheels. Would you rather live near those power generating devices instead? Thus, solar panels can be regarded as the smallest evil regarding visual pollution compared to the alternatives.
Solar Energy Pros
Stable price levels
Cost per energy unit is virtually zero
Solar energy is a renewable energy source
Proven technology with long history
Effective power source for remote areas
Solar panels can be used all over the world
Available all year long due to storage
Solar power can be cheap
May become even cheaper in the future
Solar power can be generated silently
Possibility to join solar communities
Solar energy can be quite space-efficient
Low maintenance costs and efforts
Tax advantages & subsidies for solar energy
Environmentally-friendly power source
Good feeling to produce own electricity
Support for the local community
Solar Energy Cons
Initial production implies pollution
High upfront installation costs
Solar energy storages can be expensive
Sun intensity varies over the year
No generation of energy during nighttime
You might need help to install solar panels
Air pollution can reduce energy production
Insufficient energy production
Solar farms need large areas of land
Some resources for solar panels are scarce
Production of hazardous waste
Panels can't be moved to a new home
Solar panels vary in quality
Visual pollution for sensitive people
Solar energy is one of the most promising technologies when it comes to our future energy supply. There are many advantages of solar power. Once solar panels are installed, it is virtually a free source of energy.
Moreover, it can also be installed on rooftops, which makes it quite space-efficient. Thus, for many private persons, solar energy may be the right way to go, especially when we take a look at the future.
High energy prices regarding fossil energy sources will make it quite attractive to transit to green energies and to become independent from fossil fuels and official institutions.
Although there are some downsides to solar energy, those disadvantages are rather small compared to the huge benefits solar power implies for individuals as well as for humanity.
About the author
My name is Andreas and my mission is to educate people of all ages about our environmental problems and how everyone can make a contribution to mitigate these issues.
As I went to university and got my Master's degree in Economics, I did plenty of research in the field of Development Economics.
After finishing university, I traveled around the world. From this time on, I wanted to make a contribution to ensure a livable future for the next generations in every part of our beautiful planet.
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