Solar Energy vs Fossil Fuels: The Definitive Comparison

Today over 80% of the world’s energy needs are fulfilled with the help of fossil fuels.

But, fossil fuels are limited & non-renewable. And, we might see a huge shortage of them in the near future.

A better alternative to fossil fuels is solar energy. Solar Energy is renewable & sustainable in nature. 

In this post, I am here with a definitive comparison between solar energy & fossil fuels, i.e. solar energy vs fossil fuels.

Before we start, let’s understand what solar energy & fossil fuels are.

Related: Renewable vs Non-renewable sources of Energy

What are fossil fuels?

Fossil fuels are the fuels formed by the decomposition of buried plants & animals inhabited millions of years ago.

This decomposition when subjected to high pressure & temperature, forms fossil fuels. Coal, Oil & Natural gas are a few common examples.

Coal is formed when dead plants are decayed over a long time while oil & natural gas are formed by the decomposition of animals & marine life.

Fossil Fuels
Image Source: Pixabay

These fossil fuels are burned to generate enormous amounts of energy. The below table clearly depicts some of the top advantages & disadvantages of using fossil fuels.

Advantages of Fossil FuelsDisadvantages of Fossil Fuels
1. Easy & fast combustion1. Limited availability.
2. Can generate a huge amount of energy2. Hazardous for the environment & also lead to global warming.
3. Highly efficient3. Highly expensive
4. Reliable4. Serious health impacts
5. Boost the world economy5. Destroy landscapes

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


Solar Energy: Advantages & Disadvantages

The energy that we receive from the sun as heat & light is called solar energy.

This energy comes in the form of heat radiation which is later on converted into electricity with the help of solar panels.

The process of converting solar energy into electricity is called the photovoltaic effect which we have discussed in our previous posts.

Sun is the ultimate source of solar energy & as long as the sun lasts, we will keep getting energy from it.

Solar & Wind Farm
Image Source: Pixabay

Below are some of the top advantages & disadvantages of using solar energy.

Advantages of Solar EnergyDisadvantages of Solar Energy
1. Solar Energy is renewable.1. Higher initial investment.
2. It is cheaper compared to fossil fuels.2. It is weather-dependent
3. Environment friendly.3. Takes up a lot of space.
4. High return on investment.4. Longer return on investment.
5. Boost economic growth.5. Less efficient in comparison to fossil fuels.

Solar Energy vs Fossil Fuels

Till now, we have discussed the concept of fossil fuels & solar energy with their respective advantages & disadvantages.

Let us now compare each of them based on factors like:

  • Availability in the long run
  • Environmental Impact
  • Health Impacts 
  • Cost associated
  • Efficiency
  • Sustainability &
  • Future aspects.

You can also have a look at the below infographic for a better understanding.

Solar Energy vs Fossil Fuels Infographics

1. Availability

Solar energy is a renewable source of energy which means it will keep on renewing by itself.

As long as the sun lasts, we will keep getting it. Thus, we can say that solar energy will always be available to us.

On the other hand, fossil fuels are limited & non-renewable. We can’t rely on fossil fuels in the long term.

Even, according to research conducted by Stanford University, we will run out of:

  • Coal by 2090.
  • Oil by 2052 & 
  • Natural Gas by 2060.

After all, we can say that there will be a huge shortage of fossil fuels in the near future. 

2. Impact on the Environment

Solar energy has little to no impact on the environment. The PV panels that we use to harness electricity from sunlight, work out only 50gm of CO2 per kWh.

This CO2 is produced during the manufacturing of solar panels.

At the same time, fossil fuels produce about 1 kg of CO2 per kWh of electricity produced.

Fossil fuels do also produce harmful greenhouse gases that lead to global warming & other serious issues.

Overall, Solar energy is far better than fossil fuels if we take their environmental impact into consideration.

3. Health Impacts

Enormous amounts of harmful gases are produced during the combustion of fossil fuels.

These gases cause serious health problems for humankind. Some major diseases include lung cancer, heart stroke, asthma, etc.

Solar panels are used to convert sunlight into electricity, which produces little to no harmful gases.

Adopting solar energy can not only reduce air pollution but also save you from various air-borne diseases.

4. Cost

The supply of fossil fuels is limited while demand keeps on increasing which leads to high energy prices. And, it seems that these prices will keep on increasing.

On the other side, the initial cost of installing solar panels is too high. However, in the long run (say 25 years) you can expect better returns.

Once installed, Solar panels can help you live a peaceful life without worrying about monthly bills.

Also, in the last few years, the cost of solar installation has decreased significantly & may continue to.

Thus, comparing solar energy with fossil fuels, we can say that solar energy is cheaper in the long run & can reduce your overall electricity bill to a great extent. 

5. Efficiency

Efficiency refers to the highest amount of output that we can get by using the least available resources.

The efficiency of fossil fuels is higher compared to that of solar panels. It means we can generate a large amount of energy by combusting very few fossil fuels.

The efficiency of fossil fuels lie between 40 to 50% (around 42% for coal, 45% for oil & 52% for natural gas).

Alternatively, the efficiency of solar panels ranges from 11 to 15% which is quite low.

So, we can say that fossil fuels are highly efficient compared to solar energy.

6. Sustainability

Sustainability represents our ability to fulfill present needs without compromising the growth of future generations.

Since fossil fuels are limited & by using them we are compromising the needs of future generations.

Solar energy on the other hand will always be available & using it leads to sustainable growth.


7. Future Aspects

According to EIA, world energy needs will increase by 50% by 2050. The below chart clearly depicts the overall scenario.

Global Energy Demand Future Projections

In order to fulfill the global energy demand, we cannot rely on fossil fuels alone. 

This is so because we may soon run out of Coal, oil & natural gas. So the future of fossil fuel looks diminishing.

Although solar energy is abundant, its future seems brighter as compared to fossil fuels. 

This is all about the comparison: solar energy vs fossil fuels.



The global energy demand keeps on increasing day by day. At present, 80% of our total energy consumption comes from fossil fuels.

The other 20% comprises solar, wind energy, hydropower, geothermal energy, biomass & nuclear energy.

If we continue at the same rate, soon we will have a huge shortage of fossil fuels.

However, we can tackle future energy problems by adopting green energy sources. Solar energy is one of the best examples of green energy.

In this post, I have tried my best to compare solar energy with fossil fuels, i.e. solar energy vs fossil fuels.

Do you find it helpful?

Leave a comment & let me know – because your opinion matters!

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