Tag Archive | solar energy advantages

Solar Energy Pros and Cons

Below you`ll find a list over the various pros and cons of solar energy. By clicking on one of the blue links, you will be taken further down on the page for more in-depth information. Everything you are about to read is properly referenced at the bottom.

 Advantages of Solar Energy

1. Renewable

Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy, as opposed to non-renewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, coal and nuclear).

We will have access to solar energy for as long as the sun is alive – another 6.5 billion years according to NASA[1]. We have worse things to worry about; in fact, scientists have estimated that the sun itself will swallow Earth 5 billion years from now.

2. Abundant

The potential of solar energy is beyond imagination. The surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) – 20,000 times more power than what is needed to supply the entire world.[2]

3. Sustainable

An abundant and renewable energy source is also sustainable. Sustainable energy sources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because there is no way we can over-consume.

4. Environmentally Friendly

Harnessing solar energy does generally not cause pollution. However, there are emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems – almost nothing compared to most conventional energy sources. It is clear that solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

5-energy is available all over the world. Not only the countries that are closest to the Equator can put solar energy to use – Germany, for example, has by far the highest capacity of solar power in the world.

6. Reduces Electricity Costs

With the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, homeowners can now “sell” excess electricity, or receive bill credits, during times when they produce more electricity than what they actually consume.

This means that homeowners can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. Data from One Block Off the Grid reveals that adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 after 20 years!

Nowadays, most homeowners choose leasing or power purchase agreements to finance their solar panels. This drastically reduces, or in some cases completely eliminates, the upfront costs of a solar panel system, and allows homeowners to start saving money from the first day.

If you want to learn more about the advantages specifically related to residential solar photovoltaic panels (generating electricity with solar energy at home), then check out Benefits of Solar Panels.

7. Many Applications

Solar energy can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to generate electricity in places that lack a grid connection, for distilling water in Africa, or even to power satellites in space.

Solar power is also known as “The People`s Power”, which refers to how easily deployable solar panels are at the consumer level (both photovoltaic and solar thermal).

With the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can even be seemingly integrated into the material of buildings (building integrated photovoltaics) – Sharp, a solar panel manufacturer with headquarters in Japan, recently introduced transparent solar power windows.

8. Shared Solar

Because of shading, insufficient space and ownership issues, 1/5 American homes are simply unfit for solar panels.[3] With the introduction of shared solar, homeowners can subscribe to “community solar gardens”, and generate solar electricity without actually having solar panels on their own rooftops.

9. Silent

There are no moving parts involved in most applications of solar power. There is no noise associated with photovoltaics. This compares favorable to certain other green-techs such as wind turbines.

10. Financial Support from Government/State

Government and state rebates have become available both on utility-scale and for the majority of homeowners. This means that the effective costs of solar panels are much less than what they used to be. In some cases, the price of a residential photovoltaic system can be cut more than 50%.

11. Low Maintenance

The majority of today`s solar power systems do not required a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.

Technological advancements are constantly being made in the solar power industry. Innovation in nanotechnology and quantum physics has the potential to triple the electrical output of solar panels.

 

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

1. Expensive

Is solar power really expensive? This is probably the most debatable aspect on the entire solar energy pros and cons list. The driving forces behind the development of solar energy are rooted in politics. Solar power is incentivized to compete against other energy sources on the market. On the other hand, the U.S. government, similarly to the rest of the world, provides incentives to every major energy production market – not just solar.

In 2010, coal received $1,189 billion in federal subsidies and support for electricity production while solar is not far behind at $968 billion.[4]

Nowadays, the best solar panels can in many situations be cheaper than buying electricity from the utility. This wouldn`t have been possible without incentives.

2. Intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.

3. Energy Storage is Expensive

Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smoothen out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive.

Luckily, there`s a good correspondence between our access to solar energy and human energy demand. Our electricity demand peaks in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the same time there`s a lot of sunlight!

4. Associated with Pollution

While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution.

The bottom line is this: There’s nothing that’s completely risk-free in the energy world, but solar power compares very favorably with all other technologies.

5. Exotic Materials

Certain solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare in nature. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

6. Requires Space

Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonably prices.

The global mean power density for solar radiation is 170 W/m².[5] This is more than any other renewable energy source, but not comparable to oil, gas and nuclear power.

