THE USE OF SOLAR ENERGY HAS NOT BEEN OPENED UP BECAUSE THE OIL INDUSTRY DOES NOT OWN THE SUN.
– Ralph Nader
Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Although a lot of good stuff is said every day about solar energy, people should familiarize themselves with the disadvantages of solar energy before committing any financial resource. Here is an outline of basic disadvantages to solar energy.
1) It’s not 100% Reliable
This means that when the sun is not shining, there is no generation of energy. The generation of power is mostly affected at night and during raining months. Most people have now invested in battery backup systems, which store up power to be used when the sun is not shining. However, investing in backup systems can ramp up the overall cost of installing a solar panel. It mostly ends up not adding value to the solar energy technology.
Unlike other renewable energy sources which can also be operated during night, solar panels prove to be useless which means you have to depend on the local utility grid to draw power in the night or you can buy solar batteries to store excess power which you can later utilize in the night. Apart from that, harmattan hazes or hurricanes also reduce your ability to draw power during those days.
2) High Initial Capital Costs
Although installation of solar panels would bring immense benefits in the long run, the upfront costs can be punitive. Depending on the company you choose to buy solar panels from, it could cost an arm and leg. It’s even difficult to quantify the entire cost of installation without the help of manufacturing companies. Some nations have introduced rebates and tax credits to enable lots of people to install solar panel which is not applicable to us in Nigeria, but unless you are putting some money aside for this, it can be an unbearable cost. Also, it might take up to 10 years to 15 years before you can break even with your initial investment. It’s not about how much payback period is, anything that can reduce our dependence on fossil fuels is worth trying.
However, with most governments looking to get ahead of the severe global warming impacts, they have liaised with solar panel manufacturers to dial back on solar panel prices. Today, the average cost of a solar panel is $0. 3per watt. The same solar panels were selling at $0.74 per watt just a year ago. This is a significant commitment to get everyone on board in the use of solar energy.
3) Problem of Efficiency
A lot has been documented about the inefficiency of solar energy. Most people do not understand what efficiency means. People look at 15% efficiency and think that it’s not good enough. They think that the ideal efficiency ought to be 100%. Efficiency is all about the amount of space it takes to generate the energy. It would shock you to know that a 250-watt solar panel featuring 15% efficiency produces the same power like a 250-watt solar panel featuring 20% efficiency. The disparity is shown in size. Smaller panels tend to be more efficient than larger panels.
Higher efficiency is vital when looking to power small electronics due to the space aspect. Nonetheless, a roof is adequate to generate power for any household use. This means people only invest in rooftop solar panels when the roof space is small. It’s also good to note that more efficient panels are relatively expensive.
4) Complications When Moving
Solar energy technologies like solar panels present challenges when looking to move. The solar contracting company will switch the lease agreement to the new user if you decide to move out. These companies do not want to incur any further cost of taking the solar panels down. In fact, they have expert personnel that work in conjunction with realtors, title agents, and inspection agents to ensure smooth transition to the new tenant. In case you choose to take the solar panel with you, plus the lease contract, the company can expedite things, but you’ll have to take care of the de-installation and re-installation cost. Also, another important thing to note is that each time a solar installation is decommissioned, the roof integrity is compromised.
5) Materials Used to Make Solar Panels Can Cause Pollution
There is no up-to-date information on the possibility to recycle PV panels. Although solar panels have remarkable lifespan of about half a century, disposing of these materials can have severe impacts on the environment. This is a challenge that has been ignored over the years and must be addressed now.
6) Negative Energy Balance
The fact that the sun is unpredictable means solar energy cannot be relied upon to power a country’s economy. Solar energy technologies are still being developed, and scientists predict that the technologies will be able to cater to a majority of world population by 2020. Until then, we will still rely on fossil fuels as the main energy source.
7) Installation Area
For home users, a solar energy installation may not require huge space as it can be installed on rooftops that can produce sufficient energy but for big companies, a large area (solar farm) is required for the system to be efficient in providing electricity on a constant basis.