What are the Solar Energy Pros and Cons?

Daniel Liden

Solar energy is energy that comes from the sun in the form of light and heat. It is a form of clean, renewable energy that is used by people around the world. Because of limitations in money and technology, only a tiny percentage of the total amount of available solar energy is effectively harnessed and used. While it is clean and renewable, solar energy is far from being a perfect energy form and is not likely to replace other forms of energy. There are many solar energy pros and cons that consumers and businesses consider before deciding whether or not to make use of the sun's energy.

Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy, but they are often expensive.
Solar panels can generate clean, renewable energy, but they are often expensive.

There are many solar energy pros and cons that people must consider before making the costly decision to switch to solar energy. Using such energy does have its benefits. Solar panels give off no pollution of any kind, and little pollution in produced in their production. Solar panels produce energy silently and, in that sense at least, are very non intrusive. As long as they are not damaged, solar panels can provide free energy to a home or business for years.

Eventually the energy savings from solar energy will pay for the high installation costs.
Eventually the energy savings from solar energy will pay for the high installation costs.

While years of free energy and decreased dependence on fossil fuels may sound great, no examination of solar energy pros and cons is complete without a look at the price, which is considered the largest barrier to conversion to solar energy use. Solar energy panels and cells are very costly, and several may be required to power a home, business, or vehicle. While upkeep isn't particularly expensive and the energy gained after setup is free, the initial cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can be very high. In spite of this high cost, though, enough solar panels set up in an area with plenty of sunlight should, in time, pay for themselves through the free energy they provide.

Other solar energy pros and cons involve the environment that the solar panels are set up in. It is often very practical to set up solar panels in remote areas, such as outer space, where power is needed but where local power grids are not an option. Solar panels are, however, weather dependent. An area that regularly experiences heavy cloud cover will likely gain little benefit from solar panels, which work best when directly exposed to sunlight. Another consideration is the amount of time out of each day that solar energy is accessible; solar panels require sunlight to work, so they only function during the daylight hours.

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Discussion Comments


@nony - The thing is that you’ve got to get off the “grid” – which is the electrical network supplied by the local utilities. To this day, the only people I’ve seen who have successfully gotten off the grid were rich people who could afford a massive array of solar panels, and survivalists.

Of course survivalists do more than install solar panels to power their homes. They also grow their own food and build their own shelters. It’s too bad that some of the best examples of alternative energy sources are found in the homes of people who have chosen to cut themselves off from the rest of the world.

Apart from the survivalists, some rich people have built all solar energy homes. You’d think if you were rich you wouldn’t care about cost. Perhaps some of these folks are just conscientious. They embrace solar power because it’s environmentally clean.


@everetra - In my opinion all obstacles can be overcome, even technical problems. The article for example mentions the issue of solar panels needing sunlight all day long, and not delivering power when there is cloud cover.

While in principle this is true, it’s also true that you can hook up chargers that can store the power during the night hours and deliver the needed energy that way.

You can even mix solar panels with other renewable sources of energy like wind power for example, and they can complement each other in such a way as to overcome any problems that you may face.


@David09 - I do think that solar power energy has a lot to offer. However your argument about critical mass is kind of a catch twenty two. It won’t reach critical mass until it becomes cheaper to use. Yet it won’t become cheaper until it reaches critical mass.

The fact is there has to be a demand for the solar technology as it stands now, and at the current price point. You can’t manufacture demand. It’s either there or it isn’t.

If it’s not there and yet you go full steam ahead, you will face certain bankruptcy. A case in point is the company Solyndra, which manufactured solar panels and yet was eventually forced to file for bankruptcy in a few years’ time.

The reason was that not enough people wanted their product; the company couldn’t stay afloat, even with heavy subsidies from the federal government.


I think solar energy advantages outweigh its disadvantages personally. While I agree with the article that there are practical and cost considerations, I think it should be understood that these limitations can be overcome quite easily as soon as we reach critical mass.

That is, when enough people buy solar panels, then the prices should drop, and I believe that there will be acceleration in research and development as well, leading to smaller solar panels delivering greater energy at cheaper prices.

Perhaps I am being a little too optimistic in my assessment but I think that solar panel technology is just like any new technology. Over time, it becomes more popular and cheaper to use.

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