The Endless Advantages of Solar Energy Heavily Outweigh the Few Disadvantages

Advantages of Solar Energy

The advantages of solar energy are manifold. Solar energy is clean because it burns nothing, it is sustainable because the sun replenishes it daily, and it is free for everyone to use, while conversely, traditional fossil fuel energy is dirty burning, limited in supply, costly to deliver and messy to use.

Old Timers will be quick to chime that solar costs more to start with, and that is true. However, who buys a fossil fuel burning home and doesn’t weatherize and upgrade the furnace? No one in any northern state who pays the electric bill, that’s who. So, we will spend one way, or we will spend the other, but spend we will.

Solar energy systems begin paying back the initial cost as quickly as next month’s electricity bill doesn’t come. Most solar systems are designed to operate without repairs for 30 years.

Jim Schmid Photography, NREL

Read on for the extended discussion of the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy. Spoiler alert! With the ongoing research in battery technology, upgrades in the performance of solar panels, and more efficient converters, there just isn’t a downside to solar any more.

Tesla’s Powerwall with inverter and grid connection installed. Thanks to Google Images for the photo.

Battery Improvement

No one knows just how efficient lithium batteries may become, but technological advances in battery design are made nearly every day. Funding for energy storage research is abundant and flowing. According to the 2018 Sustainable Energy in America Factbook, “Global clean energy investment rose to $333 billion, the second-highest amount on record.”

No one knows how large batteries may grow. Thanks to greentechmedia.com for the photo.

Affordable lithium ion batteries powerful enough to operate homes during rainy and dark periods have long been available. And the trend is for innovations to keep increasing the efficiency and performance of these batteries.

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Moving Forward

More exciting battery storage options may be just over the horizon. Tesla is currently working on a virtual power plant that will be the largest battery installment to date. It will be made up of thousands of Powerwall home batteries linked to solar panels on residences in South Australia. These residential solar battery installments, “will operate just like a one big Powerpack system — charging up when demand and electricity rates are low and discharging when demand and prices are high” (“Tesla Virtual”).

Money, Money, Money

Even now solar storage batteries enable most homes with solar or wind installed to sell back a percentage of the energy they create. So not only do solar powered homes not have to buy electricity as often, they may also make a profit for homeowners.

Self-sufficiency

Notably, solar powered homes with batteries don’t depend on electricity from the grid so are much less effected by grid outages. Literally, each home that has a solar panel and battery system is a small, fully self-sufficient energy generation system that does not rely on anything but sunshine.

Environmental Cost

While the final bill for fossil fuel use has yet to be presented, we know for sure the sun doesn’t hurt the Earth. Contrarily, the sun feeds and sustains the Earth, so its energy is incontrovertibly safe. Safe in this instance also means cheap. The initial investment in material combined with minimal maintenance and occasional upgrades in equipment compose the only expenses involved in solar energy production since the sun delivers right to our doors.

 

Abundance and Renewal of Solar

Estimates on the actual amount of solar energy that shines on the Earth each day all agree that we are oversupplied with solar energy. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “more energy strik[es]. . . the earth’s surface in one and a half hours (480 EJ) 67 than worldwide energy consumption in the year 2001 from all sources combined (430 EJ)68.”

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Limited Supply of Burnable and Existing Fossil Fuel Reserves

One the other hand, way on the other hand, scientists agree (97% of scientists) that we have only a short time to keep burning fossil fuels before we increase the carbon in our atmosphere past the tipping point. The tipping point is when we will have released enough carbon by burning petroleum and coal that climate change is past fixing. We aren’t there yet, but we are very close.

A 2015 estimate of fossil fuel reserves still in the ground indicate that “at current rates of production, oil will run out in 53 years, natural gas in 54, and coal in 110. We have managed to deplete these fossil fuels – which have their origins somewhere between 541 and 66 million years ago – in less than 200 years since we started using them” (“How long”).

Whereas the sun shines every day amply renewing itself, to replenish fossil fuels we need between 56 and 541 million years to repopulate the planet with some millions of dinosaurs and let enough of them live and die so that their bodies slowly become fossil fuel. It’s hard to list how many things are wrong with that plan.

Estimates of how much more oil, gas, and coal we can burn before we fully cause climate change to melt our polar ice caps and precipitate another ice age say that we should leave most of our current oil, coal and gas reserves in the ground.

Thanks to Google for the photo. Some say strip mining for coal is an ugly insult to the Earth.