 

Tesla offers $2.6B for SolarCity to Speed Sustainable Energy

Tesla will buy the solar panel maker SolarCity Corp. in an all-stock deal worth around $2.6 billion.

The deal must still be approved by the government and shareholders at both companies. It’s expected to close in the fourth quarter if it goes through.

Tesla, a 13-year-old maker of electric cars and energy storage systems, said Monday that the tie-up would create a one-stop shop for cleaner energy. With one service call, customers could get their solar panels installed and connected to Tesla’s Powerwall storage unit, which preserves energy for later use. Users could also get the system hooked up to chargers for one of Tesla’s vehicles.

“Musk, the chairman and biggest shareholder of both companies, during a conference call.

But some have questioned the wisdom of the deal, which combines two money-losing companies that already have a lot on their plates. Tesla is working feverishly on its new, lower-cost Model 3 sedan, which is due out by the end of next year, and Musk recently said the company is also working on electric buses and semi-trucks. And SolarCity said Monday that it experienced lower-than-expected residential bookings in the first half of the year, so it’s reducing its full-year guidance for megawatts installed to a range of 900 to 1,000 megawatts. Its previous outlook had been for 1,000 to 1,100 megawatts.

Others have questioned the conflicts of interest in the deal. Musk owns a 26 percent stake in Tesla Motors Inc., based in Palo Alto, California, and a 22.5 percent stake in SolarCity, which is based in nearby San Mateo, California. Musk’s cousin, Lyndon Rive, runs SolarCity.

SolarCity’s stock slid more than 6 percent to $25.07 in early trading Monday. Tesla’s shares fell 2 percent to $231.01.

But Musk said the companies have a lot of synergies that they can’t take advantage of unless they’re combined.

“The point of the merger is to get rid of the conflicts,” he said. “Until then it’s very limited what we can do unless we are one company.”

Musk said he had no role in establishing the value of the deal.

“I know about as much as you do about how this price was obtained,” he said.

San Francisco Requires New Buildings To Install Solar Panels

Workers install solar panels on the roof of a home in Camarillo, Calif., in 2013. San Francisco has recently decided to start requiring rooftop solar systems — electrical or heating — on new construction up to 10 stories tall.

Anne Cusack

San Francisco will soon begin requiring new buildings to have solar panels installed on the roof.

It’s the first major U.S. city to have such a requirement, according to Scott Weiner, the city supervisor who introduced the bill.

The ordinance, which was passed unanimously by the city’s Board of Supervisors, builds on an existing California law requiring new buildings to set aside 15 percent of the roof as “solar ready” — clear and unshaded. That law applies to residential and commercial buildings 10 stories or shorter.

Now, instead of just preparing the roof for solar panels, such buildings would need to actually install some form of solar energy — either electricity-generating panels or solar heating units.

It’s a step toward San Francisco’s goal of meeting the city’s electrical demands with 100 percent renewable energy, Wiener notes in his statement.

“Activating underutilized roof space is a smart and efficient way to promote the use of solar energy and improve our environment,” he says. “We need to continue to pursue aggressive renewable energy policies to ensure a sustainable future for our city and our region.”

The legislation itself is even more explicit about San Francisco’s particular interest in finding energy sources that don’t contribute to climate change:

“As a coastal city located on the tip of a peninsula, San Francisco is vulnerable to sea level rise, and human activities releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere cause increases in worldwide average temperature, which contribute to melting of glaciers and thermal expansion of ocean water — resulting in rising sea levels.

“San Francisco is already experiencing the repercussions of excessive CO2 emissions as rising sea levels threaten the City’s shoreline and infrastructure, have caused significant erosion, increased impacts to infrastructure during extreme tides, and have caused the City to expend funds to modify the sewer system.”

Reaction to the ordinance has been mixed. Two of San Francisco’s former environment commissioners, both advocates for solar power, celebrated the news.

Fortune magazine notes that the new requirement is an extra hurdle for development in a city where new construction is already “notoriously difficult.”

But Engadget suggests the impact of the law might not be that dramatic — San Francisco isn’t seeing a ton of new buildings that are under 10 stories tall, the website says.

And Vox argues that boosting city density might have an even bigger impact on carbon levels than the solar panel law.

The new requirement goes into effect at the beginning of 2017.