Some people will believe just about anything they hear from politicians or read on the Internet, whether it is true or not. One industry that is plagued by the misinformed public is the solar industry. Even though we recognize how beneficial solar energy is, most people tend to put their faith and trust in the traditional energy system. In fact, Ralph Nadar once said, “The use of solar energy has not been opened up because the oil industry does not own the sun.”
Instead of taking everything that is said at face value, let’s take a closer look at the real drawbacks of solar technologies to dispel myths and rumors.
The Initial Cost
While sunlight is free, solar installations should be considered an investment, and not like any kind of traditional item that wastes away after you buy it. This is the same trend you will see with any great investment. What homeowners and business owners need to focus on is how you are essentially hedging yourself against the rising rates of the utility companies for the next 25 years (or however long your system is warrantied for). Most solar panels will last well beyond the 25-30 year warranty too. Smart investors around the world are pulling money from under-performing investments to diversify their portfolios with solar.
It shouldn’t come as a surprise that solar panels are dependent on the sun, but advocates of coal & gas like to exaggerate this point. We all already know that solar panels are not as efficient without proper sunlight. However, solar panels still generate electricity on cloudy days and during the colder months – they just don’t run at peak efficiency. Take Germany for example: Germany is the #1 country in the world for solar energy installations to date and is known for suffering many, many non-sunny days throughout the year. Besides, estimating software can accurately predict the amount of energy that will be generated based on geographical location. The number of sunny days in a region is averaged based on 30+ years of weather station data. No guessing here.
Some believe that when solar panels generate an excess of energy, it disappears or is wasted, and others believe it is necessary to have batteries with your system. Thanks to net metering, you can essentially utilize the utility company as a battery. Net metering essentially transfers excess energy back to the power grid, then, at the end of the month, you will receive a credit on your bill that represent the energy that was generated that you did not use. With this process, there is no wasted energy and batteries are not necessarily required (however it is an option for backup purposes).
Solar Energy is Unpredictable
By utilizing the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) PVWATTS calculator, the amount of sunlight for your region can be predicted very accurately. This tool has been known to report a factual representation of how much energy your solar system will produce over its lifetime, and any ‘unpredictable’ nature of your system may fall under warranty anyways. Again, the net metering law provides a way to keep the energy flowing on the grid lines as a way to avoid having to store or waste any energy. Evolution of battery and storage systems will also prove to be very beneficial in a few years as a way to make this power even more flexible as it begins to replace coal.