Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Anyone considering building or renovating a home in 2013 must be considering ways that they can incorporate efficiency into the property. Even if climate change isn’t a concern, the amount of money that can be saved by ‘going green’ is more than any responsible homeowner can ignore.
Replacing doors and windows, switching to a tankless water heater or a mini-split ductless air conditioner are great places to start, but the most serious efficiency hawks will inevitably consider the possibility of using infinite, emission-free solar energy. This article will examine the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
Cost vs. Savings
There are many advantages to solar energy, first and foremost that it will reduce the use of power derived from oil or coal. This means lower utility costs, if any at all, and fewer emissions, since solar energy is non-polluting energy.
Unfortunately, the initial cost can be enough to prevent many homeowners and builders from seriously considering going solar. Depending on the system and the availability of the sun, these panels should pay for themselves with savings in under 5 years, but since a typical home installation can cost around $25,000, it may be a greater investment than some people are able to make. Fortunately, there are government grants available that pay for 30% of the installation cost.
Freedom vs. Reliability
Since sunlight is infinite and free, a home that is entirely self-sustained by solar power never has to go through a power company again, meaning that it will be free from unpredictable price variations and political wrangling. Unfortunately, the sun isn’t available all of the time, and solar panels only generate power when the sun is shining on them. This means that during overcast weather, at night, and in highly polluted areas they will work less efficiently or not at all.
When installing a solar power system, there are essentially two ways to go: off grid solar, which means that the home would need to produce all of its own power, and grid tie solar, which is a solar system that is still tied to the main grid.
For rural residents who may not have access to a larger grid, an off grid system is an excellent choice. The excess power can be stored in batteries, which can be accessed when sunlight isn’t available. With an integrated system, the excess electricity that is generated by a home’s solar power system is sold to the utility company, and if the panels are failing to produce enough energy for the home, the grid is still available to provide power.
Efficiency vs. Aesthetics
Among the most common criticisms of solar energy is the amount of space required to set up the panels, as well as the unattractive nature of that equipment. While these issues are constantly being addressed by advances in the development and manufacture of solar panels, in the meantime they remain unconvincing arguments.
Roof installations do not require vast amounts of land, and in most cases the number of panels required for any building will fit on the roof. They may not be the most attractive home accessory, but the silent, low-maintenance, and pollution free process with which they fuel a home is still preferable to high-emission energy or building a windmill on the front lawn.
Criticisms of the efficiency of the panels themselves have more weight, since it is true that at this time they only achieve 22% efficiency, but that has come a long way in the last few years, and it will only continue to improve at an exponential rate as the technology continues to advance.
The batteries required to capture and store solar energy are expensive, large, and still not something that scientists know how to properly dispose of. These are serious hurdles for all green energy industries, and once again, the best and brightest minds of two generations are dedicated to overcoming them.
For the time being, the fact that solar panels last for 30-40 years with almost no maintenance, create no harmful emissions, and generate jobs as well as power will have to be reason enough to convince builders and homeowners to make the switch. You can get a free quote on the costs of solar panels by clicking here.
Frank Newhouse is a freelance writer with experience in Property Management and personal finance. He currently writes for AC Florida, which helps people in the Miami area find green air conditioning options.