The drawbacks of solar energy technology

Introduction

For centuries, the world had been relying on non-renewable sources of energy like oil, coal, and others. However, it became apparent that these sources have significant problems; first, they are getting depleted, and there is a need to find an alternative source of energy. Second, they are causing greenhouse effects that are associated with global warming. The alternative sources of energy technology like hydroelectric, geothermal, solar, wind, biomass, and others have been developed to replace non-renewable sources. However, it is apparent that most types of alternative sources of energy have many disadvantages and cannot wholly be relied upon to replace non-renewable energy sources. The scope of the study is to identify the drawbacks of solar energy technology as it is still undergoing various development researches. Experimental researches are still continuously carried out to fix the problem, and scholars are also carrying out Meta-analysis studies (William, 2012).

 

Solar Energy Mechanism Description

 

Fig. 1: Mechanism description of solar power production

Photovoltaic modules employ energy generated from the sun’s rays (photons) through the photovoltaic effect. Numerous modules employ wafer-based thin-film cells or crystalline silicon cells. A module’s mechanical (load carrying) member can be either the back or top layer (Ronay & Dumitru, 2016). Cells ought to be safeguarded from moisture and mechanical destruction. Though most components are stiff, there are also semi-flexible types founded on thin-film cells. The cells are sequentially interlinked to a preferred current, and then parallel –with a positive and negative layer- to boost amperage since they form an electric field similar to the case of a battery. The unit’s wattage is the mathematical product of its amperage and voltage.

PV solar panels produce direct current (DC) electricity whereby electrons stream in the same direction around a circuit. For example, in a scenario where a battery powers a personal computer (PC) workstation, there is a flow of electrons from the battery’s negative side, through the PC, and back to the positive side (Ronay & Dumitru, 2016). Alternating current (AC) electricity entails the pulling and pushing of electrons, occasionally retrogressive direction, just like a car engine cylinder. AC is produced by generators when a coil of wire is twirled adjacent to a magnet. Due to the low cost of AC electricity when transmitting over long distances, it is preferred within the U.S. electrical power grid. An inverter is thereby used to convert direct current to alternating current.

 

Problems of Solar Energy and Solutions

Solar Energy is not 100% Reliable

This implies that energy cannot be generated when the sun’s rays are not hot enough. This is most prevalent during winter months and at night. Numerous individuals have capitalized in purchasing battery backup systems, which collect power that is put into use when the sun’s rays are not strong enough (Azarpour, Suhaimi, Zahedi, & Bahadori, 2013). Nonetheless, purchasing these backup systems can immensely escalate the overall solar installation costs. In the long run, it ends up diminishing the value derivable from solar energy technology.

Additionally, whereas other renewable energy sources can function at any time of the day or night, solar panels are inoperable at night which implies that one has to rely on the local electricity grid to obtain power. Alternatively, one can invest in solar cells to store excess power which can be operated at night. Besides, hurricanes can diminish the capacity to gain power during those bad weather days.

Fig. 2: Power storage system

The best method to stock power produced by solar panels is through the grid-interactive configuration. A battery storage system that is grid-interactive operates in line with the electricity grid such as the solar panels aid in the battery charging and the energy is used during the day or at night (Energysage, 2019). The feed-in rates remain unaltered since the user is still linked to the grid and the payback meter will still be calculating all the units normally.

In case a power cut occurs, the system would automatically disengage from the grid and the solar panels would proceed to charge the batteries (Energysage, 2019). This implies that the user can still enjoy a couple of elementary consumables such as some power sockets, the TV, heating system, lighting, among other low energy appliances.

 

High initial capital costs

Despite the immense advantages attributable to solar installation, in the long run, the associated upfront costs are retributive. It is quite challenging to quantify the whole installations charges without assistance from manufacturing firms (Luckow, Vitolo, & Daniel, 2015). Nonetheless, numerous countries have passed policies in favor of tax credits and rebates to support a great majority of its population to install solar panels. Unless proper saving plans are installed, the costs can be quite unbearable. Additionally, an initial investment for solar panel installation may take up to 10 to 15 years before reaching a break-even point.

Nonetheless, the efforts by numerous governments to beat the austere global warming effects, have led them to coordinate with manufacturers to reduce the prices of solar panels. The current average price of a solar panel is $0.65 per watt, a significant discount from $0.74 per watt in 2019 (Luckow, Vitolo, & Daniel, 2015). This is quite a remarkable pledge to enhance the adoption of solar technology.

 

Efficiency Problem

The efficiency of solar technology has been documented as 15%, which to most people is not below par. Most people believe that the model efficiency ought to be 100%. It is appalling to establish that a 250-watt solar panel with an efficiency level of 15% generates a power equivalent to a 250-watt solar panel with a 20% efficiency (He, Xu, Li, & Zhao, 2018). Size is the cause of the disparity such that smaller panels tend to be more efficient compared to larger ones.

In the quest to power small electronics, it is necessary to seek higher efficiency due to the aspect of space. However, to generate power to sustain any household, roof space is adequate. It’s also worth noting that the cost of panels is directly proportional to its level of efficiency.

 

Challenges when moving

When moving from one location to another, solar energy technologies prove to be quite burdensome. The solar contracting firms prefer to transfer the lease agreement to the new user as opposed to taking down the solar panels, which may prove to be too costly (Azarpour et al., 2013). They work in conjunction with professionals such as title agents, realtors, and inspection agents to guarantee smooth changeover to the new tenant. In case an individual opts to carry along the solar panel, the solar contracting firm may facilitate the process, but the de-installation and re-installation costs will be borne by the owner.

This issue can be solved through meaningful relationships between solar contracting firms and shifting tenants such that they may smoothly transfer the solar technology to the new tenants and offer discounts for installations at their new premises.

 

Solar panels are processed using pollutant materials

PV panels are non-recyclable. Despite their extensive lifespan nearly spanning fifty years, the disposal of such materials can severely affect the environment. Though the issue has been long-standing but largely ignored for long, it is about time that the issue should be addressed (He, Xu, Li, & Zhao, 2018). The solution to this problem would be for solar technology experts to work collaboratively with environmentalists, as well as chemical and structural engineers, to come up with recyclable materials with the same efficiency as the ones being used to process the solar panels.

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