Generally, people are used to enjoy the sunlight without thinking about its real value and the many benefits it can bring. Among many other things, the solar energy is one of the most frequently used renewable energy sources and because it is relatively cheap and easy to obtain has quickly become the main source of green energy on the planet.
A Brief Introduction
It is well known that every year, we consume more and more energy, and the conventional fuels are not sufficient and produce gas emissions and soil contamination. Because of the high energy demand, clever people had thought about using other sources of energy, ones that are at hand anywhere in the world and ideally never cease to exist. As a result, they began to make use of nature’s own sources of energy – light, wind, water. Of these three, the main source of renewable energy is the solar energy.
But in order for us, normal people, to use solar energy properly, we need to learn more about it. Solar energy can be converted to thermal or electrical energy, through different technologies: solar electric (photovoltaics), concentrating solar power (solar collectors), or passive solar. The first two are active solar systems that convert sun’s heat to electricity or heat. Passive solar buildings collect and store the solar heat in order to maintain the comfort of the people. For example, some buildings have big windows that store sunlight in heat-absorbent materials and they release the heat at night to maintain the temperature in the house.
Before we think about installing a photovoltaic panel or a solar collector, we have to take into consideration some of the advantages, but also disadvantages of this type of green energy.
Solar Energy: Main Advantages
- First of all, this type of energy is a “clean” one, without involving any contamination or CO2 emission.
- It is of course an inexhaustible source of energy, and it can be used to harness energy to areas where the power line cannot be installed (such as rural areas, mountains, islands).
- Solar systems are easy to install and maintain in good shape.
- As the technology evolves, you will save more money, while the cost of conventional fuels increases over time.
- The only investment is the initial cost of the infrastructure and installation of the system.
- Because it does not require any fuel, the solar panels can be amortized in approximately 5 years from the installation.
- The photovoltaic systems don’t require much space so they can be installed on roofs decorating almost any building with a useful sunroof – also read about eco-city concepts.
- People can become more independent, as they develop their own energy producing systems and their houses become more sustainable and eco-friendly.
On the other hand, there are other people who are skeptical about this type of energy resource. They are saying that the systems installed are not particularly nice and aesthetically cities lose points as their panoramic views are not equally beautiful with dark blue roofs.
So, in addition, there are another important aspects to think about:
Solar Energy: Some Minor Disadvantages
- The radiation level of solar energy is variable from one area to another and from one season to another, which may become a problem if you will focus only on this type of energy.
- When deciding to use solar energy for a large number of people, large areas of land are needed, as the panels produce more energy if they are larger.
- Many times, the system will need an additional pump to help the fluid circulate (in hot water installations).
- Places that receive the largest quantity of radiation are remote areas, such as deserts which cannot be used to develop agriculture or industry.
Despite the drawbacks, there are some countries, like Germany, where governments funded the implementation of these systems in as many houses as they could. In India, people built solar kitchens, with the capacity of feeding 1000 persons. In Chile, more than 90% of the buildings have solar collectors installed and in Greece, the solar energy systems can produce enough energy for one in four residents.
In that matter, also read about 5 successful Eco-City Projects from around the world.
These are only a few examples of people being creative and eco-friendly with less pollution and less costs!