What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
The sun provides enough energy in one hour to meet the entire global energy demand for a year. Without a doubt, the sun is the strongest renewable energy source available to man. However, every step in the quest for energy transition needs to be planned wisely. To give you clearer picture of what role solar power plays , we describe some advantages and disadvantages of solar energy systems.
This post covers everything about solar energy, advantages and disadvantages in four distinct aspects. For each aspect, we compare two advantages and disadvantages solar energy has. We also compare pros and cons of solar power against fossile fuels in different aspects. In total, we’ll go over 10 10 benefits of solar energy and it’s downsides.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy in Points
How Solar Power Works
When sunlight shines on a surface, energy is released by the collision of photons with the surface. Solar cells capture this energy and convert it to electricity before passing it on to an inverter.
Applications vs. Limitations
One of the biggest downsides is that solar plants need much more space than any other source of energy. There are, however, a number of solutions that effectively eliminate this problem.
Cost vs. ROI
Despite steadily decreasing costs, the initial price of a solar power system is still quite high. However, the savings in energy bills quickly offset the initial cost, so that most systems pay for themselves within a decade.
Solar Power vs. Fossile Fuels
In total, solar power is clearly better for the environment than fossil fuels. Furthermore, solar power is already the cheapest form of electricity. However, solar panel production is not carbon neutral either.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
- Solar panels are made up of individual solar cells (32 to 96, depending on the model). These generate electricity (DC) by absorbing sunlight photons.
- Solar inverters are required to convert the electricity into AC current. The electricity is then fed to end devices, the local grid or battery storage units.
- Solar batteries store electricity that is not immediately consumed. It can either be stored for later use or exported to the grid. They can also serve as backup during emergencies.
The disadvantages and advantages of solar energy work not as clear-cut as one might think. For example, there is a common misconception that solar panels only function in full sunlight. While brighter days generate more power than overcast days, solar panels generate energy during all daylight hours, regardless of the weather.
For young readers and school teachers: We are a professional provider of green technology solutions. Therefore, our main audience consists of commercial providers and public institutions that are already somewhat tech-savvy.
However, we understand that educating younger generations about a sustainable energy economy is equally important. At JustWe, we do our best to contribute to educating the young about safeguarding the environment.
One good source to explain the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy for kids is sciencing.com.
Financial Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy
Financial Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy
- Initial Costs of solar power systems are still quite high.
- Grant Schemes help to alleviate the initial cost of solar power systems.
- Electricity Bills are drastically reduced or removed completely by solar power.
- ROI for solar energy is about 20 % over 25 years.
Initial Cost for Solar Power Still Too High
One of the drawbacks of solar electricity is the high initial cost of purchasing and installation. While this might not be a hindrance for businesses, some homeowners may not be able to afford the costs upfront.
The high initial costs are particularly noticeable with off-grid solar power systems for home. Off-grid systems have to make sure that solar power is available around the clock. Therefore, purchasing solar batteries becomes mandatory for off-grid systems. Furthermore, they usually require more sophisticated (and thus more expensive) equipment, which is especially true for inverters.
The H2 is a low-cost, multi purpose hybrid inverter for off-grid solutions. A 16A string guarantees for reliable handling of modern high-power PV modules.
A backup mode with UPS function allows for a switching time of less than 10ms. With 150% DC and AC 110% AC overload capacity, the H2 can be relied on even under the most straining conditions.
In additionl, the H2 also works as a battery charger. Thus, it really is the ideal inverter for any off-grid solar power system!
- Best off-grind solar inverter
- Integrated battery charger
- For ultra-high power modules
- Smart energy management
Solar Power Systems Government Grants
Maintenance costs are negligible, so the only serious expense is the initial investment. While the initial cost of solar energy may seem high, but solar technology is becoming cheaper every year. It is reasonable to expect that this trend will continue until the market is fully saturated.
