Radiation - A Disadvantage Of Solar Energy
That big solar rooftop installation looks great. Are there disadvantages of solar energy? Thinking about the solar negatives after you’ve installed the solar panel array, inverter, batteries, etc is post-purchase regret. That is what some people might call buyer’s remorse. You think; “Why didn’t that photovoltaic disadvantage occur to me while I was doing the feasibility analysis?”
You’re looking at red sunburnt skin after a day in the sun and asking yourself why sunscreen wasn’t applied. That solar radiation burning question wasn’t there in the euphoria of getting a suntan and having fun. Buying solar power is a bit like that but it's a major investment decision. You need to be convinced that the investment will pay dividends.
You need to look on the bright side of life to collect the positive aspects of solar energy.
There Are Solar Positives
I’ll get to the disadvantages of solar energy shortly, but first let me acknowledge that solar power does have positives. These include:
- Reduces our dependence on fossil fuels for electricity production
- Solar power is one of the most widely accepted power technologies available
- Solar energy arriving from a limitless source to produce electricity while sunlight is available
- Energy from the sun is totally free, and widely available
- Generating electricity from renewable solar energy sources leaves no carbon footprint
- During power generation PV panels produce no by-product or emissions, create no pollution, and make no noise
- It’s a good economic response for a mini-power grid at remote locations
- Construction and maintaining solar in remote areas provide a distribution of green jobs, and
- It’s possible to make solar reliable for off grid locations
Disadvantages Of Solar Energy
Before you commit a chunk of your financial resources to a solar energy solution recognise there are some disadvantages.
To gather the disadvantages of solar energy you need some ‘black hat thinking’ for many of them to arise. Maybe you ask yourself; “What are the many ways that this brilliant idea won’t work?” You need that Thomas Edison response to his experimental results when trying to get an incandescent light globe to illuminate. Each of the ten thousand failed attempts revealed to him another way this technology didn’t work.
Since the 1990s the fossil fuel antagonists and sceptics have predicting a peak oil end to the energy sector. It’s not unexpected that oil companies like Shell might be exploring alternative sources of cheap renewable energy. The utility companies are making big investments in solar, wind and hydropower. They are becoming the advocates for renewables.
Governments are encouraging investments into alternative power choices. There’s demand for utility companies to generate cheaper electricity from large-scale renewable sources. Particularly, large-scale solar technology using wasteland areas is encouraged. Further competition from manufacturers who want to provide the technology components represents a good time to be moving into renewables.
However solar energy has shortcomings of inconsistency and inefficiency. The weather is partly predictable in that it has seasonal climatic cycles. The sun shines constantly but its strength or intensity on arrival at a point on the earth constantly varies. There is a high initial capital outlay for solar energy.
Free Energy But At What Cost
The upfront cost of purchasing a solar system is high enough that sellers refer to ‘a clean energy investment’. With an investment you pay an upfront amount and get long-term capital gains and periodic dividend returns. National governments introduce incentive schemes to encourage people to adopt solar renewable energy sources. However you will have to cover the upfront capital and installation costs. Those factors clearly lead me to thinking there must be more disadvantages of solar energy.
Your solar investment requires paying for solar panels, bank of batteries, inverter, wiring and getting through the installation red tape. You need to find and pay for a reliable competent electrical contractor to do the complete installation. Buyer’s remorse sets in when you discover today’s solar technology release is more efficient and cheaper than when you invested.
Is It Totally Reliable? - What About That Weather?
Some renewable energy sources, like wind, can operate during the night when the wind blows. Solar panels operate during daylight.
This means you will depend on batteries or the local utility grid for power on still days or at night. You buy solar batteries to store excess power, which you can draw on later when needed.
Your renewable energy with battery back up power source must be capable of being isolated from the grid. This electrical safety cut-off and isolation requirement protects the utility electrical workers when repairing and restoring power to lines. During blackouts and storms you risk losing your ability to draw power from your batteries without grid power isolation.
Your feasibility accounted for collecting solar energy during endless cloudy and rainy days. Accounting for the efficiency drop-off of the solar photovoltaic (PV) system is part of risk analysis within the feasibility. Solar panels absorb sunlight and convert solar energy to electricity. The bleak overcast, raining days noticeably impact the energy available to the PV system.
People who invest in battery backup systems do so to add value to their solar energy technology. There’s a risk that the overall cost of installing solar panels and back up may end up being uneconomic.
Adding The Solar Battery Storage Option
The sun’s light energy is available during the daytime. You can collect and use solar electricity as it generates, sell to the utility or store it in batteries. There are advantages for batteries, like having off-the-grid electrical independence. The batteries can be charged during the day and that the energy used later. The fact of needing batteries to function might be one of the disadvantages of solar energy.
This solution comes with a cost and the solar battery option can be quite expensive. You need to check the cost of the system on a case-by-case basis to confirm returns or what savings accrue. It might be financially smarter to install a solar system and just use energy during the day.
When you take energy from the grid during the night you will obviously pay for that electricity. This strategy means you remain connected to the grid to sell excess daytime power and buy when it won’t produce. Most of our household energy demand usually happens during the day when it can be fed with solar electricity.
We know utility companies are in the business of selling energy at a profit. Utilities are adjusting their peak period times and rates to extract higher returns from more of the time after sunset. This extended high tariff period makes solar batteries attractive.
Solar Panels Use A Lot Of Roof Space
More solar panels to collect more sunlight will produce more electricity. You never can be sure you will have enough solar capacity and it all comes at a price.
Solar panels require a lot of roofs space.
Some roof areas are the wrong shape or are not oriented for the best solar aspect.
Your roof could be big enough to fit the right number of solar panels that need but the neighbours object. The need for additional considerations like these are probably disadvantages of solar energy.
Neighbours in some states have a say about what can be installed in street view. You could erect some of the panels in your backyard as shade structures. Remember that solar panels need to have direct sunlight so a partially shaded rear yard won’t do.
You know that solar energy cannot be collected from shaded panels or during the night when there is no sunlight. However you need lights, cooling and electrical appliances to work at night during summer and your heating in wintertime.
Solar solutions are available for solar problems but many come with a price. Rather than finding sunny yard space for sufficient solar panels you can mount them on roof re-orientation brackets. You could use fewer panels attached to mechanical solar tracking, which may be efficient enough for satisfying your energy needs.
What’s This Argument About No Pollution
An argument directed in favour of solar energy systems suggests they cause far less pollution compared to other sources of energy. That argument works when the solar installation is completed. The production of solar energy needs to recognise any toxic materials and hazardous products used during the manufacturing process. There is a global transportation logistic stream associated with installation of solar systems. Transport emits greenhouse gases.
The recycling or disposal of decommissioned solar photovoltaic panels must come eventually. This must be undertaken so as to not affect the environment.
Similarly, your solar batteries need to be decommissioned, disposed of or recycled at some point. Solar PV panels don’t pollute the air while they’re generating energy. However, solar panels are still existent visually. They are possibly prettier than poles and wires of contemporary energy sources.