Why Solar Energy Is Not Used Commonly?
There is no better way to reduce our carbon dioxide footprint and help save the environment than using clean and reliable forms of energy.
And of course when saying clean energy, the first thing that should pop into your head is solar energy.
Every day, the sun offers us enough energy to power the WHOLE WORLD for 8-10 years. Yet, this power is not fully harvested till now.
So why is solar energy not yet more widely used?
Well, in this article, we will go through all the problems that prevent solar energy from becoming more widely used.
So without further ado, let’s jump right into it.
How Does The Grid work?
To have a better idea of why isn’t solar power used more, first, you need to understand how the power grid actually works.
The whole power grid is tied together like a large lake. All the produced power (nuclear, fossil, wind, solar, etc) is pumped into that one lake and all the consumers are pumping out their energy from this lake.
This means that no one really knows where the power you use in your home came from.
In fact, even if your utility is advertising that their power comes from 100% renewable sources, it only means that their generated power is clean and it doesn’t necessarily mean that the power you are using to read this article on your laptop or mobile comes from a renewable source.
Back to the lake, this lake has a very unusual characteristic, which is that its water has to maintained at a certain level and any higher or lower level will lead to power blackouts, motors burn up, circuits overloads, and many bad things that will piss off a lot of people.
For this reason, all power companies use things called spinning reserves, which are simply generators operating at less than full load to quickly adjust to changes in load and maintain the lake water level.
The reason why don’t we use more renewable energy is because all renewable energy sources are weather dependant and we can’t control the weather.
For instance, let’s assume all our grid is powered by solar and wind power. What would happen if suddenly the skies cloud up and the wind dies off?
You are absolutely right, the lake will start to dry up quickly and unless we used other sources of power such as generators to make up the difference we will lose power.
Therefore, in order to use wind and solar or any other renewable energy, you must have enough electrical generators running at a partial load (which isn’t very efficient) to cover for that energy loss caused by the weather.
Needless to say, these electrical generators cost A LOT of money to build and maintain and energy producers are receiving no compensation for them.
Although some might say that batteries can solve this problem, it’s actually not.
This because the storage technologies are yet not ready to handle something as big as the nation’s power grid and it’s very pricey.
Why Solar Energy is Not Yet More Widely Used?
In the previous section, we took a quick look on how the grid works and what makes it hard to go solar.
And in this section, we will go more in depth into each and every one of the problems that prevent us from using solar energy more commonly.
Needless to say, cost is why solar power isn’t used more widely and it comes to 3 types of costs.
A. Manufacturing Cost
Although solar energy is the cheapest form of energy, solar panels are pretty expensive to manufacture.
This is because the manufacturing process uses large amounts of pure silicon, which takes a lot of energy to produce.
Further, solar panels produce a huge amount of waste, which makes them even more expensive to manufacture.
B. Installation and Maintenance Cost
In addition to the panels manufacturing cost, there is the installation cost, which isn’t very cheap, if I might say.
To install a solar system, you need inverters, batteries, charge controllers, mounting rails, and of course qualified solar installers to connect all the modules together.
Also, you need to take into consideration the maintenance cost to make sure that the solar modules are operating at their full capacity.
C. Recycling Cost
Although solar panels will pay for themselves within 8 years, they have a life span of 25-35 years before they lose a significant amount of their output capacity and become useless.
After this, you have 2 options, whether you dispose of the panels in landfills or you recycle them, which costs more money either way.
One of the main disadvantages of solar energy is that they are weather-dependent, which makes them inefficient in areas that don’t get a lot of sunlight, especially in winter when sunlight is scarce and there are plenty of cloudy days.
You should also take into consideration that solar energy can’t be collected during the night, so you need to invest in big batteries.
Have you ever seen a solar panel?
The average commercial solar panel is about 77 inches by 39 inches (6.5ft x 3ft) and weighs around 50 pounds each. In other words, they are freaking huge.
That’s the size of one solar panel, now to have an idea of what we against, we need around 7.86 billion solar panels to power the Unites States alone, which is equivalent to 21,250 square miles of solar panels.
4. Time and Regulations
According to the EIA, the United States generates around 60% (4.01 trillion kWh) of its yearly electricity usage from fossil fuels.
And it takes a lot of time to install renewable systems that will be able to generate this amount of energy.
Also, one of the main reasons why solar energy is not used commonly is the regulations.
There are many outdated federal, state, and regional regulations such as arbitrary fees and paperwork that hold back solar and make it much harder to install solar systems and help utilities to monopoly energy production.
Although there are many things that hold the development of solar energy, solar is the fastest-growing sector in the energy industry.
And the IEA predicts that wind and solar will overtake gas and coal globally by 2024.
The reason for this is that thanks to the huge demand, solar manufacturing costs are getting lower and lower and every day new technologies are introduced to the market.
In the end, we really hope you enjoyed this article as much as we did.
In your opinion, why is solar energy not yet more widely used and what is the biggest obstacle that faces its growth?
Kindly share your thoughts in the comments section below.