The word “solar” comes from the Latin word for “sun,” so solar power describes the energy that comes from the sun - but you already knew that. What you might not know is that solar panels are used for more than just running your air conditioner. In fact, solar's used for everything from phone chargers to powering large scale farms and the most common panels in use are Photovoltaic.
Photovoltaic solar panels are composed of cells that contain electrons that get excited when the sunlight hits them. When the electrons start to move in the same direction, they generate electricity.
So, how well does solar power work compared to other energy sources and what are the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy? Let's explore these in depth.
Advantages Of Solar Energy
1.) Solar Power Is Sustainable Fossil fuels are not renewable; once they’re gone, they’re gone. The sun, by contrast, will continue producing energy for billions of years. In fact, 73,000 terawatts or 73,000 trillion watts of solar power reach the earth every day – which is 10,000 times the amount of energy we need. If we install enough solar panels in the right places, we can take advantage of that massive energy surplus.
2.) Solar Power Will Drastically Reduce Your Energy Bills Many utilities offer net metering programs to customers with solar power. Net metering is a billing mechanism in which the utility company credits the owner of a solar system for the electricity their system produces.
Your electric meter will actually run backwards during days that the solar system produces more energy than the homeowner uses. You are thus only charged for electricity actually provided by the utility company. Consequently, your electric bill can be 20 to 40 percent smaller than that of somebody still relying on fossil fuels or completely using the utility company.
3.) Solar Panels Are Quiet Unlike wind turbines, which can be noisy, solar panels don’t have any moving parts. They, therefore, don’t make any noise and they're completely maintenance free.
4.) Solar Panels Raise Your Homes Value Having solar panels installed increases the value of a house, which is an important point if you plan to sell your house at some point in the future. Solar panels are considered a particularly attractive feature in neighborhoods that consider environmental responsibility important. And people who move to such neighborhoods are likely to make a point of looking for eco-friendly features like solar panels which could help your home sell faster.
In 2015, scientists from the US Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkley Laboratory led a multi-national study during which they analyzed sales of homes that took place between 1999 and 2013. Of the 22,000 homes studied, 4,000 had solar panels. The researchers found that people were willing to pay as much as $15,000 more for a home with solar panels than a home without.
5.) Solar Panels Are Maintenance Free After their installation, solar panels need little care. They should be inspected once a year, and such inspections cost around $150. Solar panels also need to be cleaned periodically to maximize the amount of sunlight they absorb. Fortunately, in most places, solar panels only need to be cleaned once a year.
Solar panels in arid and/or dusty regions may need more frequent cleaning, however, its easy to clean them yourself if you can get on your roof safely. If you decide to do the cleaning yourself, you need to make sure to use the proper equipment and soap to avoid damaging the panels (here's how to clean your solar panels). If you decide to hire out, professional cleaning services cost around $150.
6.) Solar Panels Are Easier To Install Than Other Natural Energy Solutions Getting solar panels typically takes one to three months, although the actual installation only takes one to three days. We will start by sending an engineer to inspect your home and examine the roof and electrical system. They will advise you of any repairs or changes you need to make before the installation. We will also help you fill out any necessary paperwork, like applications for tax credits or building permits. Once we have the permits, installation can begin.
During the actual installation, our professional installers will double-check the roof to make sure all of the shingles are securely attached. Then they will install electrical wiring to connect the solar panels to the main electrical system. The racking that supports the panels will be the only equipment actually attached to the roof. From there, the installers will place the panels on the racking and hook them up to the inverter. They will also install a power meter for net metering.
After an inspector from your local government has examined and approved our work, a representative from your utility company will perform their own inspection. After they have given their approval, they will connect the solar system to the grid and turn it on. At that moment, you begin saving money and significantly reducing your utility bills.
When compared to other natural energy solutions, solar panels are far more unobtrusive than most. Wind turbines, which need to be tall enough to access the wind are not only an eye sore, but also less practical for home owners. A wind turbine designed to power a single home can be anywhere from 30 to 140 feet tall with an average height of 80 feet. They also will have a diameter of 12 to 25 feet which means you lose a big chunk of your yard.
Geothermal systems need to be installed underground. Horizontal ground loops; the most commonly used type in residences, requires 100 to 400 feet of trenches.
Disadvantages Of Solar Power
1.) Solar Arrays Can Be Expensive To Buy While the price of a solar system has been dropping for years, it still costs thousands of dollars to buy the system outright, and the price varies from state to state. As of May 2018, the average cost is $3.14 per watt. Most people buy a 5kW (5,000 watts or 5 kilowatts) that costs $10,900 after tax credits. A larger system will, of course, cost even more. However, this only applies if you're buying the system. If you're leasing, you can often get a lease for $0 out of pocket.
If you choose to buy the system, then the Federal Government is offering a tax credit from now until 2022 which will be declining each year until 2022 when its gone for good.
2.) The Sun Doesn't Always Shine
While solar panels might pick up some sunlight on cloudy days, they certainly won’t during the night. Fortunately, there are now solar batteries that can store energy for use on rainy days or nights.
Unfortunately, these batteries are expensive. As of February, 2018, a solar battery typically costs between $5000 and $7000 – and that’s just for the battery. You would also have to pay for the installation and any needed equipment.
3.) Solar Panels Don't Work For Every Roof Type Solar panel installers connect the panels to a mounting system called “racking” that attaches the panels to the roof. Some roofing materials, like slate or cedar, which were used on older homes, can be difficult to work with. A house that's always in shade will also not be a good candidate for roof solar panels - unless the trees can be removed or cut back.
Clients with such problems may want to consider getting a ground-mounted system or buying a share in a community solar project. The latter may also be a good option for people who rent their homes.
4.) It Can Take Time To Recoup Your Investment If You Buy Instead Of Leasing While solar panels are a great investment, it typically takes about seven and a half years for the homeowner to break even after purchasing a whole system. Since solar systems and solar batteries cost a lot up front, it will take time for you to regain that money in the form of tax credits, rebates, and smaller electric bills. However, if you're leasing your system, then your investment in minimal and you'll begin to see savings almost immediately.
5.) Some Solar Panels Are Less Efficient The average solar panel currently converts only 15 to 22 percent of the sun’s light into electricity, and the more efficient panels tend to cost more. But, like computers, solar panels are becoming less expensive and more efficient as technology improves.
The very first solar panels, which were developed in the 19th century, converted less than one percent of the sun’s light into energy. The first useful solar panels, which were developed by Bell Labs in 1954, could convert about six percent of the sun’s light into electricity. Last year, a group of scientists developed a solar power that could convert around 45 percent of the sun’s light into energy. Unfortunately, the materials used are too expensive to make the panel a practical option for the average homeowner. Nonetheless, solar panels are gradually becoming more efficient with SunPower being one of the highest converting and most reliable.
Solar panels can be an investment, so you need to consider the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy when deciding whether its an option for you. For example, if you are about to move, you're renting, or your home's in shade, you may want to wait until you get to a different spot before installing solar panels. But at the end of the day, there are far more advantages than disadvantages to having solar than not. You're saving money, helping the environment, have no maintenance and you're raising the value of your home.
Are you considering solar panels? What questions do you have to consider while deciding whether to get them?