Disadvantages of Solar Power - Why Solar Power Has Limited Popularity
If the energy of the sun is so abundant, then why isn't
solar power more popular in our society?
Unfortunately the disadvantages of
solar power are technical and economic. The fact that it isn't as reliable
as other power sources doesn't help matters either. These challenges need to
be addressed before solar energy becomes more a bigger player as an energy
On a cost per Watt basis, solar energy is the most expensive
electricity-generation method when compared to hydro, coal, nuclear and
even wind power. That's why commercial solar power generation plants are
not readily built. Even with the latest advances in semiconductor material,
a single solar cell still generates a relatively small amount of electricity.
A large surface area is also needed to make the installation worthwhile. An
entire rooftop may be needed to be covered with solar panels to provide enough
energy for one household. A scientific break-though is required to make solar
energy generation more efficient and smaller in size.
For maximum efficiency, solar panels need to be
perpendicular to the sun and require a mechanical alignment system to
follow the sun across the sky. The maintenance of these orientation
systems is extremely cost prohibitive for small installations. For
large installations, it becomes extraordinary.
If the sun isn't shining brightly in the sky, then a solar panel
won't generate electricity. Solar power is only generated during daylight
hours and when the skies are clear. An overcast sky or even a passing
cloud will severely reduce the production of electricity. Unfortunately,
this type of inconsistent power supply doesn't fit well with the
modern lifestyle. Energy is still needed by consumers after sunset
and during inclement weather.
Expensive battery storage banks can provide power when the solar
panels are dormant but need to have the capacity to meet the expected
load. The larger the load, the more batteries are need. If the following
day is cloudy, the solar panels may not be able to fully recharge the
energy reserve. This weather dependency usually relegates these solar
power systems to be supplementary power sources, offsetting electricity
consumption from the grid. For these reasons, solar power will always
be a secondary source of power.
The main disadvantage of solar power is the economics. Semiconductor
material from which the solar cells are
made are prohibitively expensive to manufacture. Even as advances in
material science and manufacturing methods are discovered, the fundamental
techniques are highly cost prohibitive. There are cheaper solar panel
material used in consumer electronics but do not generate as much power
as the classic photovoltaic cell.
Some recent discoveries allow for more of the solar spectrum to be
used to generate power, but these experimental materials use the same
expensive crystal growth and doping methods. Manufacturing improvements
are still decades away.
For the past few decades, solar power generation stations have been
operating under government sponsorship and have proven that generating
electricity from the sun's energy is technically feasible but economically
not viable, as least not yet. These installations are located in sparsely
populated, arid deserts that receive sunshine almost all year. Large
amounts of inexpensive land is required to accommodate the solar panels
and mirrors which relegates these power plants to be located far from
where the power is actually used. Expensive transmission towers need
to span these distant power sources to energy-consuming, urban centers.
Despite the current disadvantages of solar power, harnessing the
free energy of the sun still seems promising. As scientific advances
and manufacturing techniques help make solar cells more efficient
and cheaper to make, solar power will become an important energy
source for residential homes in the future.