Solar energy is extremely powerful. People have been using solar energy for thousands of years to grow crops, stay warm, and dry clothes. Plants use solar energy to produce their food.
But in recent years only, it is widely used to produce electricity and heat water for homes and industries on a much larger scale because of the many advantages of solar energy. Solar energy is clean, green, and sustainable. Also, it is cheaper now. At the same time, people should be aware of some critical facts about solar energy.
How much solar energy we are getting?
The energy provided by the sun to the earth for one hour could meet the world's energy needs for one year. Interesting, isn’t it? Yes, we are getting that much energy from the sun.
The Earth is receiving 173,000 ter a watts (trillions of watts) of energy. This is more than 10,000 times the amount of energy used worldwide.
Where from our electricity normally come from?
As per U.S. Energy Information Administration, 65% of the electricity comes from burning dirty fossil fuels. This produces large amounts of greenhouse gases which are released into the atmosphere. These greenhouse gases, go up and act as a blanket.
Our earth gets heated up during the day. At night, the earth wants to release this heat and become cool. However, the layer of greenhouse gases traps that heat, raising the earth's temperature. This is global warming and is causing climate change.
Our earth is already hotter by more than 10 C (1.80 F) above preindustrial levels. If we continue like today, the temperature will increase by 30 C (5.40 F) by 2050. That will create dangerous climate change effects like severe storms, floods, hotter climates, forest fires, and rising sea levels.
How can we fight climate change?
Today, the most effective way to mitigate climate change is to generate electricity using renewable energy sources. There are advantages of solar energy compared to other renewable sources of energy that we are going to discuss here.
Pros and cons of solar energy
The solar system cost is going down and solar electricity is becoming cheaper than grid electricity. Solar installations are increasing in the residential, commercial, industrial, and large utility-scale sectors.
Pros of solar energy
1. Solar Energy is clean
Solar is a boon to humanity because it is a clean source of energy and produces cheaper electricity.
We are now facing the danger of losing our only habitat – “our earth” because of global warming and climate change. This is because of the dirty fossil fuel we use to produce our electricity. We are in a situation now, where the temperature increase of the earth must be restricted to 1.50 C (2.70 F) by 2050. Otherwise, there will be catastrophic changes in our environment. Our children will not have any place to live. Solar energy can solve this problem and produce clean energy for us.
2. Solar reduces electricity cost
One of the main advantages of solar energy is that sunlight is completely free. Depending on the regulations in your region or state, one can save a lot of dollars in monthly electricity expenses by following ways:
1.Net metering, gross metering, or feed-in-tariff:
In a grid-connected system, the extra electricity generated is exported to the local electricity grid. These exported electricity units will be deducted from the consumed electricity units as per the local regulations. This accounting may be based on net metering, gross metering, or feed-in-tariff. This means, that your rooftop solar system will be producing dollars for you when you are at the office on weekdays or out on vacation!
2. Coming to the lowest electricity tariff:
Residential electricity rates are in a tiered system based on consumption levels. As mentioned earlier, the exported electricity units (kWh) are deducted from the consumed electricity units (kWh). Automatically, the electricity tariff comes to the lower tariff slabs.
For example, you consumed 1200 kWh and exported 500 kWh in a month. So, you need to pay for only 700 kWh (1200 kWh - 500 kWh = 700 kWh). Also, you have come to a lower tariff slab.
So, the tariff may come down from, say, 20 cents/kWh to 18 cents/kWh. Therefore, the electricity bill may come down from 1200 kWh x 20 cents/kWh = $240 to 700 kWh x 18 cents/kWh = $126. This means, $114 is saved in that month.
3. Fix future cost of electricity
Grid electricity cost is ever increasing. According to the U.S. Electricity Information Administration, the average nominal retail electricity price paid by U.S. residential electric customers in 2021 increased at the fastest rate, rising 4.3% from 2020.
Once the solar system is installed, one can fix the future electricity cost. This is one of the biggest advantages of solar energy.
4. Low maintenance
Another advantage of solar energy is that there are no moving parts in a solar system. DC electricity is generated by solar panels and the inverter converts it to AC electricity for use. In other power-generating systems, there are rotating parts.
Since there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear in the system. Therefore, the maintenance of the solar system is very minimal. That saves costs and effort.
5. Distributed energy generation
Sunlight is available in most parts of the world. But coal, petroleum, or natural gas are concentrated only in a few locations.
Therefore, solar energy can be generated in a place when it is needed. Like rooftop solar systems. As a result, there is no transmission or distribution loss of the generated electricity. Transmission and distribution losses exist in traditional systems.
6. Solar systems are modular
It means you can add solar systems as your electricity demand grows. Assume you only have 5 kW of electrical load today. However, after five years, your electricity demand rises to, say, 7 kW. One of the major advantages of solar energy is that you can add another 2 kW of solar panel to the existing solar system and use it.
Cons of solar energy
1. High upfront cost:
Though the system cost has come down significantly (80-90%) in the last decade, the upfront cost for a solar system is still high. But in the long term, the solar systems will earn huge profits for you. There is no doubt about it.
Governments are giving tax benefits and incentives to buy solar systems. There are easy finance options from financial institutions or installation companies.
2. Solar Energy is variable and intermittent
The intensity of sunlight varies throughout the day and seasonally. It is also unpredictable because it is difficult to predict when clouds will appear, or rain takes place.
Fig 1: Variation of solar energy in the daytime.
Secondly, solar systems can generate electricity only in the daytime.
Rooftop solar systems must be connected to the local electricity grid to get the electricity at night or on non-sunny days if battery storage is not used.
3. Need more space
To run your house on solar energy, you need a large part of your roof to be covered by solar panels. That needs skilled manpower for the installation of solar panels on the existing roofing systems. The roof must be leak-proof and fire-proof as per the local building and electric grid compliances.
4. Solar systems need storage
First, if the system is not connected to the local electricity grid (off-grid system), you need batteries to store electricity for the night and for non-sunny days. In that case, the cost of the solar system goes up.
Secondly, batteries must be replaced every 6-7 years. That is another challenge in terms of cost and other hassles. These two are disadvantages of solar energy but the good news is that the battery cost is coming down in recent years. Moreover, new battery technologies with increased efficiencies and simplicity are emerging every day. And you can get one of the portable power stations from BougeRV to store the energy you get.
5. You become prosumers
In the present electricity system, power is produced in a central location/s. Consume only consume the electricity and pays bills at the end of the month.
But in the case of the solar system, one produces electricity and then consumes it. That’s why the term “prosumer”. Though this requires time and effort, it also gives freedom from the grid electricity and the future rising cost of electricity.
Are you interested to adopt solar systems now?
There are advantages and disadvantages to solar energy. But if this article has piqued your interest, we recommend you visit us at https://www.bougerv.com/collections/solar-power You can find different types of solar panels and solar kits here that will fit your requirements.
Or simply fill out the contact form at the bottom of the page. We shall assist you to get the best solar system for you. Our services are free and non-binding.