There are many positives to solar energy. It is clean, renewable, and sustainable. However, nothing is perfect in this world, including solar energy. There are issues about solar energy that you need to consider before you jump on the bandwagon and invest in solar panels.
Why is solar energy bad:
- It Has A High Initial Cost
- Solar Energy Storage Is Expensive
- Home Solar Panels Are Very Inefficient
- Solar Panels Are A Massive E-Waste Problem
- Discarded Solar Panels Can Cause Environmental Pollution
- Solar Panels Are Very Expensive To Recycle
This article explores the darker side of solar energy by looking at why it may be bad. This article does not try to stop you from investing in solar energy but to encourage a more critical look into the energy source. This way, you can make a better decision if you want to adopt it.
How Solar Power Works
Solar power works by using silicon photovoltaic panels to convert sunlight into electricity. The power is then sent to an inverter, which will convert the electricity into alternating current (AC) to power devices and appliances. Excess power may be stored inside a battery or sent into the power grid and sold to the electricity board.
In its simplest explanation, solar power is a technology that converts sunlight into electricity to power our devices and appliances. A common solar power system setup consists of several solar panels, inverters, and batteries.
The process starts with solar panels, called photovoltaic cells (PV). PVs are made up of layers of semiconductor material, usually silicon. When exposed to sunlight, the panels create a current, or electricity flow.
This electricity flow is a direct current (DC) incompatible with our devices and appliances. So, these DC are sent to an inverter, whose job is to convert the DC electricity into alternating current (AC) electricity.
The AC electricity is then sent to your devices at home to power them, with the excess stored in a battery. In some places, users can send electricity to the local grid and make money from the electricity board.
Why Is Solar Energy Bad?
Solar energy may be bad as it may be costly to set up and recycle. Solar panels are not as efficient, and many discarded solar panels may be a huge environmental risk. Finally, solar energy storage is very expensive.
Solar energy has its less appealing side despite its positive side. Solar energy has several major issues despite being touted as the solution for human future energy needs.
It Has A High Initial Cost
First is the initial high cost of solar power. Setting up a solar power system requires investing in solar panels, inverters, and batteries. You also need to spend time installing and setting up the system.
Setting up a residential 5 KW system would cost around $15,000 to $25,000. This figure does not take in rebates and deductions from your local authorities or that solar energy usually pays itself back after some time.
However, even with these advantages, it is still a large sum of money to invest. It may be much cheaper to purchase energy from the local provider and pay for it, even if it is not renewable.
It will also cost money to maintain the system. At the most basic, you will need to clean the solar panels twice a year. You also may need to monitor the performance of the solar panels to ensure no breakdowns happen.
It Needs An Expensive Energy Storage System
In many cases, solar energy may generate excess electricity, especially during the afternoons when not many people are at home. Yet, the sun is shining bright on the panels.
For many systems, the excess energy is usually stored in batteries. However, this is additional money spent, as batteries need to be purchased and installed into the solar energy system.
A lithium-ion solar battery system for a home, complete with the installation, may cost between $7,000 to $14,000. These are not some funds people can easily spend, even with additional assistance such as matching grants or tax deductions.
For many, it may make more sense to rely on the local power grid and purchase power when needed.
Home Solar Panels Are Very Inefficient
As much as solar power is seen as a great power generation option for the future, it still needs to work very hard to improve its energy efficiency.
This is because, at the start, solar energy depends on the sun. This means by default, a solar panel can only operate during the day, and it is basically useless at night.
Even during the day, solar panels may not be able to fully convert any source of sunlight it receives into electricity. Some sunlight may bounce off the glass before reaching the PVs.
There are also many situations where shades such as clouds or trees block sunlight from reaching the panels during the day, reducing its energy generation rate.
As a result, typical home solar panels only operate at an average of 20% efficiency. To put things into perspective, you may need to set up many more solar panels to power something small for a long time, such as an Xbox.
