What are the pros and cons of solar energy? Many people mistakenly believe that there aren’t any negatives related to solar power. But the truth is that solar energy, just like any other power source, comes with a number of trade-offs – both advantages and disadvantages.
Solar energy’s been around for thousands of years; initially put to very basic use, it’s been developed into a successful and sustainable source of power.
Solar energy provides many benefits. At the forefront is the fact that solar energy is a renewable resource.
One of the potential disadvantages associated with the use of solar energy is the sheer cost of purchasing and installing a solar energy system.
A Brief History of the Use of Solar Power
The origins of solar energy date back to the 7th century B.C. when sunlight was concentrated with glass to light fires. The foundation of what we know today as solar energy can be traced back to the 1800s.
In 1876, William Grylls Adams discovered that exposing selenium to sunlight produced electricity. Inventor Charles Fritts developed the first designs for photovoltaic cells to contain said electricity in 1883 but was never quite able to build an operational model.
The first successful photovoltaic cell came in 1954, courtesy of the work of three American researchers from Bell Labs in New Jersey. The cell was largely inefficient; however, it did produce enough usable energy to power smaller electrical devices.
The Arab oil embargo in the 1970s was the impetus that truly paved the way for the U.S. to devote time and resources toward developing sustainable solar energy institutions, products, and use. In 2005, with the U.S. finding so many positives associated with solar energy, it passed the Energy Policy Act, which offered a 30% investment tax credit (ITC) to companies and individuals making use of solar energy systems.
The popularity and use of solar energy continue to increase, largely because of the environmental benefits that it offers.
Pros of Solar Energy
1. Diversity of application
Solar energy can be used to create both heat and electricity – it is specifically useful in areas without an easily accessible power grid – as well as being used to power satellites and distill water. It can be integrated into building supplies (e.g., a solar panel roof).
2. Renewable power source
Solar energy is completely renewable. Modern technological advances and the development of solar energy panels make it possible for the power of the sun to be harnessed and utilized all over the world. As the sun is the source of the energy, there’s an essentially endless supply.
The benefit becomes even more significant when you consider the environmental impact that, as a renewable resource, solar energy offers, cutting down on emissions of greenhouse gases, as well as on the use of limited and/or harmful resources (such as fossil fuels and oil).
3. Low maintenance costs
Once installed, solar panels can be maintained for as little as $300 per year (even if a professional cleaning company is used). Additionally, companies providing solar panels usually offer warranties, which further helps to minimize costs.
Solar panels can help both companies and individuals keep their electric bills low. Traditional sources of electricity only need to be used during times when, for an extended period, the sun isn’t out, or during months when hours of available sunlight are restricted.
Cons of Solar Energy
Although solar energy provides a variety of benefits, there are some negative factors to consider as well.
1. High initial cost
Cost is still very much an important consideration when it comes to solar energy. While maintenance costs are typically minimal, initial installation can require quite an investment. To purchase a solar energy system, you need to pay for the panels, a substantial number of batteries, wiring, and then pay more for all the components to be installed.
2. Space requirements
You also must keep in mind that a solar energy system takes up a lot of space, depending on how much energy you’re trying to produce. The goal is to collect as much sunlight as is possible, and that usually requires a huge number of panels. In most cases, the best option is to get solar panels installed on a roof.
For companies that own large office buildings, it is less of an issue. However, if you’re an individual homeowner, your ability to rely on solar energy will depend a lot on how much space available for the installation of panels.
3. Need for sunlight
Using the sun as a source of energy requires that the sun be accessible. It means that it’s more difficult for individuals and companies in certain regions to depend fully (or even primarily) on solar energy.
If, for example, your company wants to use solar panels, but your business is located in London, you’re significantly more likely to experience weather-related issues that make relying on solar energy more difficult.
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