Solar Energy Advantages

Solar Energy Advantages

Global climate change is threatening the extinction of the world and its inhabitants. This is due to the excessive carbon emissions from vehicles and industries. One of the best solutions that will replace traditional fossil fuels is solar energy. For this reason, we look into Solar Energy Advantages and Disadvantages. Many homeowners take this a step further by insulating their homes in order to use less energy.

What Is Solar Energy?

Solar energy is energy (heat and radiant light) from the Sun collected by solar cells and converted into electrical or thermal power. As one of the cleanest renewable energy sources, solar is the world’s fastest-growing source of power.

The Sun (which is white and not yellow) is a natural nuclear reactor. It releases photos (tiny packets of energy) that travel more than 93 million across space to meet our global energy needs.

Where does solar energy come from? Like other stars, the Sun is a big gas ball. It’s made up of helium and hydrogen. The Sun generates energy at its core through a process called nuclear fusion. In this process, hot temperature and high pressure due to hydrogen atoms splitting while their nuclei combine.

Four hydrogen nuclei must fuse to create a single helium atom. During fusion, the matter is usually lost and released into space as radiant energy.

Only a small portion of the radiated energy strikes Earth. That is one part of two billion. Yet, this energy is enormous. In fact, the Earth receives over 173,000 terawatts of energy from the Sun each day.

There are three ways of harnessing Solar Energy:

  • Photovoltaics
  • Solar heating and cooling
  • Concentrating solar power

One of the most popular methods is solar PV. Not only is photovoltaics used in small electronics like watches and calculators. But in solar panels for residential and commercial use.

How is Solar Energy Stored?

Solar panel systems are the fastest-growing sources of alternative energy. Based on research, the solar market will double in size by 2023. In fact, it will become a $223 billion by 2026. During a sunny day, the solar PV system is efficient, but its efficiency gets affected on a rainy or cloudy day.

To overcome this drawback, there are two primary methods of energy storage.

  • Battery
  • Grid Inter-Tie

A battery solar power storage system used in standalone PV systems works by storing energy produced by the solar panels. The storage system works together with other components:

  • Charge controller
  • System meter
  • DC rated breaker.

The other type of storage is a grid-tied PV system. This is where your PV system uses the grid as a storage system. The concept is usually done using net metering, where you send excess energy from your PV system to the grid.

In turn, the utility company offers you credits for later use.

Types Of Solar Energy

Solar energy is more accessible and affordable in the Americas, Europe, Asia, Australia, and even Africa. This is mainly due to the decline in price. In fact, since 2010, the cost of solar PV systems has fallen by over 70%. Also, the efficiency of the system in energy production increased from 6% in 1954 to more than 40% today.

A majority of solar PV systems have a lifespan of 20 to 40 years. As such, not only do you get to save on electricity. But you lower or eliminate your electricity bills as well as recoup your investment.

There are three main types of solar energy.

  • Passive Solar Energy
  • Active Solar Energy
  • Photovoltaic

Passive Solar Energy

Passive solar energy is the use of the Sun’s energy in heating and cooling. Basically, it’s the passive use of solar energy to lower the heating and cooling demand of any building. Here is how passive solar heating works.

When the rays of the Sun strike a building, the building materials can either transmit, reflect, or absorb solar radiation. By choosing the right design elements, and making a better material placement, you can improve heating and cooling in the house.

Basically, passive solar energy systems rely on the placement of ventilation and windows. They also rely on the use of insulation to cut down on the use of electricity for heating and cooling.

As the most effective way of heating and cooling a building, passive solar energy systems capture and store solar radiation within the building materials. This energy gets released when the Sun is not shining.

Active solar energy

Active solar energy is the use of solar radiation to heat a liquid or air. It also refers to systems such as heat pumps and radiators that capture, convert, and store solar energy as electricity. Depending on the complexity of the active solar energy system, it can heat and cool your home or power a community.

Active solar energy systems have the following features:

  • Flat plate collectors – top of the collector has a glass or a plastic cover that allows solar energy in. The insides feature a black material that maximizes the absorption of solar energy. Active solar energy systems that use liquid to store and convert energy are hydronic collectors. Those containing air are air collectors.
  • Protective glass
  • Black tubing

The most common application of active solar energy systems is in the production of hot water for domestic use. This system works by drawing cold water from the storage tank and pumps through the flat plate collector mounted on the roof or ground.

As water flows through the black piping, it absorbs heat and becomes warms. It’s pumped through a series of coils inside a furnace. The furnace moves cool air over the coil, heating the water.

Photovoltaic

Photovoltaic is the process of converting solar radiation into electricity. This occurs through the use of semiconducting materials with the photovoltaic effect. The most common application of photovoltaic is in solar PV cells.

These cells capture solar radiation and convert it into direct current. Electrons in the semi-conductors are usually freed by solar energy. The loose electrons flow freely and produce a direct current.

The most common crystalline semiconductor is silicon. Other materials combined with silicon include

Homeowners can use direct current to power DC compatible devices. Alternatively, one can add an inverter to convert direct current to alternating current. With AC, homeowners can power AC appliances such as refrigerators, washing machines, and PCs.

