This is the ultimate guide to solar energy pros and cons; to give you the best overview of the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy we have broken them down to easily understood sub sections based on the main solar energy systems and solar technologies. Firstly we take a look on the pros and cons of the solar energy source – (i.e. as a renewable energy source). Then we list all the pros and cons of solar energy systems – i.e. Pros and cons of Solar thermal, Photovoltaic and Passive solar. Make sure you refer to our complete list of solar energy pros and cons which will be updated shortly in a downloadable format in tabular form – it summarizes all the pros and cons for solar energy technologies in a structured and comprehensive manner.
Solar energy is power from the sun; thus a renewable energy source which is naturally replenished by nature. The potential of solar power is truly beyond imagination as it is big enough to power the word for thousands of years- what remains for this to be achieved is to be able to exploit the potential of solar energy with our technology – solar energy systems. Basically there are three main solar energy technologies: Solar Thermal, Solar Photovoltaic panels and Passive solar technologies – see solar energy systems. Before taking a look on the pros and cons of solar energy systems (for each technology), we first take a look at the main advantages and disadvantages of solar energy as a renewable source; inherited to all solar energy system technologies.
1. A Renewable energy source (RES)
Renewable sources are non-fossil energy sources that are replenished by nature; Renewable energy sources have many benefits and advantages over other conventional energy sources as they are considered to be environmentally friendly and sustainable.
2. Environmentally sustainable
Using environmentally sustainable energy sources means considering and taking care of the environmental burden we impose on the planet; thus reducing CO2 and other harmful gasses emissions into the atmosphere and combating global warming and greenhouse effects. Moreover, by using alternative RES we contribute against depletion of the natural resources.
3. Abundant and free
Solar energy is renewable, free and abundant! Being continually replenished by nature it is an energy source that cannot be depleted. Solar energy potential is amazingly huge! “… Assuming 100% absorption of solar radiation, it would only require 88 minutes of solar radiation to cover for humanity’s total energy consumption for a year!.
4. Available energy source
Apart from being abundant and free by nature, solar energy is also available worldwide. Although the areas zone closest to the equator have the highest solar radiance, however, other zones being further north and south from the equator can also exploit solar energy; a good example of this is Germany which has managed to explore successfully its solar energy even at an altitude of 51 deg. Consequently, Solar energy is available anywhere the sun shines; its quality, however, varies according to location and climatic conditions.
5. Available when needed most.
Solar energy, as an energy source, usually has the advantage of being available when it is needed most; for example, in hot summer days where electrical energy demand reaches its peak for space cooling, so is solar energy supply of the summer sun.
6. Towards Green power
The huge potential of solar energy may hold the key to gradually disengaging fossil fuels from power generation; thus penetrate more into green power and sustainable development.
7. Reliability of energy source
In general, renewable energy sources are basically unpredictable, consequently unreliable, due to climatic behavior (weather is unpredictable – see solar energy cons); however, solar energy exhibits relatively high reliability subject to location specific historical data and technology configuration used (e.g. with energy storage). Using Solar energy is of course less reliable than using any fossil fuel (oil or gas) but much more reliable than wind energy.
8. Widely used
Solar Energy is used in a wide area of applications by utilizing different technologies. In search of ways to combat our environmental challenges, the vast potential of solar power has been a main driver for the global economy, technological advancement and eventually hope for a sustainable future. That is why solar energy is used in a wide range of applications that is continually growing; these include the construction industry on buildings (solar panels for home, solar water heaters, passive solar), for generation of power, integration with other technologies such as solar lighting, powering electrical devices and equipment (power boat, solar plane, solar cars etc.) and using it in our everyday lives for cooking – solar cooking.
1. Only in daytime
As it is easily understood, solar energy is only available during the day and as long as the sun is shining.
2. Unpredictable weather
As for all natural renewable energy sources, their supply is as predictable as the weather on the location of the site. Unfortunately climatic variations are highly unpredictable and intermittent, influencing greatly the direct use of all renewable sources.
3. Expensive technology
Although solar energy is freely available by nature, to gather it and us it we need expensive technology (solar energy systems). In general, using solar energy in place of conventional energy sources will cost more money; it is thus economically not viable. To compensate for this ‘financial obstacle, solar energy has been a main target of financial incentives promoting environmental solutions.