Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Solar Energy: Some Pros & Cons

In my backyard there are five separate solar-powered lamps scattered across the lawn. These were purchased in hopes of spreading light across our dark yard so we could make sure my roommate’s dog wasn’t going to make a late night break. Unfortunately, they cast about as much light as the nighttime sky.*

While I don’t think the following pros and cons for solar energy are biased, I do want to highlight that for this region, solar power may not be the strongest alternative energy option, especially with the insane amount of rain we’ve seen in the last few weeks.

  • A solar energy system can operate independently of other sources; it doesn't need a connection to a power or gas grid at all.
  • Solar panels don’t pollute. The only traceable pollution comes from their manufacturing, transportation and installation.
  • Once you install a solar system, there is no additional charge, which is cost effective in the long run.
  • Advances have been made to grab more power on overcast days.
  • It’s not going anywhere for a very, very long time. Thanks, sun!
  • It’s very quiet. You don’t need a turbine to catch those rays.
  • Some utilities will buy unused energy from you!

  • $$$. The cost of setting up a home system can be very expensive. It’s about $10 - $12 a watt, so look to spend around $20,000 to make your home solar sustainable (some states will offset this).
  • If the area you live in doesn’t get a lot of sun, look to spend more to get those watts.
  • The sun doesn’t shine at night. After it sets, your home will have to run off of a battery back-up. If it’s raining all day, that can mean a dark, candle-lit night (how quaint) or electricity obtained from another power source.
  • They can take up a lot of space. If you have a small roof or tight yard, expect most of it to go to the panels.

*I attribute this more to a shoddy product than the inefficiency of solar power.

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