As environmentally acceptable as solar technology is global, there are some advantages and disadvantages of solar panels. These advantages and disadvantages and more, have been discussed in this article.
Over the past few decades, the need for sustainable energy has caused an increase in diverse sources. And with more campaigns on environmental problems such as resource depletion, renewable energy is the new focus.
In replacement of fossil fuel sources, solar, wind, water, geothermal, sources are being developed to meet the world’s energy demands. A lot of research is being made in developed nations. Even the developing countries are not left out as they are playing their part with as much technical capacity as they have.
Solar technology is the fastest growing and is the most commonly used renewable energy in the world. Good as it seems, it is not perfect. There are both advantages and disadvantages one gets from the use of solar panels. These are that will be looked into in this article. With this knowledge, you can weigh your options before you decide on if you will go for them or if you will seek other alternatives.
Table of Contents
What are Solar Panels?
Solar panels can also be called photovoltaic modules. A solar panel is an arrangement of photovoltaic solar cells together in a sheet. Each photovoltaic cell is made of a semiconductor and has the ability to generate voltage and electric current when exposed to light.
Solar panels were first mass-produced in the year 2000. This was carried out by a German environmental scientist and Eurosolar. Since then, more innovations have been made and more panels produced.
The basic material (i.e. semiconductor) used in solar panels can be silver, silicon or. Silicon is the most used. Solar panels can be made from a single piece of silicon (monocrystalline) or multiple pieces of silicon (polycrystalline). Polycrystalline panels are usually blue in color and less expensive than black-colored monocrystalline panels.
Solar panels are commonly used in generating electricity in homes and in industries. Aside from these, solar panels are also used in clinics to refrigerate medical supplies. In agricultural establishments, they are used as a power source for irrigators. Solar panels can also be combined with other renewable energy sources such as wind turbines to form what is known as hybrid power systems.
In the transportation sector, solar panels are used in making solar vehicles. They are also used in space crafts and on space stations.
How Solar Panels Operate
The photovoltaic effect of solar panels makes it possible for them to convert light energy to electricity. This function is initiated by physical and chemical reactions that cause the external electrical charges created by the PV cells to move in response to the internal electric field in the cell, causing electricity to flow.
Each solar photovoltaic cell is made up of two slices of semiconductors. The semiconductors are further doped with other materials in order to create a positive or negative electrical charge on each slice. The top can be overlapped with phosphorus in order to increase the negatively charged electrons. The bottom of the semiconductor is further underlaid with boron in order to reduce the negative charges and increase the positive charges. This creates an electric field at the silicon junction.
When light energy from the sun hits the cells, it knocks electrons free from atoms, setting them in motion. The electric field causes the free electrons to move away from the junction. The metal conductive plates on the sides of the cell further collect these electrons and transfer them to wires.
If the panels are to be used for electricity generation, batteries, inverter, and charge controllers will be needed.
Solar panels are made up of solar cells enclosed in solar modules. The arrangement of these panels on a rooftop, on the ground, or on a wall is referred to as a solar array.
When the sun comes up, light rays fall on the panels. The amount of electricity generated by the panels depends on certain factors such as the intensity of the sun, the time of the day, geographical location, age of the panels, number of panels, time of the year, etc.
When the average peak sun hours vary, the solar power output of panels also varies. In some regions, the average peak sun hours can be below 4.0 in the month of June and 6.5 and above in the month of December. With these figures, an 80W solar panel will produce about 320W of solar energy per day in June, and in December, with a 6.5 average peak sun hours value, it will generate about 520W of solar energy per day.
The output of solar panels is affected by the cell operating temperature. This temperature is estimated to vary by 2.5% for every 5 degrees variation in temperature. Solar regulators or charge controllers control the amount of charge going into the batteries. If this is not done, the fluctuation caused by rising and fall in solar temperature can damage the batteries. Some charge controllers also convert excess voltage to current. This makes for faster charging of the batteries.
