Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
What is Solar Energy?
Sunlight is a renewable energy source which can be converted into usable energy by solar panels. There are two main types of solar energy. Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels directly convert solar energy into a usable form of energy using a PV cell containing a semiconductor material. CSP (concentrating solar power) on the other hand, concentrate energy from sunlight to a heat receiver which transforms energy from heat into mechanical energy, and in turn, solar thermal electricity.
Advantages of Solar Power?
- Solar energy is a clean and renewable energy source.
- Once a solar panel is installed, solar energy can be produced free of charge.
- Solar energy will last forever whereas it is estimated that the world’s oil reserves will last for 30 to 40 years.
- Solar energy causes no pollution.
- Solar cells make absolutely no noise at all. On the other hand, the giant machines utilized for pumping oil are extremely noisy and therefore very impractical.
- Very little maintenance is needed to keep solar cells running. There are no moving parts in a solar cell which makes it impossible to really damage them.
- In the long term, there can be a high return on investment due to the amount of free energy a solar panel can produce, it is estimated that the average household will see 50% of their energy coming in from solar panels.
Disadvantages of Solar Power?
- Solar panels can be expensive to install resulting in a time-lag of many years for savings on energy bills to match initial investments.
- Electricity generation depends entirely on a countries exposure to sunlight; this could be limited by a countries climate.
- Solar power stations do not match the power output of similar sized conventional power stations; they can also be very expensive to build.
- Solar power is used to charge batteries so that solar powered devices can be used at night. The batteries can often be large and heavy, taking up space and needing to be replaced from time to time.
If you are interested in reading about how Solar Energy is utilised in engineering applications, read this article on low power solenoid valves in a solar power application.