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Solar: An Outside Perspective

As a person who has not experienced solar energy first hand, I feel I have a very unbiased view of it. I have read the facts and made an informed opinion.  There are only maybe a handful of solar installations that I can think of in my area & I have never been in a place where anything was run off of solar power. Unless I have been to a place and was unaware. Solar is this “mother of all” power sources that I have only read about.

 

Here are some of the facts about both sides that have helped me form my opinion.

  • Solar energy is a renewable energy source. This means that we cannot run out of solar energy, as opposed to non-renewable energy sources (e.g. fossil fuels, coal and nuclear).
  • The cost of solar panels has fallen approximately 100 times over since 1977, and solar panels today are about half the price they were in 2008.
  • Energy storage systems such as batteries will help smoothen out demand and load, making solar power more stable, but these technologies are also expensive.
  • Solar energy is an intermittent energy source. Access to sunlight is limited at certain times (e.g. morning and night). Predicting overcast days can be difficult. This is why solar power is not our first choice when it comes to meeting the base load energy demand. However, solar power has fewer problems than wind power when it comes to intermittence.
  • The majority of today`s solar power systems do not require a lot of maintenance. Residential solar panels usually only require cleaning a couple of times a year. Serious solar manufacturers ship 20- or 25-year warranties with their solar panels.
  • Power density, or watt per square meter (W/m²), is essential when looking at how much power can be derived from a certain area of real estate of an energy source. Low power density indicates that too much real estate is required to provide the power we demand at reasonable prices.

 

In my opinion, Solar is here and probably here to stay. However there are still a lot of problems with it that need to be fixed before it can become the go to power source. The biggest issue for me is storage and the fact it is not available all the time. The storage right now is expensive and the panels are not efficient enough for low light places.

 

I really don’t know if it will ever be able to be everywhere. Even if the technology advances, you can’t change how the earth is positioned. Some places will always get more sun. With all that said, I do think it will continue to get cheaper, smaller panels & more efficient. Solar will be huge, probably as big or bigger than oil & gas. But we are still a long ways off from that happening.

 

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