Solar Energy Disadvantages: Cons of Solar Power

Due to the fact that the cost of electricity is increasing by 3 percent to 5 percent per year, you may be considering alternative energy sources such as solar. However, before you go ahead and install a solar system on your home, you should consider some of the significant disadvantages.

Although solar energy has the highest initial costs of any renewable energy source, it appears to be a good investment given its low long-term costs. Solar panels, on the other hand, have a low efficiency in practice.

When working with the best and most expensive technology available in a prime location, you will be lucky to get a conversion rate of more than 22 percent.

Then there’s the possibility that storms will cause damage to the solar panels themselves. In addition to the cost of replacing the solar panels, the damaged ones must be handled and disposed of properly due to the toxic compounds that were used to construct them.

This article will discuss the major disadvantages of solar energy that should be considered before making a decision on whether or not to use solar energy for energy production.

See our related articles where we look at the Advantages of Solar Energy. We also Compare the Pros and Cons of Solar Energy. Do the positives outweigh the negatives?

What are the Disadvantages of Solar Energy (and to the environment)?

1. Location & Sunlight Availability

Your latitude is one of the most important factors in determining the effectiveness of solar energy.. It is not all locations that receive the same amount of annual sunlight, and the efficiency of solar energy decreases dramatically the further you are away from the equator.

As a result, residents of countries such as Canada and Russia are at a competitive disadvantage in terms of solar energy. However, in places like Hawaii, where there is an average of 277 days of rain and clouds per year, the fact that they are close to the equator is irrelevant because there is simply not enough unobscured sunlight reaching the ground.

Furthermore, the season has an impact on solar efficiency. You can generate more electricity than you need during the summer because the earth is tilted so that the sun is closer to your location than it is during the winter. The tilt of the earth causes your location to be further away from the sun in winter, making it impossible to generate enough electricity to meet your needs during the winter months.

Solar panels, like everything else that is exposed to the sun, will deteriorate as a result of the ultra-violet rays. Wind, hail, snow, dirt, and temperature fluctuations are all serious threats to solar panels, as are other natural disasters.

2. Installation Area

In most cases, the installation area will not be a significant issue for homeowners who want to install solar panels, especially since they will be installed on the roof in most cases. Large corporations, on the other hand, that wish to generate a large amount of electricity will require a very large installation area in order to provide electricity on a consistent basis.

The world’s largest solar field, which is located in Spain and covers approximately 173 acres, generates enough electricity to power nearly 12,000 homes. In other words, it’s 173 acres of land that can’t be used for anything else, such as grazing livestock.

3. Reliability

Given that solar energy is dependent on the sun, electricity cannot be generated during the night, necessitating either the storage of excess energy generated during the day or the connection to an alternate power source, such as the local utility grid, in order to use solar energy. This means that, on top of the high cost of the solar panels, you will have to pay additional fees.

Clouds and storms can also reduce the amount of energy you can generate by blocking light rays that would otherwise be absorbed by the solar panel and converted to useful energy.

4. Inefficiency

Most solar panels on people’s homes, according to the Qualitative Reasoning Group at Northwestern University, convert only 14 percent of the available energy into electricity, according to their findings. Even the most efficient solar panels on the market today convert only 22 percent of the available energy into electricity.

In accordance with the second law of thermodynamics, solar cells will never be able to achieve 100 percent efficiency. The highest theoretical maximum efficiency is 85 percent, and that is with mirrors and motors that move in the direction of the sun.

The highest theoretical maximum efficiency for a system that does not track the sun is only 55% for systems that do not track the sun. On cloudy days, the same is true for systems that track the sun’s position.

5. Pollution & Environmental Impact

Land and water use and pollution, habitat loss, and the use of highly hazardous materials in the manufacturing process are all examples of the environmental consequences of solar energy.

As an example, consider the installation area: solar fields can consume a significant amount of land; and unlike wind farms, sharing the land for agricultural purposes is not an option with solar fields. Solar energy has an impact on land use as well, particularly when it comes to mining and the production of materials required for the production of photovoltaics.

Cadmium and lead are two of the compounds found in solar panels, both of which are extremely toxic metals. It is also necessary to use a number of other toxic and hazardous materials in the production of solar panels. These include gallium arsenide, copper indium gallium diselenide (CIGD), hydrochloric acid, sulfuric acid, nitric acid, hydrogen fluoride, 1,1,1,1-trichloroethane, and acetone, to name a few.

