It’s always good to know both sides of the story
Generating electricity from the sun reduces greenhouse gases and air pollutants by up to 90% compared to conventional fossil fuel technologies.
This is great news. With the cost of solar steadily decreasing and solar technology becoming more efficient, many Australian homeowners are now considering installing solar panels on their roof.
But solar power has its limitations too. Here are the facts about solar and some of the problems you may encounter with renewable energy installations.
The disadvantages of Solar Power Installations
1. Solar energy is weather dependent.
Solar panels need sunshine and clear skies to generate the maximum amount of electricity. When the weather changes, it can severely impact your energy supply. Your solar panels can still collect and produce energy during cloudy and rainy days, but its efficiency noticeably drops. And when night falls, your PV panels do not collect any solar energy at all.
2. Solar Panels are expensive to produce.
Similar to manufacturing computer chips, building solar panels can be an energy-intensive process. The first step is to mine raw materials such as quartz sand for silicon cells and metal ore for thin-film cells.
Then these materials go through purification, crystallisation and wafering. Finally, the treated cells are assembled into solar modules. This entire assembly line consumes energy and expels heavy metal emissions and greenhouse gases.
3. High initial cost and storage.
Although solar prices have dramatically gone down in the last five years, the initial cost of installing a rooftop solar system is still fairly high. Your expenses will include buying solar panels, inverters, and batteries as well as paying for wiring and mounting.
As mentioned earlier, solar panels do not collect energy at night. And for this reason, you need to store your excess daytime energy in large batteries so you can use it in the evening. These batteries connected to off-the-grid solar systems can be quite expensive.
4. Solar panel production quality can vary.
The workmanship of solar panel installers will vary greatly. If you choose a poor installer, you could end up with a mix of low-quality design, unreliable equipment, poor customer service, privacy breaches, safety issues, and hidden costs.
5. Poorly designed installations can affect curb appeal.
Some rooftop PV systems that might have a sloppy design or careless installation could negatively affect the aesthetic appeal of your property. Solar panels also take up a lot of surface space. The more electricity your household needs, the more PV panels you have to install in order to collect as much sunlight as possible.
Unfortunately, some roofs are not big enough to fit the number of panels that you require. One alternative is to put some of them in the yard but having so many solar cells can again have a negative effect on the appearance of a property.
6. Poorly designed solar systems can damage your property.
What may look great up on your roof may not be as pleasant underneath. Cheap tie wraps and exposed ground wire are very a bad sign. Improperly installed systems may perform well for the first few years but may lead to rusty panel frames, leaking roofs, ground faults, deck rot, short circuits, and even fires.
7. Excessive shading affects efficiency and output.
Trees and foliage can affect your solar energy supply. It does not take much shading for solar panel production to drastically drop. In fact, shading of just one cell could cut the energy production of the whole module in half. This dip would then affect the entire string, taking potential kilowatt-hours that your system needs.
Over the 20-year expected lifespan of your solar system, this could add up. With excessive shading, you could end up with a much lower benefit from a costly solar installation.
8. Solar panels degrade over time.
While most manufacturers provide warranties of 20 years, 25 years, or even 30 years, solar cells are still expected to degrade over time. Typically, the warranty covers 80% of your solar power output, so it does make more economical sense to replace old panels before they reach the 30-year life expectancy.
9. Solar panels do not work for every roof.
Solar panels are installed on the roof by connecting a mounting system. Some roofing materials – especially those found in older or historical homes – can be difficult for solar installers to work with. One such material is slate.
Additionally, there are homes with rooftop features that make installing solar panels even more challenging. These include skylights, roof decks, chimneys, and other rooftop structures. While it is not impossible to install a solar system on these rooftops, the process can be more costly and time-consuming.
The Upside of Solar Power Installations
Now that we’ve laid out potential issues with solar power, are the benefits still worth it?
- Solar power never runs out. The sun is an abundant natural energy source – especially in Australia – and sustainable.
- Solar power does not damage the environment. As a clean energy source, the sun does not pollute the planet, produces zero waste, and does not contribute to global warming.
- Solar panels require minimum maintenance. Solar installations tend to require less maintenance than fossil fuel-powered generators. And since the sun is a natural and abundant resource, solar operating costs are generally low.
Despite the downside, solar energy is still quite a smart choice for both humans and the environment. Not only will you be potentially saving thousands of dollars in electricity costs, but you’ll be reducing your carbon footprint as well.
Talk to Aztech Solar about your solar needs.
We’d be happy to discuss the good, the bad, and the ugly side of solar energy so you can decide for yourself if switching to solar power is ideal for you. Get a free quote from Aztech Solar by calling 02 4067 2634.