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Solar Energy Pros and Cons

Below you’ll find a list over the various pros and cons of solar energy. By clicking on one of the blue links, you will be taken further down on the page for more in-depth information. Everything you are about to read is properly referenced at the bottom.

Pros Cons
Renewable Expensive
Abundant Intermittent
Sustainable Energy Storage is Expensive
Environmentally Friendly Associated with Pollution
Good Availability Exotic Materials
Reduces Electricity Costs Requires Space
Many Applications
Shared Solar
Silent
Financial Support from Government/State
Low Maintenance
Technology is Improving

Advantages of Solar Energy

Renewable

Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy, as opposed to non-renewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, coal and nuclear).

We will have access to solar energy for as long as the sun is alive – another 6.5 billion years according to NASA[1]. We have worse things to worry about; in fact, scientists have estimated that the sun itself will swallow Earth 5 billion years from now.

Abundant

The potential of solar energy is beyond imagination. The surface of the earth receives 120,000 terawatts of solar radiation (sunlight) – 20,000 times more power than what is needed to supply the entire world.[2]

Sustainable

An abundant and renewable energy source is also sustainable. Sustainable energy sources meet the needs of the present without compromising the ability of future generations to meet their needs. In other words, solar energy is sustainable because there is no way we can over-consume.

Environmentally Friendly

Harnessing solar energy does generally not cause pollution. However, there are emissions associated with the manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems – almost nothing compared to most conventional energy sources. It is clear that solar energy reduces our dependence on non-renewable energy sources. This is an important step in fighting the climate crisis.

Good Availability

Solar energy is available all over the world. Not only the countries that are closest to the Equator can put solar energy to use – Germany, for example, has by far the highest capacity of solar power in the world.

Reduces Electricity Costs

With the introduction of net metering and feed-in tariff (FIT) schemes, homeowners can now “sell” excess electricity, or receive bill credits, during times when they produce more electricity than what they actually consume.

This means that homeowners can reduce their overall electricity expenses by going solar. Data from One Block Off the Grid reveals that adding solar panels to your home can bring in monthly savings of well above $100 in many states. In Hawaii, residents save on average $64,000 after 20 years!

Nowadays, most homeowners choose leasing or power purchase agreements to finance their solar panels. This drastically reduces, or in some cases completely eliminates, the upfront costs of a solar panel system, and allows homeowners to start saving money from the first day.

If you want to learn more about the advantages specifically related to residential solar photovoltaic panels (generating electricity with solar energy at home), then check out Benefits of Solar Panels.

 

Many Applications

Solar energy can be used for many different purposes. It can be used to generate electricity in places that lack a grid connection, for distilling water in Africa, or even to power satellites in space.

Solar power is also known as “The People’s Power”, which refers to how easily deployable solar panels are at the consumer level (both photovoltaic and solar thermal).

With the introduction of flexible thin-film solar cells, solar power can even be seemingly integrated into the material of buildings (building integrated photovoltaics) – Sharp, a solar panel manufacturer with headquarters in Japan, recently introduced transparent solar power windows.

Shared Solar

Because of shading, insufficient space and ownership issues, 1/5 American homes are simply unfit for solar panels.[3] With the introduction of shared solar, homeowners can subscribe to “community solar gardens”, and generate solar electricity without actually having solar panels on their own rooftops.

Silent

There are no moving parts involved in most applications of solar power. There is no noise associated with photovoltaics. This compares favorable to certain other green-techs such as wind turbines.

Financial Support from Government/State

Government and state rebates have become available both on utility-scale and for the majority of homeowners. This means that the effective costs of solar panels are much less than what they used to be. In some cases, the price of a residential photovoltaic system can be cut more than 50%.

As of 12/31/2008, the U.S. government offers a 30% tax credit with no upper limit. Chances are your home is also eligible for other grants and rebates.

Find out what applies to you by searching through the Database of State Incentives for Renewables & Efficiency (DSIRE) – or find out in minutes with our free guide How to Go Solar.

Low Maintenance

The majority of today’s solar power systems do not required a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.

Technology is Improving

Technological advancements are constantly being made in the solar power industry. Innovation in nanotechnology and quantum physics has the potential to triple the electrical output of solar panels.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Expensive

Is solar power really expensive? This is probably the most debatable aspect on the entire solar energy pros and cons list. The driving forces behind the development of solar energy are rooted in politics. Solar power is incentivized to compete against other energy sources on the market. On the other hand, the U.S. government, similarly to the rest of the world, provides incentives to every major energy production market – not just solar.

