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Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: A Guide to Going Green

When you think of renewable energy sources, what comes to mind first? Like most people, you probably think of solar panels, wind turbines, and maybe even nuclear power plants. These are great examples of renewable energy sources that don’t pollute the environment or create greenhouse gases during production.

It’s easy to see why solar energy has become so popular in recent years. Solar power is clean, affordable, and accessible for almost anyone with a sunny backyard or garage roof. 

In fact, there are lots of great reasons to go solar and make your home more eco-friendly in the process. However, there are also some potential downsides to using solar as an energy source. 

Keep reading this article and take a closer look at the pros and cons of solar energy in the environment so you can decide whether this is the right choice for you and your home.

Solar Power Technology

Semiconductors convert light from the sun into electricity, producing photovoltaic solar power. When photons from the sun hit a semiconductor material (usually a silicon alloy), they knock electrons free. 

Ecological green energy solar panels plant mounted on the ground

The electrons can then move through the material, producing electricity as they go. Solar thermal technology uses large reflective mirrors to concentrate and reflect sunlight, making hot water that powers a turbine to generate electricity. The steam drives a turbine to generate electricity.

Despite its advantages, you cannot directly collect solar power without obstructions. 

In practice, the amount of sunlight hitting a solar panel varies with the latitude, time of year, and season (because the sun’s angle is significant), as well as atmospheric features like clouds, water vapor, and pollution (which scatter light). 

Because of its dry climate and low latitude, the Southwest (Arizona, California, Colorado, and Texas, for example) has the greatest solar potential in dry mid-latitude zones. The same principle applies to the United States.

The Advantages of Solar Energy

The sense of going green is a growing trend, and solar energy is one of the most popular ways to have an eco-friendly home. Going solar has a number of benefits. For example, lowering your energy costs by a tax credit at the end of the year. 

Here are some solar energy pros you may not know about:

Low Environmental Impact

Because solar energy does not require fuel combustion, its greenhouse gas emissions are negligible. Photovoltaic solar cells are more environmentally-friendly than concentrating solar thermal plants (CSPs) in terms of water consumption, since only the most advanced technologies heat water as a byproduct of generating solar energy.

Sustainable Economy

Solar energy is a sustainable alternative to fossil fuels – the sun will be around for billions of years, whereas fossil fuels are likely to run out in the next few decades. Solar power and other renewable energy sources also produce plenty of jobs to replace the ones lost during the transition from fossil fuels.

Energy Independence

Because the sun shines everywhere, solar energy offers countries worldwide the chance to become energy independent. Furthermore, individual homes may be outfitted with solar panels to generate power, which would not require being connected to a larger energy grid.

You Can Reduce Your Electricity Bills With Solar Power

Many individuals install solar panels in their homes or workplaces to reduce their electricity bills. A solar energy system can dramatically lower or even eliminate the electricity bill from a utility company.

Historic house with modern solar panels on roof

To determine how much you’ll save, you must first assess your monthly energy needs and the size of your solar panel system before seeking professional technicians and installers. With the price of electricity rising year after year, you can be sure that your savings will be substantial, so there is immense value in investing in a solar power system.

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Solar Is Better for the Planet

Because they produce no emissions, solar energy systems are much more environmentally friendly than other familiar electricity sources, such as coal or oil. Solar energy does not generate carbon emissions, which causes climate change. 

Currently, carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from burning coal account for 46 percent of all emissions released into the atmosphere.

A 40°F increase in the earth’s temperature, resulting from unchecked greenhouse gas emissions, would result in a widespread drought, catastrophic natural disasters, crop failure, and rising sea levels. 

solar panel

Switching from coal-based electricity to solar power also reduces coal’s devastating environmental consequences, including air and water pollutants and the destruction of Earth’s natural habitats due to coal mining.

Solar Panels Have a Long Lifespan

Solar panel manufacturing uses contemporary photovoltaic (PV) technology and is highly resilient and long-lasting. They can endure hail, snow, and other harsh weather and generally last 25-35 years. 

You may experience a long-term investment in solar energy that may save money, provide bill credits, reduce your carbon footprint, and lower ongoing energy expenses.

Solar Works in Many Climates

A popular misconception is that a hot climate is the only place where you can use solar power. High temperatures can actually lower solar panel systems voltage outputs, with higher efficiencies achieved in cooler climates. 

More sun exposure is always preferable for solar systems, but modern solar panels are efficient enough that they produce good energy even with less sun exposure.

Solar Is a Proven Technology

Solar energy has been utilized for decades to supply energy to homes and businesses, thus demonstrating its reliability and versatility. In the United States, solar photovoltaic capacity totals over 100 gigawatts, enough to power over 12 million average American homes.

house with solar panels

The Disadvantages of Solar Energy

With the abundance of sunshine throughout the year and increasing electricity costs, many homeowners are taking advantage of solar energy to cut their utility bills. 

If you’re considering adding solar panels to your home or business, here are some drawbacks that you should know first:

Intermittency

The most significant con of solar energy technology is that it only produces energy when the sun is out. This restriction creates a shortage on cloudy days, especially since there are no inexpensive energy storage options.

