It is fair to say that solar panels attract some controversy. There are a number of arguments against the technology, some more convincing than others. However, on the whole they are a pretty good thing – let us see if we can convince you of the potential benefits…
1. It is weather-dependent
First up, the most obvious problem with solar power: it only produces energy when the conditions are right. Clearly, you cannot make energy at night when the sun is not shining, or if it is covered by clouds.
But there is now a solution. Previously, solar energy had to be used as soon as it was generated, so if it wasn’t used by the person producing it, it was fed back into the grid. This meant that during the day, some people generated enough energy to power all their appliances, but at night they were reliant on the National Grid. Thanks to new battery storage technology, it is now possible to keep the excess energy you generate in the day and use it when the sun goes down. As mass manufacturing of these systems begins, prices for battery storage will drop for consumers.
2. They are an acquired taste!
Some people hate solar panels because they think they’re ugly. I don’t think anyone would argue that bulky traditional panels aren’t an acquired taste.
However, solar panels can be quite discreet when installed on pitched roofs. Also, numerous companies are currently developing solutions to help better integrate solar PV into buildings. These range from almost entirely transparent glass (to be used as windows), to Tesla’s pioneering solar roof tiles.
3. They are ‘paid for by others’
UPDATE: The Feed-In Tariff is now closed for new applications. To find out about the new scheme designed to replace it, click here.
Solar panels are not cheap, so installation is sometimes subsidised by the Government. Some taxpayers argue they are paying for other people’s solar PV systems through taxes. For instance, in the UK, people generating solar PV are paid (currently pretty low) rates for sending their excess energy to the Grid – this is known as the Feed-in Tariff.
On the other hand, people with home solar systems normally put less pressure on national energy stores than those who get all their energy from the National Grid, so some people might say it is fair to incentivise them. Experts have warned of an approaching energy deficit in the UK, and there is pressure on the UK to import huge amounts of energy. If people can generate some of their own energy, that is going to be really useful!
4. They are expensive
Solar panels are expensive to install by some people’s standards. It is sometimes possible to get free or heavily discounted systems, depending on Government incentives at the time – although, as before, some may argue they are picking up the bill for others.
Solar panels can pay back in the long run in savings on energy bills, combined with payback from the Government. Once you have paid off the initial installation costs, you are harbouring free energy, and that is going to benefit you for many years to come!
5. It could cause problems when selling
Some people worry that a solar PV system could affect the value of their house if they come to sell it later. The thought is that potential buyers might hate the look of solar panels so much that it would put them off going through with the sale. It is not always as easy as simply removing the panels in these cases – if they have been installed for free through a scheme, whoever is living in the property is normally legally obliged to keep them.
However, many people are open to the technology and it could arguably add value to a property.
6. Manufacturing is not carbon-neutral
Those who are not fans of solar technology pick up on the fact that the manufacturing process produces some pollution. Some of the materials required are quite rare, and the panels are usually shipped from other countries, producing some emissions in the process.
As solar panels only create greenhouse gases during manufacturing, they cause very little damage to the planet overall, especially in comparison to other energy generation technologies. They are pretty reliable as long as the sun is shining, and they are a great source of green energy.
The bottom line
We think that the usual arguments against solar can be rebutted. And the benefits of renewable energy should not be underrated, because of the role it could play in minimising climate change and pollution. On a personal level, it can save you money on your bills because you do not have to drain as much energy from the Grid. Plus solar panels are noiseless and require minimal maintenance.
What do you think about solar? Let us know in the Comments section below!
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