Using solar energy to power homes and businesses is an Eco-friendly option, but we all have one question in our mind about the dependability on solar energy “Is Solar Energy Reliable”? What will happen if the clouds cover the sky in the middle of a sunny day? In this article, we will figure out the reliability criteria of solar energy.
First, we discuss the positive aspects of Solar Energy
- The major advantage of Solar Energy is that this is a sustainable energy source. Here we are not consuming fossil fuels for our energy needs. Fossil fuels are the resources that our future generations will need, and consuming fossil fuels for energy is also very expensive as compared to solar power.
Eco Friendly / Nature friendly
- The Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy (EERE) says that relying on solar energy for our energy needs will minimize the amount of carbon and pollutants generated in an energy generation process because the world is dependent on non-renewable sources for energy generation. So if countries start using solar energy as a primary energy source then it is possible to reduce carbon footprints and global warming on earth.
- Solar energy does not need cleaning on regular basis, thus there is no maintenance cost. Okay let’s take the worst-case scenario of someone living in snowy areas all they need to do is to clean the rooftops, so the biggest job may be cleaning/brushing the rooftops occasionally.
Dependability On Solar Energy Can Save Money in a Long Run
- Using solar power for energy needs means in long run we can save money because the minimum life of PV Solar panels is 25 years with almost no maintenance cost is a win-win situation. Going solar means you are reducing your traditional bills by relying on it. Meanwhile, solar cells are getting cheaper and better
Now the Question arises Can we rely on solar energy in the long run or not?
First, let’s focus on Physical and logistical challenges related to the dependability on Solar Energy
As we all know that solar energy is unevenly spread across the planet it means some areas are sunnier than others. It’s also inconsistent. Furthermore less solar energy is available on cloudy days or at night time. In addition, the efficiency of the cell is a challenge, too.
The most efficient solar cell today date only converts 46% of the available sunlight to electricity and most commercial systems are currently up to 20% efficient.
Environmentalists think that all energy we need can be supplied by establishing enough wind / solar farms or batteries. But it is not as easy as it seems
First, all sources of energy have limits that can’t be exceeded. The maximum rate at which the sun’s photons (rays) can be converted to electrons is about 33% and our best solar technology is about 26% efficiency. So we are pretty close to solar limits. But we need solar energy all the time. But the solution they are coming up with is to use batteries. Again Physics and Chemistry make this hard to do.
Tesla Is a Clean Energy Company
Tesla is the world’s biggest factory of batteries situated in Nevada. It would take 500 years for the Tesla factory to make enough batteries to store just one day’s worth of America’s electricity needs. This sentence is enough to explain why Solar or wind energy still supplies less than 3% of the world’s energy even after investing billions of dollars in subsidies. This is the economic side of solar power.
Now if we are true Environmentalists we might rethink solar and batteries. Like all machines, solar / batteries are made from nonrenewable materials. To make it furthermore clear consider a scenario:
A single electric car battery weighs about half a ton. Additionally fabricating one requires digging up, moving, and processing more than 250 tons of earth somewhere on this planet.
Building a single 100MW solar farm that can power 75,000 homes requires 45,000 tons of iron ore +75,000 tons of concrete as well. Additionally, glass also comes into play. Furthermore, there are other minerals needed to be known as rare earth metals. With Current plans, the world needs an incredible 200 to 2,000 percent increase in mining such as cobalt, lithium, dysprosium, etc.
We need massive mining operations.
Mining operations require a massive amount of conventional energy as do the energy-intensive industrial processes needed to refine the materials and then build the solar and battery hardware. Besides the problem of waste solar panels and batteries have a relatively short life of about 20+ years.
With current plans, the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) calculates that by 2050, the disposal of worn-out solar panels will constitute over double the tonnage of all of today’s global plastic waste. And then worn-out wind turbines and batteries just add up the pileup to millions and tons of more waste.
So after reading these points we came to the conclusion that it will take time and better ideas for Dependability on solar energy as our primary source of energy. Until then we are happy with our Solar Panels situated on our rooftops, working as a secondary source of energy after electricity.