In 2010, coal received $1,189 billion in federal subsidies and support for electricity production while solar is not far behind at $968 billion.

Nowadays, the best solar panels can in many situations be cheaper than buying electricity from the utility. This wouldn’t have been possible without incentives.

Intermittent

Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.

Energy Storage is Expensive

Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smoothen out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive.

Luckily, there’s a good correspondence between our access to solar energy and human energy demand. Our electricity demand peaks in the middle of the day, which also happens to be the same time there’s a lot of sunlight!

Associated with Pollution

While solar power certainly is less polluting than fossil fuels, some problems do exist. Some manufacturing processes are associated with greenhouse gas emissions. Nitrogen trifluroide and sulfur hexafluoride has been traced back to the production of solar panels. These are some of the most potent greenhouse gases and have many thousand times the impact on global warming compared to carbon dioxide. Transportation and installation of solar power systems can also indirectly cause pollution.

The bottom line is this: There’s nothing that’s completely risk-free in the energy world, but solar power compares very favorably with all other technologies.

Exotic Materials

Certain solar cells require materials that are expensive and rare in nature. This is especially true for thin-film solar cells that are based on either cadmium telluride (CdTe) or copper indium gallium selenide (CIGS).

Requires Space

Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonably prices.

The global mean power density for solar radiation is 170 W/m². This is more than any other renewable energy source, but not comparable to oil, gas and nuclear power.

Comments - 71

Agnes Peterson

I am looking into solar energy because my electric bills are so high. I would like to know about “the grid”. When we collect the energy from the sun where does it go? How are we credited for the amount we save and the amount we use?

June 29, 2012 5:00 am Reply

Mathias

If your household generates more electricity with the solar panels than what you can use, the surplus is put onto the electrical utility power grid, so other people can use it, and your power meter will “spin backwards” – the result is a lower electricity bill from the utility company.

This is called net metering, and its caps and limits vary from where you live. Feed-in tarfiff schemes (FITs) are similar programs that are being used in some countries.

Read more about these things in Feed-In Tariffs, Gross, Net and Virtual Net Metering – What’s the Difference?

June 29, 2012 9:56 pm Reply

Jørn

Hi
Re nr. 5: Solar thermal energy convertion today can be up to nearly ten times more efficient than PV – the farther north the better (of course depending in several factors…).

July 3, 2012 8:36 pm Reply

mimigalindo

this is a qood thing

October 29, 2012 6:45 pm Reply

demontrez

This is a reallyv COOL website.

March 5, 2013 8:33 pm Reply

MIchael

THis is really good info. I need this for a project. Thank u

March 13, 2013 7:48 pm Reply

Zach

This helped me alot thanks

June 27, 2013 1:19 am Reply

Mary burns

Is there any more cons?

October 8, 2013 3:21 pm Reply

Gaby Mayorga

This website is awesome. This helped me with a report I am doing for school. I can’t believe they have so much information on different types of sources of energy!

October 20, 2013 7:41 pm Reply

blah

cool website 🙂

December 4, 2013 10:25 pm Reply

sdad

grweat

December 9, 2013 2:54 pm Reply

Joey Carver

Hi, I was wondering if I could have permission to use your information on a project that I have to do for my senior year. I am a student at the Scioto County Career Technical Center and I am also part of BPA (Business Professions Of America). I have to make a website on Solar, Water, Wind, and Conventional powers to generate a household. I will link this website into my webpage and if I win, could be put online. Please, if you could reply back soon, Thanks.

Joey Carver

December 13, 2013 5:39 pm Reply

Cubonemaster

Great website! Used it for a school project and it was a big hit!

December 19, 2013 1:35 am Reply

Mohammed

This help me with my science homework on energy. thanks and keep up the good work. 😀

January 9, 2014 2:20 am Reply

sun

I think everything posted made a great deal of sense. However,
what about this? what if you composed a catchier title?
I mean, I don’t wish to tell you how to run your website, but what if you added a
title that grabbed people’s attention? I mean Solar Energy Pros and Cons – Energy Informative
is kinda boring. You might peek at Yahoo’s front page and see how they create article
titles to grab viewers to click. You might add a
related video or a related picture or two to grab people interested about everything’ve written.
In my opinion, it would make your posts a
little livelier.

