Solar Energy: An Overview of the Benefits and Disadvantages

One of the world’s greatest sources of renewable energy, solar energy is clean, plentiful and easy to collect. At a time when global warming and the buildup of carbon monoxide are of grave concern, solar energy can be an invaluable solution to help protect our planet.

Benefits of Solar Energy

  • Free Source of Energy – With the exception of the initial installation and maintenance, this type of energy is free. Unlike other types of energy, solar energy requires no raw materials.
  • Does not Emit Greenhouse Gases – Produced by radiation from the sun, solar energy does not produce any pollution, gas or chemical by-products.
  • Self-Reliance – Solar energy helps communities in sunny areas become self-reliant. This ability to produce electricity off the grid is especially useful for people who live in rural areas where the cost of installing power lines and maintaining power can be costly.
  • Produces Jobs – One of the most advantageous features of solar energy is that it produces new jobs. The jobs come in many forms including jobs regarding solar energy power, development, research and design, developing and maintaining solar panels and more.
  • Does not Destroy Eco-Systems – Solar energy does not rely on raw materials so it does not result in the destruction of eco-systems and forests that can occur with many other fossil fuel operations.
  • Solar energy is quiet
  • The power cells require little maintenance and can last a lifetime

Solar Energy Disadvantages

  • Inefficient – Solar energy is inefficient because it takes sunlight to run it. This means that energy must either be store or gotten elsewhere at night.
  • Bulkiness – Solar panels are bulky, especially the traditional silicon wafer models. These are large solar panels covered in glass.
  • Cost – The cost of installing solar power is high. Even though the energy is free, the upfront costs of installation are expensive.

There are two categories of solar energy systems, active and passive. An active solar system involves the active use of technology to collect the energy of the sun with the help of solar panels and solar hot water systems. This includes using photovoltaic (PV) cells to capture the sun.

A passive solar system uses the heat and the light from the sun for heating, lighting and cooling. Passive solar systems are especially useful if you are building a new house and can design it from the start to use the power of the sun. Older homes can also be remodeled to uses passive heating and cooling.

How a Solar Panel Works

PV cells are made of conductors such as silicon. When light strikes the cell, some of it is absorbed into the silicon. This energy knocks the protons loose and allows them to flow freely. These PV cells feature at least one electric field that forces the electrons to flow in a specified direction. This flow, known as a current can be drawn by placing metal contacts on either side of the PV cell. On a small scale, think of a solar powered calculator. This is how the mechanism works inside of the calculator and the basics on how a solar panel performs its job.

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