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Residential and Business Use: What are the Limits of Solar Power?
Solar power continues to grow
in popularity because it benefits the environment as well as
provides energy cost savings to homeowners (after the initial
investment cost has been recouped). Of course, as with any
form of energy, it's not perfect. What are the limits of
Solar panels are currently not highly efficient. The efficiency
is determined by many factors including the amount of shade (from trees,
structures...), wind, dust, angel of the panels, amount of daylight, access
to direct sunlight, etc..
- Storage is suggested, adding extra costs. You can use the
solar energy generated from your panels directly (and even sell it to
the grid, if your municipality has such a program in place) - but since
the sun doesn't shine 24 hours a day, every day, then the solar energy
needs to be "stored" in batteries for later use. Otherwise
you would need to be connected to the grid as backup, or own a
- A relatively small amount of energy is generated. Providing
100% of the energy required by the average home, for example, would
require a vast array of solar panels. Not only is this impractical,
it's very costly. Even if you were to build
your own solar panel the costs would still be a challenge for
- Access to direct sunlight is best. Often, commercial installations
of solar panels will readjust during the day to maintain an angle that provides
them with direct sunlight - best for converting into energy. However, most
homeowners simply mount solar panels in a rigid, fixed position, which means
that the panels only have access to direct sunlight for a limited amount of
time each day.
- Maintenance, repair, and disposal. Solar panels must be
kept clean to operate at their most efficient. Keeping the panels clean
and free of dust, dirt, and debris can be a big job! And while panels
often last 25 years or so, repairs can be required from time-to-time.
Finally, what does one do with solar panels and batteries that are at
the end of their useful life?
Currently, the limits of solar power appear to be many, and most
eventually lead to the primary sticking point for homeowners: cost.
While most of us would like to be able to do something beneficial for
the environment, the investment costs can be daunting. However a good
compromise would be to use solar power for small applications where
it's cheap to install and maintain. In the future, the efficiency
of solar cells will continue to
improve and hopefully provide homeowners and businesses a viable
alternative to drawing power from the grid.