To mitigate the remaining financial disadvantages of solar power, governments have implemented several incentive programs. To that end, most European governments offer rewards in the form of grants, tax deductions or subsidies.
Solar Power Grant Schemes
To find out which kind of financial incentives your country offers for going solar, please use the contact form below.
National Grant Schemes
Governments on the national, provincial and town level offer various options for subsidising commercial solar PV systems. For example, there are grants to fund the purchase of solar panels for businesses by up to 10%. Furthermore, subsidies exist to fund solar panel installation for businesses. In general, before installing solar panels for your business, you should find out about the following subsidy options in advance:
- Low-Interest Loans
- Statutory Feed-in Tariff for Commercial Solar Installations
- Regional Subsidy Programmes
- Grants from Energy Suppliers
Contact us to find out about which financial incentives are available for your solar power project. Make sure to provide the correct details for a correct assessment.
Financial Benefits of Solar Power
The biggest advantage of solar panel systems is that they provide free energy. Therefore, they instantly reduce energy expenses. The amount of electricity savings depends on system size and daily power demand.
Currently, the cost per kWh of solar electricity is around € 0.09 (GBP 0.08). This constitutes a massive saving compared to grid prices, which is currently around € 0.20 (GBP 0.017) and expected to rise.
This is why large solar power for business projects are especially beneficial. After all, the enormous system size can cover a substantial portion of a company’s energy expenses. Furthermore, on-grid installations allow for export of excess solar energy back to the grid for a profit.
High Long Term Returns
In the long run, solar power is a fantastic investment with little to no risk. Over the lifetime of a solar power system (25+ years), ROI can be expected to be at least 10%.
The following table gives a representative example for solar power systems with average sunlight exposure. These numbers are conservative, so the actual return can be expected to be higher in most cases.
Solar Energy Return on Investment
|Power Output||Annual Power Generation||Estimated Savings per Year||ROI|
€ 210 (GBP 180)
€ 355 (GBP 300)
€ 425 (GBP 360)
€ 1170 (GBP 995)
€ 3520 (GBP 2990)
The above table shows that even small-sized systems are worth it in terms of annual return. If the system can cover the entire daily demand (22kWh for average European households), double-digit returns are a near certainty.
Adding battery storage will multiply profit opportunities of any system. This is because excess power can be stored and then exported when it is most profitable. One of the advantages of solar battery systems is that they can be combined with a time of use tariff. This opens up numerous possibilities to benefit from a fluctuating electricity price and drastically minimize energy costs.
With the right setup, a solar power system with batteries can easily yield returns of 30% or more. Modular batteries are particularly popular for this purpose, as they can easily be connected together. This way, the storage capacity can be expanded anytime.
The B1 is a modular high voltage battery for solar power systems. It’s lithium battery chemistry allows for a higher energy density than other battery technologies.
The B1 is expandable, allowing to connect up to four batteries in one stack. This way, a maximum storage capacity of 20.4kWh per stack can be achieved.
Thus, a full battery stack has enough capacity to power a family household. This makes the B1 ideal to export surplus power, because daytime demand is already covered by solar panels.
- Best solar battery for surplus exports
- Storage capacity: 5.1kWh
- Modular design
- Expandable storage capacity
- Safest battery chemistry (lithium)
- Excellent protection
- Life cycles: ≥6000
What are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Using Solar Energy vs. Fossil Fuels?
Across the globe, solar power is rapidly transforming the energy economy. However, we still depend heavily on fossil fuels to meet our energy needs. In fact, fossil fuels still constitute 84% of our total energy supply.
Source: Planete Energies
As shown in the above chart, solar power is just a small fraction of the global energy mix as of yet. However, the transition from fossil fuels to green energy is inevitable. All relevant aspects considered, it is evident that solar energy is the right horse to bet on.
Solar Power Is Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels
We already established that solar power offers a near risk-free opportunity to achieve double-digit returns. Also in terms of long-term costs, solar power is superior to conventional grid electricity. Over the previous decade, solar equipment prices have dropped by more than 59%. In turn, widespread adoption of solar power generation for both commercial and residential applications is becoming ever more feasible.