January 15, 2014 8:36 pm Reply

Dwyanne June

Hi, I’m very interested in solar panels for my 2000sq ft home. I have an adequate roof space, and exposed to plenty of San Diego, CA sun. I have researched the cost against my electric bill, which, already is pretty low – about $100, and found a list of companies that are recommended by the electric company.
The Cons I get is: too expensive to install, we wouldn’t qualify because of the low monthly electric bill, and – “The Biggie” – future sale of property related to transferring ownership of the property with solar attached to the property to the Buyer.
I need any information on that from trusted sources, especially on the last issue.

Thanks

February 9, 2014 5:23 pm Reply

yolo neck

this is a great site thanks for helping me with my project

February 28, 2014 2:35 pm Reply

John

Thank you for creating this article. It is awesome!

March 4, 2014 2:14 am Reply

John

Thank you for creating this article. It is just the thing to finish up one of my projects. Again, thanks a billion.

March 4, 2014 2:15 am Reply

Johnny

Awesome website!

March 20, 2014 5:17 pm Reply

Jack

thanks!

April 21, 2014 6:53 pm Reply

jason

EPICLY HELPED US ON OUR PROJECT

May 12, 2014 4:12 pm Reply

Cecil Sharkey

Solar energy is USELESS and expensive in Ireland. All the info about it is warped to make sales.

May 15, 2014 10:51 am Reply

Virginia

I am considering solar panels. My average electric bill is over $300 a month, more in the winter. But I was told the battery replacement is very expensive. Can you give me an idea how long the battery would last? I live in northeast pa. Is this something that can be used as a heater for an above ground pool?

May 22, 2014 3:22 am Reply

alessandro

I don’t agree with point 6 in the advantages.
It only works in theory, but in the real case it is never convenient under the financial balance.
First, in order to have a home plant that allows you to be net-indipendent it takes a very good quality which still has a very high cost (in italy where i write from the minimum for a 50 sqmeter flat is 7500 – 9000 euros) and, unless you have cash, you are forced to ask for a loan that lasts 10 years at least.
Second, the portion you sell to the network is paid less than you pay the portion you use from the network when you don’t produce (tipically night, rainy or cloudy days, etc).
Third, the governments and energy suppliers that govern the network are increasing the renewable quota in the electricity mix but they are raising the cost in the bill. Here in italy we have different sections in the bill amongst which one is called ‘componente A3’ which consists of a restitution in the bill of the financial support previously offered from the state to all that decided to use PV and renewables… that is… the state gives money to promote the renewables, some people use them, but we all have to pay back the financial support. This ‘componente A3’ has never lowered so far and in the last 7 years, because of renewables.
The result is that in Italy, and as far as i have been said from some friend of mine living in england and in spain, a new market is flourishing: people selling used PV plants and buying them second-hand in order to reduce the initial cost.

Let alone this point, i believe this is a very nice and balanced article, one of the best i have ever read on the theme.
Thumbs up!
Alex

May 26, 2014 7:45 am Reply

jump2now.com

When there’s the sun the solar panels charge the
electric batteries and mechanically disconnect when the electric batteries are full.
Even though California has experienced drought conditions,
rain shortages, and reduced levels of water in rivers and reservoirs, California state energy officials are
not panicking since energy providers diversify their power sources.
Change your light bulbs with energy saving, there
are many different types the choice is yours.

June 3, 2014 4:33 am Reply

Cheese

Dis very Gus shanks buddeh

June 4, 2014 12:02 pm Reply

Annaya N

very informative and hepled a lot. needed it badly thanks!

June 15, 2014 7:39 pm Reply

Disser

Really. You’re going to be that guy.

July 10, 2014 3:43 pm Reply

Cesare

Source says that 120000 terawatts is 20000 times the world consumption. That would put the world consumption to a mere 6 GW.
The world consumption in 2008 was 148000 terawatts!! (World energy outlook 2012)

July 31, 2014 10:07 pm Reply

Floyd Richards

We want to install solar system in Acapulco Mexico. Which type of panel is better to install there, mono or poly crystaline?

August 8, 2014 9:12 pm Reply

HannahtheDoctor

nitrogen trifluoride**

December 8, 2014 7:30 pm Reply

Jeff

this helped me out a ton on my science project

December 15, 2014 2:32 pm Reply

Julian

Helpful

January 7, 2015 2:57 pm Reply

happy

helped on school project

January 14, 2015 6:55 pm Reply

Keithen Woody

pretty neat facts thank you!