Cost of Refitting for Solar Versus the Cost of Maintaining Fossil Burners

A solar system for your residence is still a little pricey at the outset. Solar panel prices have dropped by half in the last six years (“The Future”). According to energysage.com,

The average solar energy system size in the U.S is approximately 5                      kilowatts (kW). Based on the average price of $3.14/watt, a 5kW system            would cost $10,990 after tax credits. Below are some average 2018                      quotes for other solar energy systems by size:

  •           6kW solar energy system cost: $13,188
  •           8kW solar energy system cost: $17,584
  •           10kW solar energy system cost: $21,980

Wonderfully, a solar energy system begins paying back dividends to the homeowner within the same or next month it is installed.

Solar power users never have to call the supplier to have more sun delivered. The sun will not run aground and spill oil. No pipelines will ever be needed to transport sunshine. Using the sun’s energy does not create any exhaust or pollution. The sun will always shine at your house on most days. When the sun is overcast at your house, your solar batteries will kick in and continue running your home until the sun comes back out.

If you doubt that a battery could do such a thing, then try one of the newer electric lawnmowers. Batteries have matured. The one below charges whole cars.

Even the Armed Forces love solar. Defense experts agree that reliance on foreign sources of energy makes our country vulnerable to the vagaries of other economies and governments. Energy self-sufficiency, both at the public and private level is preferable.

No discussion of the advantages of solar energy would be complete without the following video.

Read More News About Solar Energy Here

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

These are few. We scraped the barrel for you. Because of so many recent advancements in battery and panel technology, the long list of former complaints about solar energy, such as that solar cars and batteries didn’t perform well, are simply outdated ideas.

There are still some disadvantages to using solar energy: initial high cost of installation and equipment, solar energy production is lower in winter months, and larger solar panels may be necessary depending on location.

Conclusion

Solar is so very obviously the choice for us now and in the future. We tried to be even-handed in our assessment of the pros and cons of installing solar, but as you probably noticed, it was just not possible to tell the truth about solar without praising it.

It is unfortunate that the realities of clean renewable energies like wind and solar aren’t better known because the very instant people learn about this clean energy, common sense asserts itself, and they embrace renewable energy. It’s just a no-brainer: spend approximately $11,000.00 today and never dread your electric bill’s arrival again.

Solar energy offers irresistible benefits. With a minimal investment people can own the means of the production of their own power, power which pays cash back, day after day. Many people suffer without electricity during power outages, some for as long as months. People with their own solar systems at home never suffer long outages. Now is a very fine time to use and promote clean solar and wind energy.

An Epitaph for Fossil Fuels

Human development owes much proper credit to the progress we’ve made because we could use fossil fuels to create more light, warmth and mobility for human beings. We simply would not be at our current level of advancement without the leg-up that plentiful fossil fuels provided for us.

Ironically, the only reason we are able to collect solar and so many other types of renewable fuels is because we had years’ of abundant, cheap energy from those same fossil fuels. That said, the fossil fuel ship has simply sailed. There isn’t too much of it left that we can safely use, and even if it were safe to use all we have, there is only so much left in the ground.

Works Cited

https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/how-much-power-1-gigawatt. n.d. webpage. 18 March 2018.

https://www.greentechmedia.com/articles/read/tesla-virtual-power-plant-south-australia?utm_source=Storage&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=GTMStorage#gs.=Lfdxdw. February 2018. Webpage. 30 March 2018.

https://www.nrel.gov/workingwithus/re-csp.html. n.d. Web page. 18 March 2018.

In 2018, most homeowners are paying between $2.71 and $3.57 per watt to install solar, and the average gross cost of solar panels before tax credits is $18,840. Using the U.S, average for system size at 6 kW (6,000 watts), solar panel cost will range from. 18 February 2018. Webpage. 31 March 2018.

Singh, Siddharth. “http://www.business-standard.com/article/punditry/how-long-will-fossil-fuels-last-115092201397_1.html.” 22 September 2015. http://www.business-standard.com. Webpage. 5 April 2018.

Vice. “https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zd8O5YE8Uak.” The Future of Energy. Vice, 21 June 2017. Video. 31 March 2018.

Suggested Reading 

www.greentechmedia.com: these folks are up to the minute on all US solar issues. They publish an email newsletter and maintain an informational website.

www.YouTube.com: we recommend you sample a few of the available videos about solar energy. We were astounded at the variety of solar energy applications.

As always, its been a pleasure writing for you.