Well, it’s safe to say that solar panels have blown up over the past few decades. They have become so popular with homeowners, businesses and now even the governments are recognizing their value.
But we’re all asking the same question.
- What’s so good about solar panels?
- Why are they so popular?
- Should I be getting solar panels? Or is this just one big hype?
- Are they really worth the money?
Well, the short answer is yes. They are worth it, and I’m going to explain to you exactly why.
However, we cannot forget the law of balance. For every advantage there is probably a disadvantage.
Why Are Solar Panels So Popular?
Over the past 20 years solar panels have become extremely popular with homeowners, business and the agricultural industry.
There are many different reasons why people are interested in solar but we have narrowed them down to 3 main reasons.
Firstly, the most common reason why solar is popular is because of money.
Solar panels can provide homeowners with a massive saving toward their energy bill (if not completely reduce it altogether).
When people catch wind of their neighbors slashing their energy bill in half, they simply want a piece of the pie. By having a reduced energy bill it means that you will free up your cash flow each month to spend on stuff that you like or your family.
The finance side of solar is the main reason why it has become so popular in today’s age.
The second most popular reason is because of the environment.
Solar panels are being installed to help take a stance against climate change. People are willing to invest their money into something that will not pollute the planet we live on. Installing solar panels will help by generating clean energy that can also be sold.
This is much better than burning fossil fuels and oils which has a negative effect on the planet. We are realising the sustainability of solar panels which is making them more popular.
3, Government Incentives
Thirdly, solar panels are getting a name for themselves through government incentives.
It is pretty hard to resist when the government is offering to buy back any excess solar energy you produce…
Plus lets not forget the massive reduction in the upfront cost, an interest free loan to help reduce the cost even more and then a STC certificate that can be sold for money!
Even with commercial solar for businesses there are rebates and grants being offered as incentives to help with the move to solar.
Advantages of Solar Energy
1, Renewable Energy Source
Among all the benefits of solar panels, the most important thing is that solar energy is a truly renewable energy source. It can be harnessed in all areas of the world and is available every day. We cannot run out of solar energy, unlike some of the other sources of energy.
Solar energy will be accessible as long as we have the sun, therefore sunlight will be available to us for at least 5 billion years when according to scientists the sun is going to die.
2, Diverse Applications
Solar energy can be used for diverse purposes. You can generate electricity (photovoltaics) or heat (solar thermal). Solar energy can be used to produce electricity in areas without access to the energy grid, to distil water in regions with limited clean water supplies and to power satellites in space.
Solar energy can also be integrated into the materials used for buildings. Not long ago Sharp introduced transparent solar energy windows.
3, Low Maintenance Costs
Solar energy systems generally don’t require a lot of maintenance. You only need to keep them relatively clean, so cleaning them a couple of times per year will do the job. If in doubt, you can always rely on specialised cleaning companies, which offer this service from around £25-£35.
Most reliable solar panel manufacturers offer 20-25 years warranty.
Also, as there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The inverter is usually the only part that needs to be changed after 5-10 years because it is continuously working to convert solar energy into electricity and heat (solar PV vs. solar thermal). Apart from the inverter, the cables also need maintenance to ensure your solar power system runs at maximum efficiency.
So, after covering the initial cost of the solar system, you can expect very little spending on maintenance and repair work.
4, Reduces Electricity Bills
Since you will be meeting some of your energy needs with the electricity your solar system has generated, your energy bills will drop. How much you save on your bill will be dependent on the size of the solar system and your electricity or heat usage.
For example, if you are a business using commercial solar panels this switch can have huge benefits because the large system size can cover large chunks of your energy bills.
Moreover, not only will you be saving on the electricity bill, but there is also a possibility to receive payments for the surplus energy that you export back to the grid through the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG). If you generate more electricity than you use (considering that your solar panel system is connected to the grid).
5, Technology Development
Technology in the solar power industry is constantly advancing and improvements will intensify in the future. Innovations in quantum physics and nanotechnology can potentially increase the effectiveness of solar panels and double, or even triple, the electrical input of the solar power systems.
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Although solar energy can still be collected during cloudy and rainy days, the efficiency of the solar system drops. Solar panels are dependent on sunlight to effectively gather solar energy. Therefore, a few cloudy, rainy days can have a noticeable effect on the energy system. You should also take into account that solar energy cannot be collected during the night.
On the other hand, if you also require your water heating solution to work at night or during wintertime, thermodynamic panels are an alternative to consider.
2, Manufacturing of solar panels can harm the environment
Although solar panels produce clean, renewable energy, the process it takes to manufacture them can harm the environment. Mass production of solar panels may result in fossil fuels being burned and plastic waste.
Unfortunately, this is one of the overlooked disadvantages of solar panels. They are not eco-friendly to mass manufacture. Then again, you can ask what is these days? This is quite a shame because solar panels stand for a big movement to fight the climate crisis.
This does become a disadvantage for solar panels although they themselves produce green, renewable energy. Overall, I’d say that they still do more good than they do bad.
3. Low energy conversion rate
Even the most advanced solar panels still only convert around 20-25% of the sun’s energy into power. It goes to show how much opportunity there is to develop better technology to optimise the full force of the sun.
However, there are many things that need to be considered like the direction of the panels and location.
Although, I also want to stress that solar panel efficiency shouldn’t be the most important thing. Especially when you’re talking about 1-2% difference. Really, I’d be more concerned about the installation or warranties.
4. Cannot be used at night
No energy can be produced by your solar panels at night which essentially means your solar panels can only generate energy 12 hours of a full day. Without any sunlight hitting the solar panels then there will be no energy produced.
This is a disadvantage of solar panels but may be something that is overcome in the future with new technology. There are already talks about an ‘anti solar panel’ that is able to produce power at night.
5. Disposal of old solar panels can be harmful to the environment
Unfortunately, when we dispose of old solar panels it requires them to be melted down which can produce some harmful chemicals in the process.
Not only this, but it can be harmful to the local area that this occurs in. Mostly you will see solar panels back at landfill sites which is better than burning.
One good thing is that usually solar panels will last around 15-25 years so there isn’t an abundance of old panels causing issues.
Personally, I would still say there are more advantages for solar panels than disadvantages.
However is saying this, it makes you realize that maybe they are not as amazing as everyone says.
Although, I do admit I own a solar panel system and its the best investment I’ve ever made. I would choose solar panels over no solar panels any day!
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