Are There Disadvantages of Solar Energy? You Betcha!
Some homeowners let the disadvantages of solar energy put off or entirely sabotage their solar energy efforts. Are there problems associated with the implementation of a solar energy plan in your home? Sure there are. There is no getting around the high cost of a grid-tie system, from $5,000 to $30,000, and actual solar supplies have been very scarce the past few years as developing economies in large-population countries like India and China jump on the Solar Bandwagon. But once you get past these two entry-level hurdles, the disadvantages of solar power are quite rudimentary, and far outweighed by the many financial and ecological benefits. Let's run through the disadvantages of solar energy briefly, so you can know what to expect.
Bureaucracy will always write new laws and regulations, so trying to predict how your solar energy system is going to be taxed and rewarded in the future is impossible. As usual, bureaucratic red tape can be a disadvantage here, but only if you do not keep your receipts, or fill out paperwork incorrectly. Yes, bureaucrats can be one of the disadvantages of solar energy, but they also provide the tax breaks and rebates, so just play their game, and you will be rewarded.
The cost of solar power varies from year to year, and even seasonally, so you are not always guaranteed max money for your power. And solar output varies. If the sun doesn't shine, you make no energy. While people often point to these two disadvantages of solar power as motivation for them not starting to formulate a solar plan in their lives, these are minor negatives. That's like saying you don't want to own a car because gas is expensive. The benefits of automobile transport far outweigh the few negatives, and the same thing applies with solar energy.
Another one of the many so-called disadvantages of solar energy is the fact that even the largest, most expensive, efficient grid-tie residential systems rarely replace your entire electrical reliance. If they did, the cost would be astronomical in ratio to the return. And most municipalities make you give any extra power you produce each month in excess of what you need to the local power company for free! That doesn't sound like fun, and is certainly not why you got into this game to begin with. Focus on the 50% to 75% of your current electric bill that you will be able to replace, not the 25% you can't.
As hit on partially above, mother nature is your boss when you build a solar power system. This is really one of the main disadvantages of solar energy because it is entirely out of your control. You can't change when the sun shines, but you can manipulate your system to become as efficient as possible. Learning when to use electrical devices, and when you get the most watt-hours per hour of sunshine helps you perform more efficiently. You can also install batteries for storage when solar production is high, or install an inter-tie system to improve your solar harnessing power. These are two very simple ways to defeat one of the biggest disadvantages of solar power.
We discussed bureaucratic issues earlier, but didn't mention the most frustrating, and one that is not confined to bureaucracy – red tape. You have building codes, government forms, time-lines, inspections and a myriad of other paperwork to handle properly. But let me ask you a question; didn't you have a lot of paperwork to deal with when you bought your home, car, real estate or other major purchase? And don't you have that April 15th paperwork headache every year? It didn't stop you from buying a house or filing your taxes, so why should it be considered one of the disadvantages of solar energy that make you delay your plans? Paperwork, red tape, is unfortunately a way of life, and in this case can actually reward you in the form of rebates and tax breaks.
The scariest, but very real, danger of solar energy is electricity itself. This is the only one of the disadvantages of solar energy that can actually be deadly, when DIYers try to overstep their boundaries and dabble where they shouldn't. Why would you take a risk with injuring or even killing yourself when a licensed contractor knows how to safely handle the situation? Yes, this means more cost, but if you aren't around to enjoy the labors of your hard work, what is the point?
Electricity kills, hot water scalds and nobody likes the work of maintaining systems and solar panels in the dead of winter, but every day you get inside your car and drive down the road, you are putting your life in danger. Instead of giving up driving altogether, you use safety rules and follow safety regulations, and you benefit from the marvelous invention of automated mobile travel. The same goes for harnessing electricity; be smart and safe, and you will reap all the benefits without getting to know any of these disadvantages of solar power firsthand.
Mentioned briefly above, maintenance and upkeep are often pointed at by naysayers and do-nothings as the most frequent, guaranteed disadvantages of solar energy, and they are absolutely right about one thing. You will have to perform regular maintenance and upkeep, and every now and then might even have to trouble shoot your system. Well folks, if you consider this to be one of the disadvantages of solar energy that is a good enough reason not to get started, then you may as well sell your car and get ready for the teeth to fall out of your head, because cars require regular maintenance and teeth need brushing. I am pretty sure you are willing to handle changing your oil regularly and brushing your teeth daily to reap the wonderful benefits that driving and chewing offer you. Look at solar energy the same way, and don't fret over a problem that hasn't even risen yet.
One of the unassailable disadvantages of solar power is low efficiency. At best, solar power systems operate at about 15% efficiency, with 85% of the solar power leaking away in the form of heat or escaping back into the atmosphere. Thermodynamically, fossil fuels provide cheaper and more efficient energy, but they are limited, and solar power has been predicted by scientists to be around long after the earth has gone bye-bye. And the last time I checked 15% of free, endless power beats 100% of expensive, limited energy every time. Get past the initial cost, and financially it is an X in the win column.
Finally, no conversation about the evil disadvantages of solar energy would be complete without mentioning the dirty, disreputable contractor. I personally believe 99% of contractors to be above-board, skilled and honest, but when you've been burned by that 1%, all the arguing in the world can't convince you of my point of view. There are ways, however, to ensure you are dealt with fairly and responsibly. Ask for references, talk with friends and neighbors, and study up on solar facts yourself. When you start digging too deep, and asking intelligent questions, the bad guys will disappear, and remember, always, always, always get EVERYTHING in writing with a third party witness.
Are there disadvantages to solar power? Definitely. Should they be glossed over and ignored? Definitely not. But if negativity and worst case scenarios ruled the day, we wouldn't be flying in planes, talking on wireless telephones and accessing computers all over the world from our living room. Knowing how to address and overcome the disadvantages of solar energy is simple, and ensures your solar power effort will be as trouble-free and beneficial as possible.