If solar panels are to be used in powering DC gadgets, inverters will not be needed. But when AC gadgets are involved, inverters will be needed. The work of an inverter is to convert DC to AC.
Advantages of Solar Panels
Do you know that there are advantages and disadvantages to solar panels? Let us briefly review the advantages before the disadvantages of solar panels.
Some of these advantages come from the fact that the panels depend on solar energy, a renewable and environment-friendly source of energy. Solar panels do not emit any form of greenhouse gas while meeting our energy demands. They are also cost-effective in the long run. Also, energy gotten from solar panels can be stored in batteries and used when there is no sunlight.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
There are also disadvantages associated with the use of solar panels. When not mounted on rooftops, solar panels occupy a lot of land space. Installation cost is usually high especially in countries where there are the energy sector is poorly developed. Solar panels also depend on the sun fully. When there is no sunlight, there will be no electricity for solar panel users.
Other advantages and disadvantages of solar panels have been discussed in this article.
Top 18 Advantages and Disadvantages of Polar Panels
- Long Lifespan
- Environment Friendly
- Low maintenance
- Power can be Stored
- Subsidized energy
- No Monthly Bills
- Less space is utilized
- Increased Property Value
- Improving Technology
- Less Dependence on Non-renewable Energy Resources
- Low Risks
- High Cost
- Fluctuation in Energy
- Influence of Natural Elements
- Low Efficiency
- Damage to the Land Environment
- Solar Panels cannot Be Recycled
1. Long Lifespan
Solar panels are very durable. They can serve for as long as 25 years. This is very long when compared with other sources of energy.
2. Environment Friendly
The exploitation of nature in order to solve energy problems has caused the environment a whole lot of damage. A lot of forests have been cleared and desertification claiming bare areas. If this continues, about 26 trillion tons of soil are going to be eroded, CO2 emissions will increase, the ozone layer will continue to be depleted and coal, mineral oil, and natural gas reserves will be exhausted.
As stated earlier, solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases yet meet our energy needs. There are more advantages than disadvantages of solar panels when it has to do with environmental impact. If we consider noise pollution, solar panels are simply the best as no form of noise pollution is involved.
When we go further to assess the impact of the use of solar panels on the atmospheric environment, solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases thus, have nothing to do with the greenhouse gas effect and global warming. They do not emit a significant amount, of any air pollutants.
3. No Monthly Bills
Unlike other energy sources, the use of panels does not require a monthly payment for the supply of electricity. The use of solar panels reduce energy charge in areas where electricity price is reasonably high and continuously increasing. Such areas include Australia and Germany.
4. Less Space is Utilized
Solar panels can be hung on roofs and walls. The rooftops in our homes are large enough to accommodate as many panels as we need to supply us with sufficient electricity. When these available spaces are occupied with solar panels, there will be no need for more land space to mount our panels. The case is not the same with petrol or diesel generators, hydropower, wind turbines, and other energy sources.
Solar panels utilize Ultraviolet light rays from the sun to supply electricity. This solar energy does not require any form of human input to replenish it. It is provided by nature and is in constant supply. All we need to do is mount our panels properly and put other necessary components in place.
6. Low Maintenance
Solar panels require little effort in maintenance. The routine maintenance carried out on panels involves cleaning up dust particles that have accumulated on the surface of the panels. Cells can be detached and replaced when any get damaged.
The reason behind the low maintenance requirement of solar panels is that they stay in the same position for a long period of time. Once the panels have been mounted, they may remain there for as long as throughout their lifespans.
7. Power can be Stored
Sometimes, the sun gives off energy more than we need. When this happens, excess energy can be stored up in batteries to be used at a later time.
In some regions, the excess energy generated is tradable. This means you can sell off your extra energy in exchange for some money. Services such as net metering and feed-in-tariff make this possible.
8. Subsidized Energy
The use of solar panels attracts some favor from the government in certain regions. These governments sometimes decide to subsidize the price of panels in order to make them affordable to a larger populace. Others sponsor projects that require the use of photovoltaic cells.
