News about renewable energy and electric vehicles
Solar energy

Solar Power Pros and Cons

the most efficient solar PV cells

Solar power is considered today one of the best sources of renewable energy available on the planet because besides of being a clean source of electricity is also more environmentally friendly than other forms of renewable resources.

Solar Power Definition

Solar power represents a form of renewable energy produced by converting the sunlight into clean electricity using photovoltaic solar cells.

Today, the demand for renewable energy is higher than ever mostly because many governments have realized that by using fossil fuels on a mass scale we are destroying the environment and we are also producing a massive air pollution that leads to global warming and climate change.

Solar along with wind power is rapidly spreading all over the planet, but the efforts to increase the global generation capacity for solar energy needs to be intensified in order to seriously reduce the amount of greenhouse gas emissions released into the atmosphere by burning fossil fuels for electricity and heat production.

Solar Technology Used Today

Mankind relies today on two main technologies to produce solar power (clean electricity from sunlight).

1. Solar power produced using the photovoltaic effect (PV)

The most common technology used today to generate solar power is called solar photovoltaic or simply PV, and uses solar panels (solar modules) covered with photovoltaic solar cells that are turning the sunlight into clean electricity using the photovoltaic effect.

The Photovoltaic Effect is a process closely related to the photoelectric effect and is used to produce voltage (electricity) when a a photovoltaic cell is exposed to sunlight.

The solar cells are made of silicon and this material is perfect for generating clean electricity using the photovoltaic effect.

Solar PV technology is the most popular technology used today in the solar sector for energy generation (large solar power plants) because nowadays has become relatively inexpensive to install and use a solar PV system even by householders, and this is the reason why solar has become a cost-competitive energy source compared to fossil fuels.

2. Concentrated Solar Power (CSP)

CSP technology uses a system of mirrors and lenses to concentrate the sunlight into a central point located in the focal point of the lenses or mirrors where an agent (oil or molten salt) is heated at high temperatures to generate steam, which will be used to spin a turbine and produce clean electricity.

CSP technology has an advantage compared to solar PV because CSP produces both heat energy and electricity (not only electricity) and the energy produced this way can be easily stored for later use (during the night or in the cloudy days).

However, the CSP technology requires direct sunlight to produce heat energy and electricity, while the solar PV technology can generate electricity even in the cloudy days.

CSP is also more expensive than solar PV, so it can compete in terms of costs and efficiency with the solar PV technology.

The world’s capacity to generate solar power increases year after year even if today we see a major growth in Asia (countries like China and India), while the U.S. seems to be more interested to revive the coal sector instead of investing in renewables.

The costs of solar continue to decrease and this will allow the expansion of solar up to the level where will be able to compete against the dirty fossil fuels for a cleaner and healthier environment.

Pros of Solar Power

Being the most environmentally-friendly renewable energy source known today, solar power has many advantages and only a few disadvantages.

1. Is a Renewable Energy Source

We are producing solar power today using the sunlight as the energy source.

The sunlight is produced by the Sun, which is considered a renewable resource because compared to our time here on the planet is an unlimited source of free and clean power.

The Sun will shine for another 5 billion years from now on, which means that we can use the power of the Sun to cover our energy needs for a very long time in the future.

2. Has Low Maintenance Costs

Once installed by a solar company, a solar PV system will not require a lot of maintenance because the solar modules are built to withstand harsh weather conditions, which means that they will produce energy throughout the year.

From time to time, you can clean your solar panels from dust, leaves, branches, snow and other debris that could land on them and make them less efficient in energy production.

If you can’t perform the cleaning service for your panels you can always call a cleaning company specialize in cleaning solar modules, which for a small amount of money will perform a professional cleaning service for your panels.

3. Can Reduce Energy Bills

A solar PV system installed on your rooftop or in the yard will generate clean electricity during the day.

Depending on the size of the solar PV system, your energy bills may drop to a smaller value, or if you have a larger solar PV system installed, you can even receive money from the utility company due to the fact your solar system generates more energy than you consume and the excess energy is sent back in the grid to power your neighbors.

Even a smaller solar PV system installed at home will generate enough clean electricity to power some of your appliances and light bulbs, which will automatically reduce your energy bills.

4. Is A Very Practical Energy Source

Being generated by the Sun, solar power can be produced in many areas of the planet and even in the space.

Due to this fact, solar power is used in many remote areas (where the grid is not present) to power a small community, to ensure the water supply (solar power is the energy source used in these areas to distill water) in regions with no access to fresh water supplies.

At the same time, solar power is the energy source used by space missions, to power satellites, etc.

Cons of Solar Power

Being a pretty new technology in the energy sector, solar power also has a few disadvantages mostly related to its price and limitations.

1. High Initial Cost

Installing a solar PV system on your rooftop or in the yard represents a pretty high investment today even if the price of solar has plummeted in the last decade.

It is very useful to install a solar PV system to generate clean and free electricity at home, but you should do this if you get incentives provided by your government because this way your investment in the solar PV system will be lower, which means that you will recover the money invested in the system much sooner.

The feed-in tariff can also help you to recover the money put into the system sooner than you think.

2. The Duck Curve

The “Duck Curve” is considered today solar power’s greatest challenge, because it shows the graph of power production for a solar PV panel or system over a 24 hour period.

The graph shows that solar energy is an intermittent energy source, which means that it works only when the Sun (during the day).

However, the graph shows only the evolution in terms of power production for a PV module or system and not for a solar-thermal power plant that continues to generate electricity even during the night or in the cloudy days due to the fact that the heated agent (molten salt) can be stored for later use.

3. Storing Solar Energy is Expensive

Today you can install a grid-tied solar PV system, which will provide energy for your household while being connected to the grid.

This type of solar PV system will lower your energy bills, but in the case of a power outage, you will remain without power even having the solar modules installed on your rooftop.

To overcome this issue you need to buy besides the solar PV system also an energy storage system (a battery system for solar) to store the excess solar power produced by your panels.

The battery system will provide energy for your household during the night when the panels are not producing energy and also during the cloudy and rainy days when the panels are producing only a small amount of power.

The problem is that such an energy storage system is quite expensive, which adds to the initial investment in the solar PV system.

However, having a battery system for your solar modules means that you will have power even during a power outage in your area.

There is also a chance that along with solar technology, the energy storage systems will become more affordable in time while improving their capacity to store energy.

Final conclusion

Solar power might be expensive and not very efficient today, but I’m sure that in a couple of decades from now on, the technology used to harness the power of the Sun will become very affordable and way more efficient, which means that solar power has a great chance to become a major energy source of the future.

Article written by:

I am a writer and reporter for the clean energy sector, I cover climate change issues, new clean technologies, sustainability and green cars. Danny Ovy

1 Comment

  1. Alice Carroll

    After reading this, I realized that the pros of solar power very much outweighs, especially with the fact that minimal maintenance is needed once solar panels are installed. My husband and I decided that we should take small steps in doing our part to help the environment and with this article, it seems that this would be an easy and reasonable way to harness renewable energy. I hope that installing a solar PV system wouldn’t need us to alter our roofing in any way.

Leave a Reply

© 2012 - 2024 -