Here are the Solar Energy Advantages

1. Low environmental impact

Compared to fossil fuels, solar energy has helped in reducing the impact on the environment. How you may wonder. Fossil fuels are popularly used in powering vehicles and manufacturing plants. When burned, the fuels release greenhouse emissions that include carbon dioxide and methane.

Greenhouse gases have many health and environmental effects. First off, they trap heat resulting in climate change. They also contribute to respiratory diseases from air pollution and smog. Other effects include:

  • Increased wildfires (as witnessed in Australia 2019)
  • Food supply disruption
  • Extreme weather, among others.
  • Solar energy does not emit greenhouse gases during power generation. As such, the technology has a low impact on the environment.

2. Solar Energy is Sustainable

Oil is the world’s primary fuel source. Based on research, fossil fuels made up 83% of the world’s energy use in 2011. Experts predicted that by 2020, fossil fuel use would reduce by 76% while renewable energy use increases.

Why is that? Fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil have an expiration date. This date is fast approaching. Solar energy does not have an expiration date. In fact, NASA predicts that the Sun will continue shining for the next 6.5 billion years.

This proves that solar energy is sustainable.

3. Solar Energy Gives Control over rising energy costs

When it comes to increasing energy costs, homeowners do not have control over the electricity rate. The utility company sets the electricity rate depending on several factors. They include electricity demand, fuel costs, and power plant availability.

How do utility companies calculate the electricity rate? The power company divides the amount from each class. This amount is usually derived from the historical amount of sales in that class. In the end, the power company is able to calculate the cost per kWh rate.

In the past few years, the cost of solar has decreased by more than 70%, unlike the cost of electricity, which has increased by 5%. This rise in cost will continue. By choosing to go solar, homeowners have more control over rising energy costs.

4. Energy independence a Significant Solar Energy Advantage

If you are keen on becoming less dependent upon traditional energy sources such as electricity, oil, coal, and gas, then choose solar energy. By installing a solar PV system, you will get to generate your own power and even export the excess power to the grid. By doing so, the power company will offer you credit. Energy Independence is one of the most significant Solar Energy Advantages for homeowners.

A majority of homeowners use more energy after work, at night on weekdays and weekends. To solve this mismatch, you need a battery bank. This will help to ensure that you do not purchase electricity from the grid during peak times.

5. Little maintenance needed

Solar PV systems require less maintenance and servicing. In fact, they last around 25 to 30 years with little or no maintenance. The only maintenance you need to perform is to clean dust and dirt off the panels two to four times a year.

When cleaning dust and dirt off the panels, use water and not cleaning products. You should not use abrasive cleaners or scourers and high-pressure water cleaners. Also, do not lean on the panels or place heavy objects such as buckets as this will break the protective glass.

Cleaning the panels two or four times a year ensures the Sun shines brightly on the panel. This maximizes the amount of solar energy collected and turned into electrical power.

6. Eliminates your electric bills

When you install a solar PV system for your home or business, not only do you become energy independent. But you eliminate electric bills. Based on research, 173,000 terawatts of solar energy shine on the Earth each day. That is 10,000 times the daily global solar energy use.

When you factor in the cost of solar PV systems over a 20 to the 30-year period, you could be saving more than $10,000 to $30,000 depending on power usage and home size. Basically, a solar PV system is a return on investment.

7. Has numerous applications

Solar energy has numerous applications. First off, solar power is useful in heating water. For this to be possible, you need a solar water heating with a blackened flat plate metal collector, glass cover, and layers of thermal insulation.

Solar energy is useful for pumping water for irrigation purposes. It’s also helpful in drying agricultural and animal products vulnerable to insect or bacterial attack. For example, farmers can dry ginger, cashew nuts, peas, maize, and berseem with solar energy. They can also dry veneer, tobacco, and timber.

Other applications of solar energy include cooking and the distillation of saline water.

8. Community solar lowers the cost of installation

A majority of homes are not candidates for solar PV installation. This is due to issues such as shading, ownership, and insufficient space. Installers have introduced community solar. This is where installers create community solar gardens that generate electricity without installing solar panels on the rooftops.

The advantage of setting up a community solar garden on a vacant plot of land is lower installation costs. For example, installing PV systems close to apartments ensures owners benefit from solar energy and reduced upfront costs.

9. Silent operation

A complete solar PV system includes solar panels, battery, charge controller, and inverter. Here is how the system works. The solar panels capture energy from the Sun. They convert solar energy into direct current. The system then stores the charge in the battery.

As a homeowner, you can use the current to power your home lighting system, but if you want to power appliances dependent on AC power, you need an inverter.

The inverter converts direct current to AC powering devices such as PCs, refrigerators, and washing machines. In the whole system, there are no moving parts. As such, it offers silent operation. This is comparable to other green alternative energy sources, such as wind turbines.

10. Improves the value of your home

Recent studies have shown that installing solar PV systems increases your home value. How you may wonder. First off, if you were to sell your home with a solar PV system, it means the new homeowner will be energy independent. He will also enjoy reduced electricity bills and have control over rising electricity costs.

As such, the new homeowner will be willing to pay more. When you take into account the little to no maintenances every year that involves the removal of dirt and dust, you earn your investment back.

