Solar Energy: Explore the Pros and Cons
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As the global community deals with the challenges of climate change, solar energy is becoming an attractive sustainable energy solution. Energy from the sun has numerous benefits, making it a popular and rapidly growing renewable power source. However, buyers need to carefully weigh up the solar energy pros and cons before making this long-term investment.
Pros of Investing in Solar Energy
Solar energy is growing faster than ever. There are several benefits to investing in this renewable resource now.
Save Money on Electricity
When you install solar panels on your property, you generate your own electricity and reduce your reliance on grid-supplied power. Depending on your state’s average electricity cost, you could save approximately $1,500 per year. With the cost of power rising each year, this could lead to exponential savings in the long run.
Lower Maintenance Costs
Solar panels have no moving parts and require minimal maintenance. Basic maintenance involves cleaning the panels at least once or twice a year to remove dust or debris. This simplicity results in lower operating costs compared to other energy sources that require ongoing maintenance.
Renewable and Sustainable Energy Source
The greatest advantage of solar power is that it’s renewable. As long as the sun is shining, you can continue to power your home. It doesn’t involve burning fossil fuels, which emit harmful pollutants and greenhouse gasses like carbon dioxide.
Using solar panels to generate electricity reduces air pollution, helps mitigate climate change and contributes to cleaner air and water. Studies have predicted by 2035, 40% of the U.S. will be reliant on solar power and 45% by 2045.
Increase the Value of Your Home
As homeowners become more conscious of sustainability and long-term cost savings, installing solar panels in your home can increase its value when it comes time to sell. Additionally, houses with solar panels typically sell 20% faster than those without and for a price increase of 17%.
Independence From the Grid
When you generate your own power, you reduce your vulnerability to global energy market fluctuations and geopolitical tensions – primarily if you live in a location reliant on imported fossil fuels.
With renewable energy, you are also less likely to be impacted by power outages. Outages might be caused by a high demand on the traditional grid or severe weather. Either way, you have increased control over your energy supply when you use renewable energy instead of relying on the grid.
Remote Power Generation
You can install solar in remote areas that lack access to traditional power sources. This makes them valuable for providing electricity to off-grid locations and rural communities.
Newer Panels Last Longer
Technological advancements and higher-quality materials mean most modern residential solar panels can last up to 25 years. Those made from more durable materials like aluminum or glass may last for more than 30 years. While there might be a slight reduction in efficiency over time, they generally have a long operational life, providing a reliable supply for decades.
Sell Your Energy Back to the Grid
Net metering, feeding excess energy back into the grid, offers the potential for financial gains. During the sunniest times of day, you may generate more electricity than you need, which you can sell back to the utility grid. Other selling options exist as well, including net billing and solar renewable energy certificates (SRECs).
Cons of Investing in Solar Energy
While the advantages of solar energy are plentiful, you should keep in mind these considerations and potential drawbacks before making the switch.
Solar power generation depends on sunlight, which varies based on weather conditions, time of day and location. Overcast days, nighttime and seasonal changes can lead to fluctuations in energy production. If you live in a particularly cloudy climate, you may have a significantly reduced power output, resulting in an unreliable energy supply.
Additionally, shading from nearby trees or buildings can drastically reduce the efficiency of solar panels. Even partial shading on a small section can impact overall energy production. Before deciding to install solar panels, experts usually conduct shading analysis to ensure the solar panels receive maximum sunlight exposure throughout the day.
The upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can be expensive. While prices have declined over time, the initial investment may be a barrier for some individuals or small businesses.
Due to the high installation costs, you will likely only start saving money on your solar panels after 10 years, when most buyers break even. However, your returns depend on your state’s installation costs and electricity prices. Due to these costs, solar may not be a good option if you move around a lot or don’t plan to stay in your house long-term.
Some people may find solar panels aesthetically unappealing, especially if they are not seamlessly integrated into building designs. This can be a concern for homeowners associations or the preservation of architectural or historical landmarks.
Extensive Space Requirements
Solar panels require ample space for installation, especially for systems designed to meet higher energy demands. This might be a constraint for urban areas with limited roof space, especially in apartment buildings.
May Not Work for Every Roof Type
Roofs with irregular shapes or small surface areas might need more space to accommodate a sufficient number of solar panels to meet energy needs. Additionally, complex roof designs can make the installation process more difficult and costly.
Environmental Impact of Manufacturing
Producing solar panels involves energy consumption and emissions associated with the manufacturing processes. Water and electricity usage is high during production. Although these emissions are lower compared to those associated with fossil fuel production, they are still present in the manufacturing process.
Some panels may be made using harmful materials like arsenic, so measures need to be taken when disposing of excess materials during production as well as once the panels are no longer effective and new ones are required.
Consider Solar as a Sustainable Solution
Ongoing technological advancements, research and policy initiatives are currently addressing these challenges. As solar energy continues to evolve, its benefits may increasingly outweigh its drawbacks, making it a more feasible and attractive energy solution. Remember that this decision requires careful consideration of solar energy pros and cons before making the long-term commitment.
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About the author
Steve is the Managing Editor of Environment.co and regularly contributes articles related to wildlife, biodiversity, and recycling. His passions include wildlife photography and bird watching.