For example, commercial solar projects in China and India cost only € 15-35 per MWh. This puts solar energy on par with traditional natural gas and far superior to wind energy. Furthermore, technological progress and market dynamics will drive down the cost of solar energy much further.
Your Financial Advantage Is With Solar Power
One distinct financial advantage of solar power is an incentive structure that fossil fuels can’t compete with.
As a developer of solar power solutions throughout Europe, JustWe is highly familiar with the different incentives of each country.
At JustWe, our mission is to develop solar power solutions that maximize the cost advantage of our customers. We provide you with free consultation a precise on available grants for solar power projects in your country.
Environmental Advantages and Disadvantages About Solar Energy vs. Fossil Fuels
Even though solar energy is renewable, it still has it’s own carbon footprint. One environmental hazard that is unique to solar power lies in the production of solar panels. Solar panel production requires caustic chemicals, as well as water and power, both of which release greenhouse gases.
According to latest research, production methods based on silicon pose the greatest environmental concerns. The reason why approaches based on silicone are more detrimental to the environment lies in the characteristics of their manufacturing processes. In the long term, production based on silicone poses significant drawbacks in several aspects.
Problems With Silicone
- Energy consumption
- Pollutant emissions
- Waste treatment
- End-of-life disassembly
- Limited options for recycling
Towards a More Sustainable PV Production
Quartz mining, silicon purification, wafer and panel manufacturing, assembly are a great overall environmental concern for PV production based on silicone.
Single-crystal silicon was shown to be the worst offender in terms of environmental harm. Amorphous and multi-crystal silicone coming in second and third.
According to latest research, CdTe poses the smallest risks in terms of environmental hazards.
Making Solar Panel Production Environmentally Friendly
Production methods based on cadmium telluride (CdTe) currently poses the least environmental concerns. Furthermore, CdTe technology is needs less resources and produces less chemical waste.
The only downside of CdTe technology is the discharge of cadmium ions into water. In total, the environmental impact of CdTe is rather modest compared to the life cycle emissions of other PV facilities.
Sustainable PV Glass Production
Our goal is to transform the silicon dominated PV industry to become truly sustainable. We do this by demonstrating the long-term benefits of CdTe production.
Therefore, our PV modules exclusively build on CdTe technology. Besides our standard PV modules, we also offer a wide selection of solar glass for PV windows and solar cladding solutions. Discover our solar glass solutions »
Environmental Solar Disadvantages Manageable
There are some environmental concerns with the production and installation of PV equipment. At the end of the day, however, solar power is sustainable in the long run and fossil fuels aren’t. Taking all factors into account, solar power produces 40g worth of greenhouse gases per KWh. For comparison, natural gas (the least polluting of all fossil fuels) produces ten times as much per kWh.
The damage caused by oil and risks associated with nuclear power are orders of magnitude higher than solar power. And, given the steady innovation in the solar industry, we can be confident that even these concerns will develop remedies. Technologies like CdTe provide great avenues to make solar power as environmentally safe as possible.
Applications & Limitations of Solar Technology
Uses & Limits of Solar Power
- Solar Plants on the ground require a lot of space.
- Shading Conditions can prevent solar panels from producing energy.
- PV Modules cannot produce energy at night.
- Rooftop Systems are the most common form of solar power generation.
- Ground-Mounted systems are usually deployed for large-scale projects.
- Solar Glass solutions turn an entire building into a solar plant without taking up more space.
- Solar Carports provide car parking spaces while generating solar energy.
Inherent Limitations of Solar Energy
Problems like financial cost or environmental concerns of solar power can be solved or at least mitigated. However, solar technologies also face limitations that cannot be overcome. These “hard limits” are related to the unique characteristics of solar power generation.