Solar Energy Disadvantages

Sadly, even though solar energy has several pros, it has a few cons too.

1. Solar PV systems are Expensive

The first disadvantage of solar energy and solar PV system is the cost. Capturing and generating electricity from solar is expensive. Even though the cost of a solar PV system has declined over the past few decades, it remains relatively expensive.

Residential solar PV systems capable of generating 3 to 8 kW can cost $15,000 to $40,000. The most expensive part is not the equipment which accounts for 25%. Other costs that increase the price of solar PV systems include:

  • Labor – 10%
  • Permits – 5%
  • Overhead – 20%
  • Marketing and sales – 20%
  • Other costs and margins – 20%

Let’s start with the hardware choices, which account for 25% of the overall cost. As a homeowner, you have the option of different panels, inverters, mounting systems, and batteries. If you buy an efficient solar panel, the more expensive it is.

This is also true if you choose to buy string inverters and power optimizers instead of centralized inverters. When it comes to labour, items such as warranties, complex roofs, and landscaping can increase labour costs.

The good news is, by taking specific steps, you can lower the costs of installation significantly. For example, consider comparison shopping as this allows you to find bargains offered by different vendors. Also, hire a home energy auditor.

2. Solar Energy Made from exotic materials

The most common material used in the making of solar cells is silicon. As a non-metal with conductive properties, it can convert solar energy into electricity. The problem is, silicon is typically paired with other materials to allow electrons to escape and produce enough power.

These materials are rare in nature and expensive. Such materials include cadmium telluride and copper indium gallium selenide. One solar cell is not enough to produce enough electricity to power your home.

You need several solar cells. This increases the price of the equipment. There are two cell structures:

  • Monocrystalline (single cell)
  • Polycrystalline (associated with thin-film solar panels)

Monocrystalline solar panels are usually produced from a single block of silicon. This type of cell structure is far efficient than polycrystalline. Produced in silicon wafer formats, the process involves the cutting of individual wafers.

To do so, manufacturers have to produce more wafers. This is labour-intensive and expensive.

Apart from the silicon, other materials include:

  • Aluminium (metal frame)
  • Glass (casing)
  • Plexiglas

One of the ways to make solar panels cheaper is to recycle PV materials, but the process is not available.

3. Cost of energy storage With Solar Is Expensive

A majority of homes and businesses use AC powered appliances. So, if you are converting to solar power, then you need to consider your AC powered appliances such as dishwashers, PCs, and washing machines.

To use your AC powered appliances, you must add batteries to your solar PV system. The batteries store DC before its converted by the inverter into alternating current. What you need to know is that the number of batteries depends on the number of appliances and energy usage.

The more appliances you have, the more batteries you need. As such, the higher the cost. Before buying energy storage for your solar PV, you’ll need to know the price.

The price of solar batteries ranges from $5,000 to $10,000+. This price range is for the battery itself and does not include the cost of installation. Battery storage comes in handy during hours of peak electricity demand.

It also comes in handy at night when the Sun is not available. If you want to reduce the cost of batteries, you need to invest in smart appliances such as smart thermostats, smart water heaters, and more.

4. Not convenient in areas with limited space

A decade ago, a majority of homeowners were buying 3kW solar panels, which is approximately 12 panels. Today, homeowners are going for 6.6 kW solar systems. This system has 24 panels.

The most common solar panel size is 65 inches by 39 inches. If the panel has a rating of 265 watts, you will need 36 solar panels. This means the total required space on your roof is 630 square feet.

You may choose to buy high-efficiency solar panels. While they cost more, they generate more power per square foot. On the market, the most efficient solar panel for residential use is 400 watts. As such, you need 24 panels with 72 solar cells for each panel to achieve 9.4 kW output.

Most inner-city homes may have an irregularly shaped roof or its small in size. Other buildings or trees could partially shade it. While there are small panels which are efficient, they cost more.

There are roof types that are not suitable for solar panels. These roof types are brittle and break easily. A good example is slate or wood roofs. To install solar panels on such roofs, installers must use specialized mounting equipment.

This ensures that installers don’t walk on the roof and cause damage.

5. Weather dependent

Solar PV systems are weather dependent. This means their efficiency drops significantly on cloudy and rainy days. In fact, a few clouds blocking the rays of the Sun can have a noticeable effect on electricity production.

The clouds reduce the amount of sunlight that will reach your solar panels. This is also true when it comes to mist or fog. When it rains, you also have cloud cover, which impacts the efficiency of the solar PV system.

The good news is, rain helps to wash away the dirt and dust. This means, when the Sun shines again, your solar panels will collect and generate solar electricity efficiently. A lot of people are usually concerned about the destruction of solar panels during a hailstorm.

What they need to know is that solar panels are capable of withstanding a 1-inch hail travelling at 50 mph. In fact, modern solar panels can withstand hail travelling at 260+ mph. So, you don’t have

At night, solar panels cannot collect or convert solar energy into electricity. To ensure a constant supply of power even at night, you have to install batteries.

It is clear the Solar Energy Advantages far outweigh the Solar Energy Disadvantages.