9. Increased Property Value
The use of solar panels in a property (be it a home, school, office building, etc.) increases the monetary value of that property. Such a property stands a chance of attracting more buyers when put up for sale or rent. This is because whoever buys the property is rest assured of a constant supply of electricity.
10. Improving Technology
Ever since the first mass production of solar panels in the early 21st century, a lot of innovations have been made. Solar technology as a whole is a work in progress. This is a great advantage because a good number of limitations surrounding the use of solar technology have successfully been worked on. More research is being carried out on how to make improvements in this sector of the energy industry.
The need for more work to be done has also created room for more jobs in research, design, and manufacturing, creating room for more persons to become employed. Even now, the manufacturing and mounting of solar panels create employment opportunities for many.
11. Less Dependence on Non-renewable Energy Resources
Crude oil is the most used energy resource unfortunately, it is non-renewable. The use of solar will gradually reduce our dependence on crude oil.
12. Low Risks
The use of solar panels to generate electricity comes with a lower potential for electric shocks and power outages. The current generation is very much safer than that of traditional electricity.
Disadvantages of Solar Panels
13. High Cost
Solar panels cost a lot to build. Cost of purchase is another disadvantage because solar panels are expensive. Aside from the cost of panels, batteries, and inverters if needed addition to the cost of purchasing solar equipment. When the amount spent on transporting this equipment is considered, one might end up spending more money on installing solar in the home than was spent on erecting the building.
14. Fluctuation in Energy
Sometimes the intensity of the sun becomes high and at other times, it becomes low. This variation in cell temperature causes variation in current and voltage
15. Influence of Natural Elements
The amount of energy generated from solar panels is influenced by some natural elements such as weather conditions, time of the day, and latitude.
We all know that no part of the earth’s surface receives solar radiation at night. During this time of the day, having solar panels alone amounts to blackout. During the winter and rainy seasons, energy from the sun is usually very low. This also limits the amount of energy that will be available to those who depend on solar panels for electricity.
Another disruptive factor is latitude. Regions closer to the equator will receive more solar energy than those far away from the equator.
16. Low Efficiency
The efficiency of solar panels is as low as 15-20 percent. This means that 80-85 percent of energy gotten from the sun is lost while the remaining is converted to electricity.
17. Damage to the Land Environment
It is true that solar panels help reduce the volume of gases such as Carbon IV Oxide associated with energy supply. However, solar panels pose a threat to the soil environment. Solar concentrators for instance, which are…alter the nature of the earth and terrestrial plants. Also, the air associated with the reflection of solar radiation can change the wind direction, heat balance, and humidity of the areas where panels are mounted.
When solar panels are placed on the ground or on surfaces close to drinking water sources, low-temperature boiling fluids in those panels can over time, contaminate the drinking water.
18. Solar Panels cannot Be Recycled
There is currently no technology in place to recycle solar panels after they have exceeded their life span. Disposing of these panels is currently a matter of global concern. There are also no measures in place to recycle cadmium when used in panels.
What happens to solar panels after 25 years?
25 years can be said to be the least lifespan of solar panels. By this time, their efficiency have greatly dropped and semiconductors and other materials used had expired.
Do solar panels damage the soil?
Yes, they do. When mounted on the ground, plants cannot survive below the panels.
Why are solar panels always placed on rooftops?
Solar panels are not always placed on rooftops. However, they are often placed there for two major reasons. The first is in order to utilize already available space rather than wasteland spaces. The second reason is to have the panels closer to the sun and keep them in direct contact with solar radiation.
Are there disadvantages of solar panels on roofs?
Yes, there are. Solar panels on rooftops (especially when the roofing materials are not strong enough) put so much weight on the roofs, causing leakage and deformation roofs.
Do solar panels work at night?
No, they don’t.
How long do solar panels last?
Solar panels can serve for as long as 25-50 years.
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