Disadvantages of Solar Energy & their Solutions in 2020

Disadvantages of Solar energy

All life on earth depends on energy. By the coming years, energy demand will double or even triple as the population is growing globally and so our energy dependencies.

Also, over the last few decades, a great level of consciousness of climate change has been achieved around the world.

Countries need an environment friendly future of energy.

The most common renewable technologies include:

  • Solar (photovoltaic, solar thermal)
  • Wind
  • Biogas (e.g., landfill gas/wastewater treatment digester gas)
  • Geothermal
  • Biomass
  • Low-impact hydroelectricity
  • Emerging technologies – wave and tidal power

Below is an infographic from Frankfurt School – UNEP clearly showing the investment trends about renewable energy in top countries.

Renewable Energy in 2019
Renewable Energy in 2019

Solar power has apparently become the trend in renewable energy.

According to IRENA (International Renewable Energy Agency), Cumulative installed power of Solar PV would rise to 8519 Giga Watts by 2050 becoming the second prominent source(after wind) by 2050.

Usually, we all have heard about the benefits of solar power, but we didn’t pay much attention towards the challenges of adopting it.

Knowing your challenges from the start, makes your journey easier.

In this post, I will be discussing the challenges or disadvantages of Solar Energy. 

Also, I will cover solutions to challenges if they have. 

So, Let’s start.

Top 10 Disadvantages of Solar Energy

I am here with top 10 challenges of using solar energy that you should consider before installing a solar power system.

Here is the complete list:

1. Higher initial investment

The major expenditure of a solar plant is taken by the pre investment. 

If you want electricity generation using solar, then, not only the expense of installation  is a challenge but also the storage.

Battery storage systems for solar are expensive.

For better understanding, let’s take an example of Tesla powerwall. 

It costs $7500 for 13.5 kWh of energy storage with installation, which is quite expensive.

If you want to store one day backup for your 4BHK , you would need 3 such tesla batteries.

However, the total expenses will also include solar cell, inverter, wiring, maintenance costs and much more.

Although, with the advancement in the technology, solar is becoming much more affordable than before.

But still , Solar is not cheap. High Cost is considered as one of the disadvantages of solar energy.

Here is the survey by IRENA showing the falling cost of solar over years:

Cost Of Solar With TIme
Cost Of Solar

2. Weather Dependent

No doubt that direct sunlight provides perfect conditions for solar panels. 

However, during cloudy or foggy days, the electricity production of solar panels decreases. 

Not only the clouds but extreme heat also reduces the efficiency of solar cells upto 30%.

Usually, the temperature between 15°C to 35°C is best for solar cells to work.

And if you install solar in a climate prone to freezing, then it is good to use a roof rake.

A roof rake can be quite helpful for clearing snow from panels without any damage.

And if you are installing a solar heater, then it is good to use an indirect circulation system.

3. Take a Lot of Space

Area might not be the concern for the ones who want to install solar for their home. 

Usually, for homes, the rooftop is used for solar installation.

However, for the large companies who want electricity production on a large scale, they will need huge space for electricity production on a regular basis.

Also, there are floating solar farms placed on the surface of still water like dams or a reservoir. 

These can save the land or real estate that you will use for solar farms.

At present, Japan has the largest floating solar power system. 

Other countries are also adopting it rapidly.

4. Longer Return On Investment ROI

ROI refers to Return on Investment i.e payback period of solar power system.

You can understand by saying that in how much time you will earn back the amount you have spent on solar. 

The ROI of your system depends on many factors. Some of them are listed below:

  • The efficiency of your solar power system.
  • Electricity bill Rates
  • Climate i.e whether the area where you live is prone to freezing or it rarely freezes there.

5. Some Potential Pollution

Since, chemicals and toxic materials are used to make a solar or photovoltaic cell. 

Some of the solar thermal systems use potentially dangerous fluids to transfer heat. 

Leaks of these substances could be very harmful for the environment. U.S. environmental laws control the use and disposal of these types of materials.

Some of the solar power plants require water for cleaning  purposes such as to clean solar collectors and concentrators or for cooling turbine generators. 

They use groundwater or surface water which may affect the ecosystems that depend on these water resources.