January 20, 2015 4:20 pm Reply

isabelle

this was super helpful on my science project. Thanks!\

January 21, 2015 9:47 pm Reply

leonie

am looking onto try a solar panel to prevent high bills coming in every month how can I start this process

January 26, 2015 8:13 pm Reply

leonie

am looking into a solar panel how can I start this process

January 26, 2015 8:14 pm Reply

Hannah Grissom

Hi Leonie, That’s great to hear. I would start the solar process by getting 3 quotes. You can do so by filling out the easy, 2-minute form found here: http://www.3SolarQuotes.com

February 2, 2015 3:42 pm Reply

Colin

This was very helpful for my science

January 30, 2015 5:34 pm Reply

adam clark

how can it be ploution related but good for the enviorment? it makes no sense.

February 3, 2015 7:29 pm Reply

adam clark

same here :):):):):):):):):):)

February 3, 2015 7:29 pm Reply

Arianna B

This helped me with my Critical Reading project.

Thank you keep posting and keep up the good work.

February 4, 2015 1:21 am Reply

Ben

Dwayne,
Did you get the info that you needed for solar at your home? I can help you make the switch to solar electricity. I work with homeowners with similar circumstances here in San Diego and will most likely be able to resolve all of your concerns.
Best,
Ben

February 10, 2015 12:08 am Reply

karim

i do agree it is a good website

February 15, 2015 3:28 pm Reply

alec minear

one thing you should add is the deferent types of solar

February 17, 2015 7:22 pm Reply

poodle are cute!!!!!

Oh yes it is very helpful

February 18, 2015 5:37 pm Reply

jeff

thanks for the copy and paste for school project

February 18, 2015 7:42 pm Reply

Hannah Grissom

We hope to be a helpful source, but just a friendly reminder that copy and paste could be construed as playgarism. Good luck on your project and Happy Citing!

February 18, 2015 8:04 pm Reply

Jeff

why are boogers green

February 19, 2015 5:11 pm Reply

jeff

cool

February 23, 2015 5:08 pm Reply

Athan

This website was helpful for solar energy [studies]was helpful for I.B. unit.

February 24, 2015 5:27 pm Reply

Athan

How is solar power related to polition?

February 24, 2015 5:28 pm Reply

Connor Mace

I like very fact and detail it gives. I trust this website and even though I’m 13 I feel like this is a reliable resource that I’m going to use more often. Mainly because I am concerned on global warming and I also believe not enough is being done about global warming at all.

March 8, 2015 11:13 pm Reply

Bob

I thought solar energy was environment friendly but the cons say it causes pollution

March 11, 2015 2:47 pm Reply

Jayleen

Thank you so much this helped me with a school project that i only had two days to do. You saved my weekend thanks again!!!!! 🙂

April 13, 2015 8:44 pm Reply

BILL

It causes pollution when they are made

April 14, 2015 7:13 pm Reply

booby

Public site bro just cite

May 12, 2015 12:36 am Reply

Macey

Thanks I needed this a lot.

May 19, 2015 3:40 pm Reply

Macey

Thanks for the help. With Solar Power.

May 19, 2015 3:41 pm Reply

dildo

great site for essays about hydrogen energy!!!

May 20, 2015 5:21 pm Reply

Randi Butter Nubs

gReAt.0

May 22, 2015 6:08 pm Reply

ErskinePierre

This Is Great! It Gave Me Great Info For My Essay!! 😀

May 26, 2015 12:15 pm Reply

Lalaputtlewups

This helped me with my solar energy report for science class. Thanks. I was kind of running out of ideas on what to write and legitimate seeming websites for it all. 😛

May 31, 2015 11:08 pm Reply

Anthony Sulsona

I just had them installed 2-3 monthd ago. Now I am starting to wonder if it was worth it. The amount you pay for the monthly solar panel bills. Then also You will still have to pay your electric bill. Of course it matters on how much you use at night when your back on electric, also when the sun’s behind the clouds. So both my bill’s combined only give me maybe a 50-60$ saving’s. Sometimes not even that.

June 4, 2015 4:05 am Reply

aasad

This website is magnificent it answers all my question and thoughts..

June 6, 2015 4:15 pm Reply

Student

In #2, there is no amount of time given. It gives 20,000x as much energu to power the whole world for how long?

June 19, 2015 12:41 pm Reply

Chuck

How safe is the system? Are there any long term concerns with EMF? I’m ready to install a system, but concerned with the long term health effects.

June 29, 2015 7:11 am Reply

Bwild

hey thank for the information as i needed it for a project

July 1, 2015 5:20 am Reply

Ben

Thanks, this really helped me with a research paper on solar power!

November 4, 2015 12:16 am Reply

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