In a similar vein to the intermittency problem, solar energy doesn’t function at night. No matter where solar panels are on roofs, when the sun is down you will have to use other energy sources at night. This isn’t a huge issue for businesses and other applications that only operate during the day. 

Still, it can be a problem for both providers and families that rely on solar energy production. However, you can control and mitigate this issue by including a battery in your solar system.

You can then store excess power generated during the day for nighttime use or on overcast days with limited sunlight.

In light of the expanding global solar energy market, Japan, Germany, and other global leaders in solar technology are concentrating on developing adequate storage solutions to address this problem. There are storage options available for both homes and businesses, so start by reading this guide to the seven best batteries for solar panels for more details.

Land Use

The worry that solar power may consume a lot of land and negatively affect wildlife habitats or contribute to land degradation is prominent. You can install solar PV systems on any structure, but utility-scale PV systems require between 3.5 to 10 acres per megawatt, and CSP facilities require between 4 and 16.5 acres per megawatt. 

Facilities may be located in a lower-quality area or state, or along existing transportation and transmission routes to minimize their impact.

Scarcity of Materials

While PV technology is affected by the need for rare materials, unlike CSP technology. Many rare materials result from byproducts of other processes rather than from targeted mining or gathering, creating a shortage. Unfrotunately, this shortage is due to a future demand that cannot be met by today’s markets.

Recycling PV material and nanotechnology that improves solar-cell efficiency can both assist in boosting supply, but experts are also working to identify readily available material alternatives.

Solar Systems May Harm the Environment in Other Ways

While solar has several environmental advantages, such as no carbon emissions or decreased air pollution, it may also have some disadvantages. Solar panels require many of the same chemicals and energy, and when they are disposed of, the toxic substances they contain can leach out. So, as solar power becomes more popular, dealing with hazardous waste becomes an additional challenge.

house with solar panels

Despite the difficulty of handling the toxic waste properly, solar energy’s reduced carbon emission output still makes it an attractive option.

In addition, transporting goods and products is typically done with fossil fuels, which results in greenhouse emissions. It is critical to weigh the potential negative impacts on the environment against the eco-benefits of solar energy use. 

Over the long-term, solar power will generally have a neutral or positive effect on the environment, even though it requires a lot of energy and materials to create.

Solar Panels Can Look Unattractive

Modern solar panels have become smaller and more streamlined than their predecessors. Older systems had bulky silver frames which elevated them above the roof, but nowadays they sit flush against rooftops.

solar panel mounted on the ground

There are various options for solar panels to better complement your house or property, but some potential customers still consider them unattractive.

It’s Difficult To Install a Home Solar System

Even though solar technology and knowledge are simple to set up, they are complicated to do correctly. Unless you already have the required skills and information, you won’t be able to set up your solar system by hand.

You’ll typically need to hire professionals to design, install, and maintain your solar if you wish to go down this course of action. Ask questions and get multiple quotes to make sure the solar installer companies know their craft.

Solar Is Not Right for All Building Types or Locations

Some structures simply cannot be powered by solar systems, even though modern solar systems are very diverse. It is critical to have enough roof space with adequate sun exposure, so in areas of significant shade, solar may not be suitable for you. 

You should ask several solar businesses to determine whether they can design a system that will work for your structure and location. You may also need to look into other renewable energy solutions that can function anywhere in the world.

There’s a High Initial Cost to Going Solar

Solar systems’ prices can be high, especially when you factor in solar panels, other equipment, and installation costs. You could easily be billed for a $20,000 payment or more depending on your financing options and the size of your solar system.

Despite the initial cost, long-term savings on energy bills and the potential to earn money by selling electricity back to the grid can make this an excellent investment. Rebates, tax credits, government incentives, and financing are available in many states to lower the upfront costs of the purchase.

Conclusion

As the price of solar technology continues to fall, solar power is becoming a more attractive option for homeowners, no matter the size of their homes. You can’t easily transport solar power with you but your home can benefit greatly from both PV and CSP solutions.

Even still, solar energy is an excellent alternative to traditional forms of energy, and it has a variety of benefits for the environment and you, too!  

After installation, there is no need for new equipment, construction, and maintenance is kept to a minimum. You may even be able to offset the amount of energy your solar panels produce by selling back any excess to the grid via net metering.

Do your research by reading articles and reviews to help you decide whether solar energy is right for you.

FAQ

What are the environmental advantages of solar energy?

Solar energy is a clean, renewable source that can heat air, water, or other fluids. Clean energy sources do not produce air pollution and greenhouse gases.

Solar energy is also a sustainable energy source, meaning you can use it indefinitely without damaging the environment.

How does solar energy affect the environment?

Human existence and biodiversity are at risk due to climate change. Solar energy is vital in mitigating climate change and reducing greenhouse gas emissions by providing renewable energy. In addition to providing clean energy, solar energy can also improve air quality and conserve water.

However, mining the necessary resources for solar technology could damage endangered habitats and the space required for large solar panel farms could have negative asepcts yet unresearched.

How does solar energy benefit society?

Solar power provides clean, renewable energy from the sun. Reducing our collective reliance on fossil fuels by installing solar panels in our homes helps combat greenhouse gas emissions.

Jobs are created by going green and there is a reduced reliance on other countries to supply our own energy needs, all of which contribute to society.