From century to century, societies all over the world have been working on developing technologies that help us convert solar power into electricity to power lighting, ventilation systems, transportation, and cooling systems; thus, solar panels are widely used by governments, businesses, corporations, private homeowners, etc.
Solar energy is a kind of “green” energy. Unlike fossil fuels, solar power is clean, and it has a much less harmful impact on the environment. It is cost-effective. Solar panels reduce our electricity bills. Many countries offer rebates to people who install solar panels, making the investment even more worthwhile. If people can produce their power, they’re less reliant on geographic conditions and locations, which can be particularly useful in areas where the electricity supply is unstable.
The solar industry creates jobs and stimulates the economy. It is one of the fastest-growing industries, offering manufacturing, installation, monitoring, and maintenance.
Regardless of their benefits, there are quite a number of solar energy disadvantages; therefore, solar panels cons one should consider. In this article, we will discuss how solar energy is produced, how solar panels convert sunlight into electricity, the main drawbacks of solar energy, and if there are any negative impacts of solar panels, if there are any solar panel cons, if there are any disadvantages of solar power in general? We described the general negative aspects of solar energy and solar panels’ negative effects in particular.
How Do Solar Panels Work
Before we move on to the disadvantages of solar energy, let’s briefly explain: How does solar energy work?
In simple words – a solar panel is a black sheet that is very special because it can capture the sunlight and turn it into electricity that we can use in our houses.
It consists of many small units called solar cells (usually, they are made of silicon), and they work like traps for sun rays. In a nutshell, solar panels work as follows:
- The sunlight hits the cells to produce an electric current.
- This electricity in the form of direct current (DC) is converted into alternative current (AC) with the help of an inverter.
- In the end, we receive AC power, which we are already able to use for lights, appliances, and other things in our homes.
Solar panels are the main components of solar energy systems, becoming more and more popular as eco-friendly energy solutions.
Top 9 Solar Energy Disadvantages
1. High Price Tag
Even with government subsidies and incentives, the initial cost of buying and installing solar panels is very expensive. The price of the panels themselves, inverters, batteries, wiring, and installation are all included in this. Here, we should consider different aspects:
- The location of your business or home,
- brand, type, and equipment quality,
- how much electric current you use.
Though solar panels themselves are pretty affordable, the price of one 9-panel solar system might hit $16.000.
2. Installation & Maintenance
For best results, solar panels require routine maintenance. Over time, efficiency may suffer if you are unable to dedicate the necessary time and costs for professional service maintenance. Solar panel installation needs to be done by a professional to ensure they are set up correctly and safely. Professional installations cost between $18,000 and $36,000.
Still, as an alternative you can try your knowledge and experience to install panels yourself, there is no law prohibiting citizens from DIY projects that can save you cash. But, you do need to understand the process.
3. Weather Dependence
Another solar energy disadvantage is its unequal efficiency all over the world. The amount of energy that can be produced varies depending on the amount and quality of direct sunlight that is received and the size, number, and locations of the solar panel system. Solar power is generated on a cloudy day, too, but a certain level of daylight is still required to harness energy; therefore, you may need alternative energy sources during extended periods of low sunlight. Don’t forget that no energy can be produced by your solar panels at night, which essentially means your solar panels can only generate energy 12 hours a day.
4. Space Requirements
In simple words, you need to understand the following: The more electricity you want to generate, the more solar panels you need therefore, the more space we need to install the solar system properly. If your house is designed with a small roof or you don’t have enough space outside – then you are limited to fulfilling your energy demands.
5. Roof Damages
First of all, it depends on the method of installation. Usually, screws and bolts are the best way to secure panels to roofs therefore, we understand that putting a hole in the tiles of your roof will cause leakage. It’s better to find a non-destructive way of securing your panels. This will cut a few of the problems with roof-mounted solar panels.
6. Energy Storage Challenges
Storing extra energy might cost you a buck. Talking about energy storage there are two options available – we can use up received energy from the system immediately or we can store excess energy in special batteries, which are quite expensive.
7. Limited Lifespan
Solar panels and solar systems have limited lifespan, and, sooner or later, replacement will be needed. Their average lifespan is about 25-30 years. Gradually, solar panels become damaged by ultraviolet radiation. Rain, snow, dirt, temperature fluctuations, hail, and wind also pose serious risks that can seriously shorten their quality.
8. Negative Effects of Solar Panels on the Environment
The environmental solar energy disadvantages are quite numerous. The solar energy industry and solar panels popularity are usually accepted as a “green” source of power, but still, there is another “dark” side of this issue that is not highlighted enough. Let’s research deeper on these disadvantages of solar energy:
- The carbon emissions from mining materials and manufacturing solar panels. The process involves mining and refining materials like quartz and metals, which are energy-intensive and often powered by fossil fuels. Additionally, the manufacturing of solar panels requires significant energy, primarily sourced from non-renewable resources, contributing to CO2 emissions. This often overlooked aspect emphasizes that while the operational phase of solar panels is environmentally friendly, the upstream processes carry a notable carbon cost.
- Negative effects of solar farms can also inhibit local vegetation growth and damage agriculture. Unlike wind energy, solar panels aren’t able to share the land they occupy for other uses.
- Difficulties with recycling solar panels and batteries. Although the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says that people can recycle some components of old solar panels, it’s not an easy process and more and more researchers are working on ways and options for how to commercialize recycling of the components of a solar panel.
- Environmental pollutants
Cadmium is safe to be contained inside solar panels, though it has the potential to seriously harm the environment if it leaks from the panel. To prevent this hazardous material from seeping into the ground and water, panels must be disposed of very carefully.
Solar arrays depend on batteries—more especially, deep-cycle lead-acid batteries—to maintain a steady flow of electricity. They contain sulfuric acid and lead, both of which are extremely poisonous, especially to marine life. Developmental problems are among the many impairments in children that lead has been linked to. If consumers take the time and effort to recycle their dead batteries, the majority of the material can still be recovered.
Dangerous materials disposal, such as metals and glass needed to build some components of solar infrastructure that are energy-intensive to produce, are responsible for the generation of carbon emissions. Building PV cells and panels also requires some hazardous chemicals and heavy metals.
9. Under Panel Wildlife
It is not an ordinary solar panel disadvantage – little creatures nest under the panels. Birds, squirrels, rodents, and other small cutters like to make their home under panels. First of all, it presents a fire hazard and risks of structural damage. Protective barriers installed additionally are a plus.
The solar energy disadvantages we have examined thus far deal with exterior solar panel difficulties. Moving forward, we will examine issues that impact their performance.
It’s time to make a summary! The main aim of this article is to provide an objective description and perspectives about the solar energy industry and issues related to it by going deeper into the less-known disadvantages of solar energy.
The benefits of solar energy are widely appreciated, recognized, and described. However, it’s very essential to understand the potential solar energy disadvantages and drawbacks of solar systems, solar panel installation, and their implementation into our lives to make informed and right decisions. Our intention is not to persuade our readers not to use solar energy and its technologies but rather to highlight the full list of solar energy cons and “dark sides” of solar panels. We explored what are the disadvantages of using solar energy and recounted crucial challenges related to the initial costs, geographical dependencies, space requirements, and disposal of solar panels and solar energy negatives.