Among the various renewable energies, solar energy is the fastest-growing energy source. With the world facing critical environmental issues like climate change, sustainable development and eco-friendly approach are at the forefront of social agendas in the modern world.

Today, the world is highly dependent on fossil fuels like natural gas, petroleum, coal, and oil shales. These fuels are either non-renewable or take millions of years until they are consumable. Solar power alone may not be enough to end the dependency on these non-renewable energies. But, it can certainly be an important initiative toward an eco-friendly lifestyle.

Solar energy is easily accessible, so it has taken the lead over other green energy sources. But is it a miracle we should be proud of? Or is it something that’s invisibly harming the earth?

How Do Solar Panels Work?

Solar power is merely converting sunlight into electricity. In recent years, solar panels have been in use in most places worldwide. Surprisingly, a large number of people are not yet aware of how these panels work.

Solar power panels are a combination of several modules of crystalline silicon cells. This natural semiconductor cell has two different layers — the positively charged layer and the negatively charged layer.

When proton particles strike in these layers, the atoms’ bonds break down, generating energy. This raw energy is transferred through the inverters and converted into usable electricity. So, you can also store the energy in a solar battery for future usage.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

It may seem like solar energy, as a renewable energy source, can only benefit the environment and social lifestyle of the people. However, there are a few shocking disadvantages of using solar energy, believe it or not!

As a part of the modern world, it is essential to compare both the pros and cons of solar energy before settling for the change and deciding to go solar.

So, without further ado, here are a few benefits and drawbacks of solar energy for a more precise understanding:

Advantages of Solar Energy

1. Renewable Energy Source

Solar energy has several significant benefits. However, the most crucial one is that solar energy is an inexhaustible energy source. Since the energy stored in the solar panels comes from the sunlight, it is practical for daily usage anywhere in the world.

Unlike other energy sources, we can never run out of solar energy. According to scientists, the sunlight will continue to supply solar power for at least another 5 billion years, making it usable for an extended period.

2. Reduces Dependency on Fossil Fuels

Solar energy is the world’s most accessible alternative energy source. With the progressing technological advancement, a wide variety of solar-powered products are readily available to adapt to households and commercial applications. Today, more people are becoming eco-conscious, and the use of solar energy is increasing all over the world.

More alternative energy consumption eventually minimizes the dependency on fossil fuels, including petroleum, coal, and oil shales. This practice will help preserve non-renewable resources and build a sustainable world for future generations.

3. Reduces Energy Bills

When installing solar panels at your home or your business, you use minimal energy from the local utility. If the solar panels are large enough, homeowners no longer need to use commercially sold electricity for daily usage. So, it helps reduce electricity bills and save a lot of money.

Additionally, if the homeowners manage to generate more energy from their solar panels, apart from reducing the energy usage, they can even earn extra income by selling the energy.

4. Minimizes Carbon Emissions

Billions of people still use coal, wood, natural gas, and oil as a source of energy. The high consumption of these energy sources has overloaded the atmosphere by outpouring harmful gases. These gases, in the long term, affect the earth’s temperature and result in critical global issues like climate change.

However, if we choose to invest in solar-powered products, we can steadily reduce the carbon footprints on the planet. Solar energy is almost free of global warming emissions and causes significantly fewer environmental effects and hazards. Additionally, if we replace carbon-intensive sources with solar energy, we will also reduce fuel costs.

5. Low Maintenance Cost

Well, people might look at the glass panels on the roofs and think of shattered glass and huge maintenance bills. However, it is not quite the case with solar panels.

Although the solar cells are fragile, these cells have a protective layer called ‘shatter-proof’ tempered glass. Therefore, the maintenance requirements of the solar panels are less frequent.

Additionally, solar panel distributors often provide a brand warranty that can last for decades. So, the cost is relatively minimal, even if the panels require maintenance.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

1. High Up-Front Cost

There is indeed a high start-up cost while investing in solar-based products. Homeowners who want to purchase solar panels also need to pay an additional amount for installation, wiring, batteries, and inverter. The total cost for switching to solar after adding these expenses is relatively high.

Solar-powered products are not affordable to everyone with such a high initial cost. However, the cost of these panels is declining drastically every year. Many assume that the prices may decrease even more soon.

2. Weather-Dependent

Solar energy may not be a potential solution to every power problem worldwide. While it promises the possibility of infinite energy consumption, many critics argue that solar energy is not reliable. As the solar panels generate electricity by absorbing the sunlight, their efficiency and effectiveness tend to drop remarkably.

They are based on adverse weather conditions like storms, rains, or even cloudy weather. Additionally, solar panels can not store energy at night. So, relying on solar energy to solve power issues is pointless.

3. It Might Result in Potential Pollution

Although much associate solar energy with an eco-friendly lifestyle, critics argue that the environmental aspect of this energy is slightly exaggerated. The production of solar cells uses several toxic metals, including gallium arsenide, lead, and cadmium which are considered harmful to the environment.

Additionally, the transportation and installation of solar panels also contribute to the emission of greenhouse gases on a small scale. So, going solar might also, more or less, impact the environment.

4. Space Requirement

If a building or property requires extensive electricity, you’ll have to install tons of solar panels, which can take up a lot of space. It might cause a massive problem if the roof is not spacious enough to accommodate the required panels.

In such cases, the only alternative may be to install them in a yard or open space accessible by sunlight. You might even have to rent extra space to install the panels if you do not have much space. One question might arise can you install solar panels yourself? Find your answer in the article here.

5. Expensive Storage Cost

Apart from the hefty investment to purchase and install solar panels, you may even have to break the bank to store the energy for future purposes. You must use the collected energy immediately or store it in solar batteries.

These batteries use off-the-grid solar systems, which means they must be charged during the day to be usable at night. If you’re curious about how solar batteries work, dig into the article here.

Although this is a great way to use electricity for a long time, the entire process costs a lot of money since you need to invest in large batteries.

Future Outlook for Solar Energy

While the use of solar energy is on the rise worldwide, this ever-growing industry still has a lot of potential for growth in the future. For it to grow further, the efficiency and effectiveness of the solar cells will have to increase substantially.

While people are starting to feel responsible for putting an end to the earth’s carbon footprint, solar energy is not affordable to everyone. To encourage more people to use solar energy, the price of solar-powered products must be cheaper.

However, solar energy is here to stay. The solar industry is investing millions in cost-cutting and excellence to remain relevant with the increasing competition in the energy market.

With dynamics in technology and research focusing on improving the solar cell designs and materials to build these cells, solar energy is expected to be cheaper and more efficient in the next few years. New marketing mechanisms are also encouraging more people to go solar and adapt to the green lifestyle.

Nina Howell is a Rewenable Energy researcher and consultant based out of Houston, Texas Area. She earned her Master's Degree in Energy and Earth Resources from Austin Jackson School of Geosciences in 2010, and a Bachelor's Degree in Environmental Science from State University of New York College of Environmental Science and Forestry in 2008. Nina has been working in the energy sector since 2011. She worked as an Energy Supply Analyst from 2011 to 2017 in Bounce Energy and then as a Research and Energy Consultant at GE Renewable Energy from March 2017 to February 2020 . Nina is a mom of 2 beautiful children who are joy to her life. She strongly believes in eco-friendly living and is vocal about renewable energy, environmental issues, water crisis, and sustainable living.