The Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy (Explained)

Solar energy is an emerging technology that captures radiant light and heat from the sun for human consumption. It is a renewable and non-polluting source of energy that can be used to produce electricity.

Solar energy has been criticized for its high installation cost and efficiency but has also proved to be beneficial. It is a great way to reduce your carbon footprint and help combat climate change.

Solar energy has some distinct advantages alongside some slight disadvantages. The following sections below will explore some advantages and disadvantages in more detail.

Advantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy is a clean and abundant renewable energy source that offers advantages over conventional fossil fuels. It reduces the global carbon footprint, the earth’s dependence on fossil fuels, produces fewer emissions, creates green jobs (research, manufacturing, sales, installation and maintenance), offers economic advantages and requires low maintenance.

1. Reliable

Solar energy is a proven reliable energy source compared to conventional energy sources that use fossil fuels. With solar energy, you are not vulnerable to the potential failings of utility companies from disasters or brownouts. Instead, you are independent and able to capture your own electricity.

Solar-generated electricity offers consistent production with a low chance of failure. Since there are no moving parts on solar energy technology (e.g. solar panels), they are not prone to wear and tear and do not produce noise. The lifespan of solar panels is estimated to be over 30 years.

2. Economical

Solar energy provides several economic advantages in the long term. It saves money on your electric bill as the energy captured by solar panels is used for electricity in your home. There is the potential for solar panels to produce excess energy, which can lead to profit.

Some governments offer programs that credit homeowners for the electricity they produce and return to the power grid. While the initial investment in solar energy is high, there are several tax credits and other incentive programs that can help offset those initial expenses.

The return on investment is also very high, as it allows for energy independence and increases the property value of your home.

3. Low maintenance

Solar energy does not require a lot of maintenance once installed. Solar panels are durable and do not require a lot of upkeep other than being cleaned a couple of times per year.

If something were to go wrong, most companies offer manufacture warranties that exceed 20 years and will cover replacement and repair costs.

4. Renewable energy source

Renewable energy comes from natural sources that are constantly replenished. Solar energy is a self-sufficient renewable energy resource that only requires sunlight. It is unlimited, meaning it won’t run out or ever be in short supply. As long as the sun is shining then solar energy can be captured and utilized.

5. Low emission

Conventional energy is often made from burning fossil fuels, which release carbon dioxide and related pollution. Solar energy is a clean and low emission option that can decimate the earth’s carbon footprint.

Solar energy does not produce pollution or emit greenhouse gases. The environmental impacts associated with solar energy (e.g. production and manufacturing of solar panels) are much lower than conventional energy sources.

6. Improves the value of your home

Installing solar panels in your home can increase the value by 4.1% or add an additional $9,274 to the median-valued home in the United States.

The cost of electricity is expected to continuously rise, thus in the future, the advantages of having a home with solar energy will become more and more advantageous.

7. Provides green jobs

The emergence and popularity of renewable energy, such as solar, has created economic opportunities. The solar energy industry employs many people in various segments, including research and development, manufacturing, construction, operation, and installation and maintenance.

Solar energy adds green jobs to the United States economy, which contributes to a more environmentally friendly and green economy.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

While there are many advantages to solar energy, there are some downsides as the technology is still developing. It is currently quite expensive to install solar panels and related products.

Solar panels require a lot of space and solar energy depends on environmental factors (e.g. the sun, weather and climate).

1. High upfront cost

Although solar energy itself is free, the cost of collecting, converting and storing solar energy can be high initially. The installation process and initial setup require paying for solar panels, an inverter, batteries, and wiring.

The average cost is between $15,000 and $20,000 without taking into consideration tax incentives, batteries or an inverter.

Even though there are several benefits to investing in solar energy, the initial cost is substantial but can be viewed as an investment.

2. Uses a lot of space

The space required to produce solar energy depends on the amount of electricity you want to produce. The more panels you have or the larger the panels, the more sunlight and energy you will collect.

Most solar panels are installed on a roof or in a yard. However, the size of your roof can dictate how many panels you can install and thus how much energy you can produce.

3. Weather dependent

Sunlight must be abundant and consistent for solar energy to be an excellent choice. Solar energy depends on uncontrollable environmental factors, such as the climate and weather. For example, clouds or a few rainy days can diminish the power of solar panels.

Latitude can also affect solar energy because at higher latitudes the angle of solar radiation is small than at lower latitudes, meaning it produces less energy.

The season can determine the efficiency of the system. For example, if you live in a seasonal climate, then more energy will be captured in the summer when there is more sunlight than in the winter when there is much less sunlight. Solar energy is not collected during the night, so day length, weather and climate are critical.

4. Storage is expensive

Solar energy has to be used right away, or it needs to be stored through batteries. Batteries are used to store excess energy generated throughout the day so that the energy can be used at night. However, batteries are expensive and some suggest it is better to take from the grid (e.g. conventional electricity) at night instead of investing in batteries.

Solar technology is still developing and as technology advances, it is possible storage will become accessible and affordable.

5. Low energy conversion rate

The conversion of solar energy is still a new technological advancement. Even the most advanced solar panels convert around 20-25% of the sun’s energy into power. However, this does not take into consideration environmental factors such as clouds and rains.

During adverse weather events, conversion rates could be even lower. While this is not ideal, solar technology is continuously evolving and developing further. It is anticipated this will eventually be improved.

6. Doesn’t work for every roof type

Not all roofs are ideal for mounting solar panels. For example, wood and slate roofs are problematic for solar panel installation because they are brittle. Asphalt is the best roof material for solar panels because the material is flexible and durable. The pitch of the roof, shape, size and orientation will also affect its compatibility with solar panels.

7. Not ideal if you’re about to move

Unlike the appliances in your home, solar panels can’t be easily moved if you decide to sell your home. Although, the good news is that solar panels will increase the value of your home. It’s not impossible to remove solar panels and take them with you, but it would be very expensive and risky.

The entire system would need to be uninstalled and reinstalled at your new house with the risk of damage along the way. The removal of solar panels will also leave holes in the roof.

How Does Solar Energy Work?

Solar energy is a form of energy generated by the sun. It was developed to capture solar energy and harnesses that heat. Solar technologies convert sunlight into thermal or electrical energy through photovoltaic (PV) panels or mirrors that concentrate solar radiation. The energy is then ready to be used to generate electricity or to be stored in batteries or storage.

The sun is an extremely powerful energy source. For example, in one hour the earth’s atmosphere receives enough sunlight to power the electricity needs of every human being on Earth for a year.

Solar energy is a renewable resource, which means it can be used repeatedly because it is naturally replaced as long as there is a sun to replace it.

Final Thoughts on Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy is a great way to take advantage of the free energy provided by the sun. It offers several benefits, such as providing energy independence to home owners and reducing the number of greenhouse gases emitted.

While there are many advantages to using solar energy, there are also a few downsides, such as the installation costs and dependence on sunlight, and environmental factors.

Solar panels are not very subtle with their appearance or aesthetic appealing, they will stand out and be noticeable to all your neighbors.

Despite its flaws, solar energy is a great alternative to conventional energy and fossil fuels and is a growing technology.

There is no doubt that the technology to capture solar energy will continue to improve in the future, presenting enhanced benefits and a wider variety of advantages.

Related content: The Benefits of Solar Energy to the Environment

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