In a sense, solar energy is the only sort of energy we ever use as it all originates from the Sun. Fossil fuels are a form of stored solar energy, as it was all formed millions of years ago by decomposed plant matter. Even the energy that we have to move our bodies comes from the Sun originally: the Sun’s energy being used either to grow the plants which we have eaten, or the plants that the animal has eaten that we have just eaten. What we are talking about here however is more specifically photovoltaic energy, that is, electrical energy created by light – the Sun.
Here are some of the advantages and disadvantages of this kind of solar energy.
Renewable. Solar energy is one of the primary renewable energy sources available. This means that once the solar panels have been constructed they doesn’t use up any more of the Earth’s resources. It is a sustainable energy source.
Cost-Effective. Due to the fact that it is renewable and long lasting, it is a cost-effective form of energy. After the initial costs, savings can be made on energy bills and also, through the UK government’s feed-in tariff, money can be made on electricity that it produces. It is therefore a very good long term investment.
Long Lasting. Another consequence of solar energy being renewable is that it is long lasting. Not only in terms of the individual, but in planetary terms it has the potential to be around for a long time. Fossil fuels, on the other hand, will all be gone eventually.
Environmentally Friendly. Perhaps the most important factor when it comes to solar energy is that it is environmentally friendly. It does not produce any toxic fumes itself of course, and what’s more, for every kilowatt hour of energy it generates, there is a corresponding amount of energy that does not have to be produced by fossil fuels. This means that it actively reduces the amount of pollution which is created and the amount of carbon dioxide that is released into the atmosphere.
Relatively Inefficient. At the moment, solar cells lose a lot of the energy that they catch from the Sun. Photovoltaic cells are very complicated devices and it is difficult to make them in such a way that they convert the majority of the energy into electrical Power. In fact at the moment the very best ones can only get to about 40% efficiency. The good news is however that there is research ongoing all around the world to make them more efficient.
Cost of Installation. Although undoubtedly a good long term investment, the initial cost of installation is quite high which is what puts a lot of people off.
Not Enough Produced. In terms of whether solar energy will ever be able to do its part in taking over from fossil fuels, at the moment there is nowhere near enough being produced. As people continue to have solar panels installed on their roofs and new solar power plants are built, this condition is gradually being improved however.
These are the main advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. If you want to do your part for the environment and make a good long term investment then consider having solar cells installed on your roof as well.