Also, in solar power towers, the beam of concentrated sunlight can kill birds and insects that fly into the beam.

6. Location Sensitivity: Location Affect Sunlight  availability  (Latitude)

The intensity and availability of the solar energy on the earth varies by geographical locations.

The location with the highest solar energy potential on the Earth happens to be near the equator.

Amount of solar energy you get depends on the latitude of your place.

Farther you are from the equator, the less solar energy you will get.

The Atacama Desert in Chile is the top solar spot on Earth, with annual solar production of more than 9,000 kWh from an average-sized (5kW) residential solar panel system.

Atacama is a desert plateau on the west side of the Andes mountains in South America and it covers a strip of land about 1,600 kilometres long on the pacific coast.

7. Less efficiency of solar panels

You will be surprised to know that monocrystalline solar panels absorb 18% of sunlight available. 

These are the most efficient solar panels in terms of electricity generation.

Furthermore, monocrystalline solar panels are the most expensive when it comes to cost.

Mostly, polycrystalline Solar panels are used as they are cost efficient.

These solar panels can absorb 15% sunlight falling on its surface.

However, technology has evolved so much that now you can see bi-facial solar panels.

These solar panels are two sided and can collect sun radiation from both sides.

Still, Less efficiency of panels is considered as one of the disadvantages of solar energy. Future challenges of solar include improving the efficiency by which solar cells convert sunlight into electricity.

8. Not suitable for migrants

It would be expensive to move the solar power system.

And it is more difficult to move an on- grid solar power system. 

If you decide to move out from the location,

the solar contracting company will shift the lease agreement to the new user.

These companies do not want to incur any additional  cost of taking the solar panels down. 

In case you choose to take the solar panel with you, plus the lease contract, the company can speed-up  things, but you’ll have to take care of the deinstallation and reinstallation cost.

But, Solar power does add value to your home

According to the research by Berkeley Labs, buyers in the US are willing to pay a $15,000 premium for homes with solar installation.

Thus, if you want, you can later sell your home at a much higher valuation.

9. Doesn’t work for every rooftop or  roof type

The inclination of the rooftop towards the sun is important. The ideal orientation is towards the south direction.

According to EnergySage, Ideally, a fixed, roof-mounted solar energy system should be at an angle that is equal to the latitude of the location where it is installed. 

However, pitch angles between 30 and 45 degrees will work well in most situations. 

Overall, the angle of your rooftop has less impact on solar panel performance than the direction your roof faces.

However, the angle of your roof actually has less impact on solar panel performance than the direction your solar energy system faces.

10. Panels deterioration or worsening

Ultraviolet radiation causes continuous damage to Solar panels.

Rain, snow, dirt, temperature fluctuations, hail and wind also cause serious hazards.

Although, Rain also helps in cleaning of Solar panels. But also, at times, nature can be extremely unpredictable. 

The unnatural climate conditions reduce the efficiency and durability of solar panels.

Conclusion:

Although the benefits of using solar energy are more than the disadvantages of solar energy.

But, you should not forget to consider challenges as well that I have tried to cover in this post. 

Below are the investment trends by The Frankfurt School showing global trends in renewable energy investment.

Global Investment Trends
Global Investment Trends in Renewable Energy

According to which global investment in solar is increasing over time.

So, we can say that the future of solar energy is getting brighter day by day.

I hope you like this post. You can appreciate my efforts by sharing it with your friends & family.You can also subscribe to our email newsletter for latest updates.

Keerti Bhatnagar

Keerti is a tech geek with a vision to save the environment. She is from Uttarakhand, India. And, She is currently pursuing her MCA from G.B. Pant University of Agriculture and Technology, Pantnagar.

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3 Responses

  1. Maritime Meg says:

    Your posts are amazing and extremely educational! I had learned the difference between solar and hydro energy on your other post, but this one is really interesting too as it dives a bit deeper into solar energy itself. The weather makes total sense as being a con to solar energy, and there’s a ton of other things I never even thought of.

  1. August 23, 2020

    […] there are also some challenges as well. Everyone who is thinking of adopting solar, should not forget to consider them as […]

  2. September 8, 2020

    […] Let’s also have a look at the benefits & challenges of using solar energy. […]

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