Solar power generation has become increasingly popular in recent years due to its clean and renewable nature. However, like any other technology, solar power has its own set of pros and cons. Here are some of the key advantages and disadvantages of solar power generation.
- Renewable: Solar power is renewable, which means it can be used as long as the sun is shining. This makes it a sustainable and reliable source of energy. Tropical countries and countries with bright summers usually benefit from solar energy. Similarly, solar energy in India has vast potential since most parts of the country have a tropical climate.
- Environmentally friendly: solar power generation produces almost no greenhouse gas emissions, so it doesn’t contribute to global warming or air pollution. This makes it a clean and eco-friendly option. According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA), life cycle carbon dioxide emissions from photovoltaics, the fastest-growing sector of solar technology, is in the range of 25 to 32 g/kWh. Whereas in comparison, a combined cycle gas-fired power plant emits around 400 g/kWh, while a coal-fired power plant about 200 g/kWh.
- Low maintenance: Solar panels require very little maintenance once installed. This means that they can operate for many years with minimal upkeep. According to Forbes home, solar panels typically have a lifespan of 25 to 30 years with regular maintenance. Solar panels are usually designed to withstand extreme weather events like hail, snow, ice, and wind and only need maintenance two to four times a year for optimum performance.
- Increases energy independence: By installing solar panels, individuals and businesses can become less reliant on the traditional electrical grid, making them more independent and self-sufficient. India has schemes like Grid connected solar rooftop program which aims to achieve grid-connected rooftops. As per the National for rooftop solar, a 1kW rooftop system requires just 10 sq. meters of shadow-free area. This saves on electricity bills for the consumer and there is no additional requirement for transmissions and distribution (T&D) lines.
- High initial cost: The installation of a solar power system can be expensive, although costs have decreased significantly in recent years. The initial cost can sometimes be a barrier for many homeowners and businesses. On average installing a 1kW rooftop solar system would cost between Rs. 45,000 to Rs. 85,000. On a sunny day, a 1kWp solar power plant can generate 4-5.5 units in a day, according to the Ministry of New and Renewable Energy.
- Weather dependent: Solar power generation is weather dependent, meaning solar panels rely on the sun to produce electricity. They are not as efficient on cloudy days or in areas with limited sunlight. This may imply that solar power may not be a reliable source of energy in some locations. According to a solar panel business, on average, a solar panel needs 1000W of sunlight per meter square which can be achieved in approximately 4-5 hours of sunlight in peak sunlight.
- Land use: Large solar farms require a significant amount of land to generate enough electricity, which can lead to environmental concerns and potential conflicts with other land uses. This also poses challenges in densely populated areas.
- Manufacturing: The manufacturing process for solar panels can be energy-intensive and produce waste which can have environmental impacts, including the use of toxic chemicals and carbon emissions. According to national geographic, fabricating the panels requires chemicals such as sodium hydroxide and hydrofluoric acid which are harmful to the environment if not disposed of safely. Silicon-based photovoltaic cells require a large amount of energy in their manufacturing process and that source of energy is often coal which contributes to its carbon footprint.
It is necessary to switch to a more sustainable and renewable source of energy because annual energy demands are rising. Every technology has advantages and disadvantages, and it is up to the consumer to decide whether the advantages outweigh the disadvantages for them. In order to assist consumers in deciding whether to invest or not, the government and manufacturers should be completely transparent about the manufacturing process and its waste-handling systems.
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