Solar Panels Are A Massive E-Waste Problem
When you compare solar energy with other energy sources, solar energy parts may generate many more e-waste problems for the world. This is because solar panel technologies are changing fast, making many people change their panels often.
On top of that, scientists have grossly underestimated how quickly people may change their solar panels, resulting in more solar panels being sent to the dump site. It was discovered that the rate of discarded solar panels is 2.56 times more than new ones.
This means for every 1 new panel installed, 2.56 panels are discarded. This shows the unsustainability of the number of waste generated from solar panels.
In fact, a group of researchers has identified that solar energy-related e-wastes are filling up landfills faster than iPhones, laptops, and other electronics.
This e-waste, in many cases, is exported to developing countries where they are either left to rot away or recycled in a very crude manner. These eventually caused even more problems, as these solar panels eventually polluted the environment.
Solar Panels Contribute To Environmental Pollution
Another issue with solar panels filling up landfills is that they eventually pollute the environment. This, unfortunately, is the total opposite of the many promises of solar energy – to be clean and environmentally friendly.
As solar panels are left to rot away in landfills around the world, the panel’s chemical content may end up leaching into the soil, polluting the area. These chemicals or metals also pollute the local water sources, resulting in potential health issues for many.
On top of that, in some landfill, people may try to process or recycle solar panels by burning them. Since these panels usually end up in the developing world, chances are the burning is done openly, without the use of any incinerators.
This results in the release of potentially toxic fumes and chemicals into the air, causing respiratory issues for the nearby population.
Solar Panels Are Very Expensive To Recycle
Another issue with solar energy is that solar panels are very hard and expensive to recycle. This is caused by several reasons.
First, solar panels consist mostly of silicon glass, which is cheap and abundant. In fact, silicon is the second most common element on earth. Some other metals, such as silver, gallium, or indium, are used in very small amounts, which means recycling them may not be worth it.
In fact, recycling silicon glass may require a lot more energy, which means more cost outlays. As a result, recycling solar panels may cost 10 to 20 times more than shipping them to a landfill.
How Do I Reduce The Negative Impact Of Solar Energy?
If you are to invest in solar energy, start by ensuring you install high-efficiency panels. Start small and assess its suitability before committing to a large setup to reduce waste. Use the solar panels as long as possible to maximize their use before throwing them away as waste.
Now that we have seen the negative or dark side of solar energy, the key is to understand that solar energy is still a technology in progress. This means rather than discarding it right away, we should see how we can use it wisely and minimize its negative impacts.
Install High-Efficiency Panels: If you are to install any solar panels, go straight to the high-efficiency panels. These are commonly made with monocrystalline panels and can generate more electricity.
Also, consider installing your solar panel system with things such as auto adjusters. This technology will detect the sun’s position and adjust the panels to receive maximum sunlight. This helps to make your investment worth it and generates enough energy for your needs.
Start Small: If you are to try to install a solar energy system, start small first. This allows you to spend a small amount of money and assess the system’s suitability.
After running the system for a while, you will have information about the amount of energy the system can generate. You can then use this number to calculate the actual amount of panels and inverters needed to power your house.
You can stop investing in more solar panels if the cost is too high or does not make sense. Aside from saving your hard-earned cash, you also stop contributing to solar panels becoming an e-waste problem.
Use It As Long As Possible: If you have installed a solar energy system, commit yourself to use it as long as possible. Avoid throwing away old panels and install new ones with newer technology, even if the older panels are still working.
This is because if the solar panels are discarded, you know they will end up in landfills and waste away. Nobody is going to recycle them as well.
So rather than let that happen, keep running your solar panels and use them as long as possible. This should maximize the value of your investment and the panels’ lifespan.
While solar is a clean source of renewable energy, it may not be the best option in all cases.
Solar energy can be expensive to install and maintain and may not be practical in some climates or locations. Solar energy requires long-term commitments and can be difficult to scale up or down depending on energy needs.
When considering alternative energy sources, it is important to consider the cost, practicality, and scalability of the option.
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