Despite the fact that solar energy has been used for many years, the technology is still considered to be generally new. As people focus too much on advantages, therefore, the disadvantages of solar energy are often overlooked, and many fall pray to difficulties, having to invest a lot of money on a solar array that might not even work properly for one reason or another.
If you are truly serious about using solar energy to provide your home with electricity, therefore, you will find that a thorough understanding of its disadvantages is crucial. That way, if you do your research properly, and weigh every point carefully, you will find that you can make the best decisions, and benefit from the numerous positive aspects that solar power comes with.
The Contrast between Solar and Other Green Energy Sources
Solar power has been successfully used as an energy source for more than 50 years. Its advantages are well-known to those who are even remotely interested in the development of alternate power sources; however, the truth is that, when compared with some other “green” methods of power production, solar power is not considered to be in first place in terms of efficiency or consistency.
Its main rivals are: geothermal energy, wind power and hydroelectricity. Wind turbines are only starting to become more popular, and new designs are being developed all the time, so it can be considered as a viable solution for the future. When comparing it with solar energy, wind power is generally seen as being at a similar level. It is more expensive; however, it does have one advantage over solar energy, since solar energy doesn’t work at night, for example. On the other hand, wind power can only be harvested in specific locations where the weather conditions are appropriate.
This same problem comes up when comparing solar power to the other two energy sources too. Hydroelectricity is somewhat less clean, however, despite the fact that it does not produce direct waste. Geothermal power is extremely beneficial for the environment on the other hand, being comparable to solar energy in this regard; however, solar power is less efficient.
Nevertheless, geothermal energy is still being researched, as there are numerous problems with it, because the technology is not yet advanced enough to allow regular people to benefit from it directly, by building their own power sources. In this regard, solar panels really shine, as, despite the cost, they can be much easier to manufacture, and maintenance issues are generally rare.
Manufacturing and Buying Costs
One of the greatest disadvantage of solar panels is their cost. Both in terms of manufacturing and buying them ready-made, the costs can be quite discouraging. Of course, the investment mostly depends on the size of the household, as well as on the type of solar energy source you want to use.
A 1 kwh photovoltaic system can range somewhere between $8,000 and $10,000. When we think of the fact that a family living in a 3-bedroom home requires a system that can provide about 1 to 3 kw, the cost of a viable and generally stable solar panel system can double, or even triple.
Solar hot water systems are usually much more accessible, however, requiring an investment of roughly around $2000 to $4000. This is good news for those who would prefer to separate their energy sources, and perhaps use multiple systems for better efficiency.
Even better, the price for solar panel arrays has decreased considerably in the past couple of decades. Before that, the costs were more than 5 times less affordable, and the quality was less than acceptable for such an investment.
As a result of this progress, many scientists are quite confident that, soon, the price and efficiency rating of solar energy will be good enough to allow the replacement of the conventional power grid, and provide people with a useful, clean and powerful alternative to many of the energy sources known today.
Also, if you are up for it, you can buy only the parts, and make your own system based on solar panels. Depending on your needs, you can make it much more economical, at only a fraction of the price that a regular solar panel would cost. While this can be somewhat difficult, with a little work and effort it can be done.
Of course, if you choose to make your own solar panel arrays, you will likely run into a lot of difficulties, especially if you are not used to building things from scratch. Also, in order to lower the costs, you might have to use lower quality materials that might not last on a long term basis.
Manufacturers often emphasize the difference in quality and reliability between a solar panel they make and one that an inexperienced worker may put together. This is, of course, a marketing strategy, as well, and there is no reason why you can’t build a solid, viable solar panel. The effort may be too much for some, but if you like doing some good old fashioned work, the odds will be favorable.
Another difficulty, regardless of the quality of the solar array you use, is the difference between various locations. The main disadvantage in this regard has to do with places where sunlight is not consistently available.
For example, in places closer to the poles, during the winter season, the sun rarely even makes its appearance for more than a few hours. This can make it very difficult to use solar panels for consistent energy production. Also, in areas where the weather is particularly overcast, rainy or foggy, solar panels do provide some energy, but the efficiency is significantly reduced, and you may need more than the estimated amount in order to successfully provide electricity for your entire household.
Of course, if you live in an area where the rain doesn’t fall all that often, and there is an abundance of sunshine almost every day, a solar panel array may well be the best option for you. Depending on other factors, such as the area you have available for it, and the size of the panels themselves, you may be able to achieve excellent results in this case.
Pollution and Long Term Inconsistency
Solar energy may be clean from a general point of view, however, it is still vulnerable to pollution, as this factor can diminish the efficiency of a solar panel. While most of the newer designs don’t have a problem with this, older models can be quite easily affected, as the technology was not so advanced in the past, and the materials used were significantly less reliable.
While the solar panels themselves may not pose a threat to the environment, if you are using an off grid system, the chances are high that you need to use lead acid batteries. Their lifespan is much less favorable than that of a solar panel (roughly 5 years for the battery, in contrast with 20 to 30 for the panels).
As a result, not only are you faced with additional periodic costs, but the lead and sulfuric acid contained in the batteries can prove to be quite detrimental for the environment. Improperly managed, their use can lead to considerable problems.
There are ways around this, of course, as more than 90 % of the materials present in lead batteries can be recovered in the recycling process. What you need to do, therefore, is to ensure that you extend the lifespan of the batteries for as long as possible, and take them to a recycling facility afterwards.
Generally, it can be said that there are a lot of disadvantages when it comes to using solar energy as an efficient power source for your home. As we have seen, however, all of these drawbacks depend on the ability of people to determine exactly what they need, and compare the results to their abilities. With a correct assessment of the situation, you may actually be able to come up with a viable solution.
There is no reason why you cannot benefit from the positive aspects of this energy source, however, it has to be noted that the technology is still in its early days, and if you want to obtain a good cost/quality ratio, you will have to do a lot of research, and be aware of all the potential issues.
However, experts estimate that, in a few years, solar energy will gradually become much cheaper, more accessible, as well as more efficient. Keep an eye out for technological advancements, therefore, if you are a solar energy enthusiast, as you never know when a good opportunity may “shine” upon you in just the right way.