It is mandatory in the United States for manufacturers to ensure that these high-value substances are recycled rather than disposed of after production. The hazardous materials are disposed of irresponsibly in fields in countries such as China, Malaysia, Philippines, and Taiwan, where more than half of the world’s photovoltaics are produced. This pollutes the environment’s air, water, and soil.

An in-depth article on the causes and effects of pollution, as well as how they affect our environment, has been written by the authors of this article.

6. Expensive Energy Storage

For the most part, storing large amounts of electrical energy is regarded as the single most significant obstacle to the widespread use of solar energy on an industrial scale. Current battery storage system options for storing solar energy as electrical energy are prohibitively expensive, making them uneconomical for most applications.

Tesla has developed the Powerwall battery, which allows solar energy to be stored for later use. These batteries, however, are prohibitively expensive, with a 14kWh battery costing approximately $7,100, including installation. A total of three Tesla batteries would be required to provide one day’s worth of backup energy for a four-bedroom house, costing a whopping $18,300 in total.

7. High Initial Cost

It costs between $15,000 and $29,000 to install an average-sized system that generates between 4kW and 8kW of electricity. Solar panels, inverter, mounting hardware and wiring, installation, permits, repairs, monitoring and maintenance costs, as well as additional operation and overhead costs, are all included in these costs. Additional operation and overhead costs are also included.

It is possible that you have noticed that this does not include a battery storage system, which is an additional expense. Battery storage systems are not required if you plan on supplementing your energy needs by connecting to the local energy grid, which is the case in most cases.

As previously stated, factoring in the cost of a battery storage system results in a potential total cost of between $33,300 and $47,300 for a system that can reliably supply enough energy, day and night, for the average four-bedroom household. Even then, depending on the climate and your location, you may be required to reduce your energy consumption and be more frugal in your energy consumption.

When calculating the initial cost, it’s important to consider the payback period as well as the total cost. For a $18,000 system, you’ll have to wait 20 years before you’ll be able to recoup your investment through savings generated by solar energy. That is not a reasonable expectation for the majority of people and their financial situation.

8. Solar Panels could Damage your Roof

We would all like to use less electricity when we are not actively using it. Solar panels can be used to assist in the generation of electricity, but they may cause damage to your roof as a result of the process.

Improper installation of solar panels could result in holes in the roof, which would allow water to leak in and cause significant damage to both the exterior and interior of your home, depending on the severity of the problem. If you want to avoid this, make sure to do thorough research on installation companies and to check that they have positive reviews.

Because of the weight of the panels, additional support is required to ensure that they are securely mounted. If your roof is not durable or has any weak spots, the panels may cause your roof to crack or “flatten” over time as a result of the additional weight. If your roof is not durable or has any weak spots, the panels may cause your roof to crack or “flatten.” We recommend that a thorough inspection of your roof’s structural integrity be performed to ensure that the roof can withstand the weight of the panels.

A steep angle at which the panels are installed can cause them to sag and eventually fail, causing damage to the roofing material. If the panels are installed on the roof at an incorrect height or at an incorrect angle, problems in the attic or with the gutters may result.

These potential problems may void any current Roof Warranty that may be in effect. It is critical to consult with your roof installation company to ensure that the addition of any solar panels will not result in coverage being interrupted.

Conclusion

While solar energy is considered an inexhaustible renewable resource, the methods by which we currently harness it have numerous drawbacks, ranging from being prohibitively expensive to being inefficient. Solar technology, on the other hand, is still in its infancy, and a slew of innovative ideas are beginning to emerge.

Studies on energy storage issues, for example, have revealed the existence of two different methods that could be used to store electrical energy in the future.

Scientists are drawing inspiration from existing technology to develop flow batteries that use small organic molecules that help rhubarb plants store energy, known as quinones, rather than the toxic and extremely expensive metal vanadium ions. According to the researchers, this technology could reduce the current cost of electricity from $0.02 per kilowatt-hour to $0.0025 per kilowatt-hour.

It is also possible to use solar energy to generate methanol from carbon dioxide instead of electricity, which is a very ingenious technique. An industrial plant would be built to burn the methanol as fuel, converting it back into carbon dioxide, which would then be captured and stored in a geological reservoir. By recycling carbon, rather than allowing it to escape into the atmosphere, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

One thing is for certain, however. Outside of basic outdoor solar lights, solar energy (for things other than lighting) has a long way to go before it is affordable, efficient, and environmentally friendly.

If you have questions or comments, you can continue this conversation in the comments section.

Resources

Featured Image Credit: Activ Solar @ Flickr