Disadvantages Of Solar Energy

by sciencestudent

Everyone is talking about the advantages of solar energy. But what about the drawbacks and disadvantages of solar energy?

In one hour of daylight, enough energy rains down across the planet to meet our energy needs for an entire year. At the same time, General Electric has calculated that the entire needs of the United States could be met if just 7% of the state of Arizona was covered with their solar panels.

So, what's the hang up? With all of the excitement surrounding solar energy, you would think that solar energy should be sweeping the nation with revolutionary speed.

And it isn't.

The Disadvantages Of Solar Power

An Uneven Source Of Power

The first drawback to solar power is that it is, at best, unpredictable.  

To begin with, we need the sun to be shining.  Depending on your latitude, you may not get much sunlight.  Alaska, for example, has entire months with virtually no sunlight. Canada -- which actually uses quite a bit of solar power to run remote homesteads -- has to squeak as much power as possible out of its shorter days.

And, even if you mount your solar panels smack-dab on the equator, you still have to contend with cloudy and overcast days.

Further compounding the issue is that some of the most population dense areas -- such as the eastern coast of the United States -- are also some of the most disadvantageous places for harvesting solar energy. 

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Cost Of Solar Panels

I honestly think this is the biggest disadvantage to solar power. After all, if solar panels were not so expensive, we could compensate for their drawbacks by erecting more of them to collect more sunlight.

Plus, to help compensate for the uneven and unpredictable nature of solar energy, large battery sources have to be used, further increasing the cost of a solar installation.

A lot of homes are taking advantage of the grid-tied solar power kits out there.  And, for now its a great way to combine solar power with our existing technologies. However, if too many homes and businesses try to use this system, the unstable power will affect the entire grid, and large, national battery banks will have to be constructed as well. 

Our Solar Future?

Solar Panels Can Light Our Future Once We Overcome Their Disadvantages
Solar Panels Can Light Our Future Once We Overcome Their Disadvantages

Pollution and Corrosion

Solar panels are quite susceptible to corrosion -- which is one reason they are built in clean laboratories under the strictest of conditions. That said, the smog and corrosion of major cities can very quickly lead to a rapid decay of even the best solar panels.  

However, even with this accelerated decay, solar panels will pretty much always last long enough to pay for themselves -- and then some. 


As alluded to in the first section, latitude has everything to do with optimal solar performance.  The closer you can get to the equator, the more sunlight you can collect and the more power your solar panels will produce. 

Additionally, these solar panels need to be south-facing.  A major disadvantage for solar energy production is that most of our roofs are not southward-facing.  That means that many homes have to mount their panels in their yard, and take away from their precious living space -- something a lot of homeowners want to avoid. 

That said, a lot of homeowners are ignoring the disadvantages of solar energy and ridding themselves of a monthly electric bill by going solar.  In addition, new technologies are being capitalized on which allow solar powered plants to store heat and produce electricity all night long!

If we could just find a way to put more resources into solar technology and get its cost a little bit lower, it is likely that we would see fewer posts and questions about the disadvantages of solar energy and more signs saying "go solar now!"

My Poorly-Drawn "Go Solar Now" sign
My Poorly-Drawn "Go Solar Now" sign
Updated: 04/03/2012, sciencestudent
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Get Solar Energy Now on 09/21/2015

Great piece! The great news in 2015 is that US government are providing tax credits to who install solar systems. In the future people who still cannot afford solar panels or do not have the roof facing southward can still receive electricity from the power grid that comes from solar farms or renewable sources.

Rose on 12/20/2013

If the solar panels became more sensitive, they should be able to convert even weak winter light into power. Lets hope the technology continues to advance!

solar path lights on 05/14/2013

Yes, you are right. The efficiency problem is a big problem for solar energy.

SallyTX on 04/23/2013

Interesting point of view. I think Ralph Nader summed up the reason why solar isn't the main source of energy on the planet today when he said:
"The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun." ~ Ralph Nader

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