Solar power is an intermittent source of energy because the sun does not shine at night. That means, solar power can only be generated for a limited amount of time every day. Solar batteries are an easy workaround for this problem, as they allow solar power to be stored for later use.
For this purpose, next generation solar batteries are equipped with smart energy management features. Thus, modern solar batteries can be programmed to automatically regulate and optimize energy flows for different times of day.
Best Solar Battery: AS1
- Smart & automated energy management
- Integrated inverter
- Storage capacity: 5.1kWh
- 3 smart operating modes
- Time of use
- Backup/Island mode
Solar panels require sunlight to produce electricity. The strength of sunlight depends on location, time of day, and even the season. Factors such as snow and clouds all have an impact on the amount of energy that can be generated.
While solar energy can still be produced during overcast and rainy days, the effectiveness of the system decreases. As a result, weather conditions have a significant impact on the system.
One distinct example of this aspect is shading. In particularly shaded areas, solar panels will necessarily collect less sunlight. If the shading is equally high on a property, then a solar power system might just be out of place.
The more power a solar system is to generate, the more solar panels are required to provide the desired output. Since solar panels are pretty large, not every rooftop can sustain enough modules to make it worthwhile.
One way to deal with lack of roof space are ground-mounted systems (or a combination of both). However, this solution can cause more problems than it solves. Obviously, ground-mounted solar panel installations require space too. And, in contrast to rooftop systems, the area underneath them cannot be used for anything else.
Solar technology has seen amazing developments in the last decade. Solar power systems range from tiny rooftop-mounted to big utility scale power plants with hundreds of megawatts of capacity. Most PV systems are now grid-connected, with off-grid or stand-alone systems accounting for only a tiny market share.
Applications of PV Technology
The advantages and disadvantages to solar energy also have to be judged with respect to the used system. In many cases, conventional rooftop or ground-mounted solutions are not fit to produce enough solar energy under adverse spatial conditions. However, there are several alternative approaches to generate solar power in spite of these problems.
Besides conventional rooftop or ground-mounted power stations, there are also “out of the box”-approaches. The idea behind these concepts is to install PV systems without occupying extra space. This is done by integrating solar technology with already existing structures.
A solar farm is a huge ground-mounted power plant that provides utility scale power supply. The vast majority of solar farms is grid-connected to allow for a decentralized distribution of electricity.
Without a doubt, solar farms take up a lot of space. However, they are an effective method to deliver solar energy to those who can’t access solar power directly.
In some cases, however, off-grid (or on-site) models are more practical. One example of on-site community solar concepts are apartment buildings where all inhabitants share the energy from the rooftop array.
Rooftop installations are arguably the most popular form of solar power systems. As opposed to ground-mounted power stations, rooftop systems don’t require any extra space. This is also the main reason for their popularity.
Because their size is limited to the size of their carrying roof, they are smaller than utility scale ground-mounted installations.
Solar roofs are a great example of using solar power on already existing structures. Solar panels are increasingly utilized as structural components for roofing on wooden buildings.
As such, solar canopies are a great solution if the main roof is not suitable for a solar power system. If used for commercial purposes, solar canopy structures can also be used as platform for ad placements.
Solar canopies effectively reduce the running costs of a building by generating energy, eventually offsetting the total cost. After that point, a solar canopy adds value by generating electricity. This free electricity can either be used or sold to the grid.
A solar carport is a special variant of solar canopy. It is a showcase example of producing solar energy while using the space for a variety of other applications.
A solar panel carport roof provides more than just sheltered parking for electric vehicles. It also acts as an independent solar power system that can power connected solar batteries and/or EV charging units.
Another way to use solar technology without taking up additional space are building integrated PV (BIPV). Buildings can be designed to not only produce solar power on the roof, but on the whole surface.
The main benefit of BIPV (or solar cladding) is that the initial cost decreases the amount spent on building materials.
Furthermore, BIPV enables more broad solar adoption where building aesthetics are important and standard solar panels would compromise the intended optics.