Panels photovoltaic solar energy

Advantages and limitations of solar energy

Advantages and limitations of solar energy

In general, photovoltaic solar energy and, above all, solar thermal energy has a very good acceptance in society. However, what are the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy?

The parameters for assessing the viability of this type of energy are varied. Among them, we highlight energy efficiency, pollution, safety, and cost.

First, we must understand that there are two types of solar energy:

The energy produced thanks to the sun's rays becomes a precious resource. Both reduce environmental pollution and to lower the costs of the electricity bill. However, before deciding, we must highlight the pros and cons of solar technologies. The point is to make a real relationship between costs and benefits.

In the following sections, we analyze the pros and cons of solar energy in the most objective way possible.

Advantages of solar energy

There are many advantages to using solar energy for your home. The benefits run from reducing pollution, passing from investment convenience, to achieving energy independence.

Here are some of the benefits of using solar energy.

  1. Solar energy is renewable energy. The origin of this primary source of energy is the Sun. Although the sun has a limited lifespan it is about more than a billion years. Thus, on a human scale, it is considered an inexhaustible source of energy.

  2. Low pollution and respect. The production of electrical energy or domestic hot water is non-polluting and does not generate greenhouse gases. The use of this technology implies that fossil fuels that use fossil fuels can be reduced. For this reason, it is said to be clean energy and environmentally friendly.

  3. The plants have low installation cost. The cost of a solar station allows savings compared to other types such as a nuclear power plant. In addition, sometimes there is financial aid. In some countries, you can get tax credits for that purpose.

  4. The care cost is low. Most of today's solar energy systems do not require much maintenance. Residential solar panels generally require cleaning only a few times a year. Additionally, it allows you to reduce your electricity bill in the long term.

  5. Favorable for isolated sites. It is a good option n cases where access to the electricity grid is difficult. Installing solar panels or solar collectors improves the life quality in those sites.

  6. Quiet. In solar panel installations, no moving parts are involved. There is therefore no associated noise. This is a positive point compared to other renewable technologies such as wind turbines.

  7. It can be used in several uses. Solar power systems can be used to generate electricity in places without connection to the grid. They can be used to distill water or even to power satellites in space. In addition, solar thermal energy makes it possible to obtain domestic hot water and also for heating.

  8. It is available over the world. Solar energy is available worldwide. It is the only renewable source available in the outdoor space. It is therefore used in special missions and satellites.

  9. Public opinion has faith in this tech. In general, public opinion is in favor of the use of solar energy. The perception of the population is to take advantage of solar energy is a sustainable option.

  10. You can get profits if you are connected using Net Metering.

What is Net Metering?

Net Metering is a system that allows a house to connect to the local electricity generation network and inject energy. It is especially useful for those technologies that produce renewable energy such as solar photovoltaic and wind energy.

In this way, when the house injects energy, the light meter works in reverse. At the end of the billing period, the customer only pays for her net consumption. It means, the total resources consumed, less the total resources generated.

Limitations of solar energy

For each decision, there are benefits and losses. Below we will also consider the disadvantages of installing a PV system with a solar energy storage system.

  1. Energy efficiency is poor compared to other sources of energy. The relationship between the amount of energy received and the amount of electrical energy obtained is low. Especially compared to other energy sources like nuclear.

  2. Economic cost compared to the other options . Especially in large solar power plants, the initial investment is high. Solar installations have an estimated duration of 20 years.

  3. Performance depends on the weather. For example, in areas with generally cloudy skies, performance is very poor.

  4. Limitations during the day. Daylight hours are shorter in some areas. Another limitation is the inclination of the Sun relative to the surface of the solar panel. In certain regions, the inclination of the solar radiation is not adequate.

  5. Storage limits for generated energy. Because the hours when you can get electricity do not always coincide with the hours you need. For this, in a photovoltaic installation, there are solar batteries and hot water tanks, but the efficiency is still very low.

  6. Some plants can have any kind of environmental impact. Although solar energy is considered clean energy, it also contains elements harmful to the environment. Impacts linked to land use, water consumption, materials used, etc.

What is the environmental impact of solar energy?

The potential environmental impacts associated with solar energy can vary widely by technology. These impacts are related to land use and habitat loss, water use, and the use of hazardous materials in manufacturing.

It includes two broad categories: photovoltaic solar cells or plant concentration solar thermal.

  • It needs a large extension of land. Depending on their location, larger utility-scale solar installations may raise concerns about land degradation and habitat loss.

  • Some plants need water to work. Solar thermal concentration plants require water to cool down. In addition, these plants require keeping the reflectors clean, the water consumption is higher.

  • Some materials used can be dangerous. The photovoltaic cell manufacturing process includes a number of hazardous materials. Most of those materials are used to clean and purify the semiconductor surface. Thin-film photovoltaic cells contain a number of more toxic materials than those used in traditional silicon photovoltaic cells.

  • Life cycle of global warming emissions. On operation, there are global warming emissions. However, there are emissions associated with other stages of the solar life cycle. It includes manufacturing, transportation of materials, installation, maintenance, and decommissioning and dismantling.

Publication Date: April 24, 2015
Last Revision: June 14, 2020