What Are The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
The advantages and disadvantages of solar energy are hotly debated topics for environmentalists, the business community and homeowners as well. Converting sunlight in electricity is the process that results in creating solar power.
This can be done by using materials that store the heat from the sun (the energy) or using methods that focus and concentrate the sun's rays.
Many of us remember the old elementary school science experiment where we used a magnifying glass to start a fire. Today's school children do the same experiment.
They trek outside and watch their teacher as he holds a thick magnifying lens over a piece of paper laid on the ground. On a warm sunny day, it doesn't take long for the sun passing through the lens to cause the paper to burst into flame.
Fifty years ago the teacher would explain how strong the sun was - today the teacher says he is creating solar energy. The lens of the magnifier focuses and concentrates the rays of the sun and the result is solar power. Discussions about the sun today often focus not on quirky experiments but on the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
When you compare the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, the advantages usually win. The sun is a source of free energy. This is clean energy that does not have side effects from processing or use that add pollutants to our air or to bodies of water. The sun is not the only natural energy source as many radioactive materials are buried beneath the surface of the earth.
The huge advantage of solar energy is that we need only capture the sun's natural rays and direct or concentrate those rays to produce power. Radioactive materials must be mined and processed and carry high risks when used for energy production.
Many naturally occurring materials will help store solar energy. If you sit on a large rock that feels warm the warmth is from the solar energy that has been absorbed by the boulder. If you touch that large rock a couple hours after sunset it will still be warm as the energy stored is gradually being released.
Architects take advantage of solar energy in new home designs. Photovoltaic panels may be placed on the ground near a new home or installed as part of the room of a structure. These panels are designed to absorb the sun's rays through the day.
The energy captured is then released into the homes water heat or home heating system where it converts to electrical power that can be used to run appliances, provide a hot shower or keep the lights on at night.
Smaller photovoltaic cells are added to outdoor lights in your garden. The power absorbed through the day is used to keep a garden path lit with a simple garden fixture that needs no power cord. The technology has been added to other simple home items such as water fountains and bird paths where the solar energy is used to re-circulate the water.
The advantage of this solar energy use is found in the ease of installation (no power cord or wiring necessary) and in the cost savings during operation.
For homes, the advantage of solar energy has been realized in new designs where solar energy provides the majority of the power needed to run a home. Backup water heating, heating and cooling systems of traditional designs are usually included when the home is built.
This is to provide power on days when sunlight is obscured by clouds or when stormy seasons limit the sunlight reaching the solar energy system. In advanced environmentally friendly home designs, earth berm homes are used. In this model, the home is partially buried into a sloping lot.
The natural insulating properties of earth moderate extreme temperature changes. This requires less energy for heating a home and the earth mounded on three sides of the home's exterior provides a cooling insulator in summer months.
When you discuss the advantages and disadvantages of solar power, most of the disadvantages are due to weather. Backup electrical systems are necessary which adds to the cost of building for a home using solar energy.
This can make a solar powered home out of the price range for many people but the savings in power use over time will make up the difference for those who can bear the initial costs.
The greatest disadvantage of solar power is the tendency of people to building concrete parking lots, roads and sidewalks. Concrete is an excellent material for storing solar energy. The density of concrete is similar to rock and easily absorbs heat from the sun's rays.
Tens of thousands of acres of concrete to accommodate our obsession with automobiles have created problems for our environment. By covering the natural earth with a thick layer of concrete we have changed the temperature in some cities.
The insulating properties of the ground cannot properly warm winter air as it's buried until concrete. On a hot day, the acres of concrete become hot enough to burn the feet of a person or animal walking on the surface without protection. After dark, the heat stored in the parking lot is gradually released into the air which keeps temperatures overly warm even at night.
The advantages and disadvantages of solar energy are based on the same basic truth - the sun's rays contain energy. When harnessed or stored, this solar energy can heat our homes, power our fountains and provide electricity without pollution.
The greatest disadvantage of solar energy is when it is produced through overuse of concrete that covers most of the ground in business parks and some cities. For home use, the only disadvantage is in obtaining solar energy on a day when the sun isn't shining. Now, when you know more about the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy I recommend you to find out why solar energy is crucial for our environment.