The five disadvantages of solar power


It's intermittent. Solar energy is only available when the sun is shining.

It's low efficiency. It requires large areas of land.

It's not completely free of environmental impact. Ultrapure polysilicon is now scarce.


It's high cost.


You must climb your roof to wash it off. Just ask Ed Begley, Jr.!



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Tags: begley, cost, energy, land, solar

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Comment by Tom Delconte on April 4, 2012 at 7:01am

Comment added here for organized filing only

Does Solar Power Have Disadvantages? How Can Anyone Say This About Renewable Energy?

Posted by Tom Delconte on www.homeenergypros.lbl.gov

Comments by Don Ames, www.detectenergy.com

Tom posted the 5 "disadvantages" listed below. I did not agree with the list so I thought I would post them as Tom did and then add my comments below each one. Be sure and join the discussion by posting your own ideas in the comment section below.

And by the way, thanks Tom, this looks like fun.

1. It's intermittent. Solar energy is only available when the sun is shining.

This is partially true. Some solar energy passes through the clouds. Solar panels produce some electricity even on very cloudy days. Intermittent is what powers net-zero homes. In the winter, the solar collectors capture less energy than the home is using. In the summer, the solar collectors can produce more energy than the home uses. At the end of a year, the home produces as much energy as it uses. Net-zero is good.

Batteries store solar power. Charge up the batteries on the sunny days and use that stored energy when the sun is hard to find. Many of the urban folks that are living without the grid, cloudy days and batteries get the job done.


Tom is right, solar energy is reduced when the sun is behind a cloud or on the other side of the world. But, I hesitate to call this a disadvantage that diminishes the importance and significance of solar energy.

2. It's low efficiency. It requires large areas of land.

No it doesn't, all it takes is the roof of the house you already have covering up a bit of land. Come to think of it, the garage roof and the patio roof and the pergola roof are all sitting there hoping to be used for something other than contaminating our lakes and streams with washed off asphalt.

Here's a good idea, cover all the asphalt roofs with solar panels so we don't have to replace those wonderful asphalt roofs so often. Anything with the word asphalt in it is not good.

It is true that if we put large solar arrays across the ground they would cover large areas of land. So far, with the larger ground mounted arrays I am familiar with, they are on ground not much good for anything else anyway. Like the one in the buffer strip of the freeway.

Considering just efficiency, without the land part, solar collectors are not the most efficient things in the world. Most solar panels are considered to be about 15% efficient. But, this is getting better all the time. Some panels have achieved over 20% efficiency.

To cheer me up after thinking about the low efficiency, I just think about that 600 horsepower diesel engine blowing black smoke as it pulls another load of coal out of the ground.


3. It's not completely free of environmental impact. Ultrapure polysilicon is now scarce.

So we will focus mirrors on a tower of water and let the solar energy run a steam engine. If polysilicon is a problem, focus the sun on plan "B".

I wonder which scarce product we should rightfully pursue more of - polysilicon of crude oil? I believe I have heard that we are about to manufacture our own polysilicon, grow it, like we will someday be able to grow a new arm or eyeball.

I actually enjoy the results when something gets scarce. Oil gets scarce and an electric or hybrid car can be found in just about any parking lot in town.

Environmental impact - long live Ultrapure Polysilicon and down with coal, oil, hydro, and uranium.


4. It's high cost.

Payback periods in dollars and cents range from about 15 years to 25 years. With recent incentives and tax credits, out-of-pocket on a $18,000 array could be as low as $6,000.

Fortunately, renewable energy is not a dollars and cents business. Anything that reduces our dependence on fossil fuels and uranium is priceless. How much are you willing to pay for solar power? How much are you willing to pay for clean water and fresh air?

Here's an idea, take everybody's tax refund and put it in an account reserved for renewable energy. Couple years down the road, America has a whole bunch of clean energy. Households all over the place have an investment in lower electric bills.

Oh, ya, American made panels only! Wow, just think of the jobs!


5. You must climb your roof to wash it off. Just ask Ed Begley, Jr.!

In the rain forest of the Northwest, the average day keeps the solar panels clean without getting up on the roof. Recommended cleaning frequency - once a year - that's not too bad. In the interest of clean energy, let's not let getting up on the roof once-a-year, or Ed Begley be a deterrent.

Got a bad roof for climbing around on, here's a few ideas:

1. Put the solar panels on the ground, porch, garage, dog house, etc.

2. Put the solar panels on the neighbors house or in the neighbors yard.

3. Put the solar panels on open ground on the edge of town by investing in the community solar farm.

4. Have all the people on your street get-to-together and rent a high-lift platform and wash all the solar panels on the street or community in one day. Community picnic to follow.

5. Hire the neighborhood, out-of-work, out-of-school, teenager to get up on the roof.

6. Get a building contractor to construct a opening in the roof just above the solar panels. Go up through the attic, stand in the new opening and clean the panels. Hose and long handled, soft broom needed.

7. Don't wash the panels. The heck with Begley. Just how dirty can a solar panel get while sitting on a roof 40 feet off the ground? No dusty roads around, right! The panels will still be making clean energy even if you don't manage to clean them.

There you have it - my response to Tom's five things that are disadvantages of solar Power. I bet Ol' Tom was just kidding, he just wanted to get people like me stirred up a little. After all, the more we think and learn about Solar Power, the better it gets. Net-zero is good, one of my goals, and solar power will play a prominent role.

Comment by Tom Delconte on March 14, 2012 at 10:15am

Comment from Gary Barnus, Zdnet blogger:

With energy resources dwindling fast and global warming changing climates across the globe, more people look towards renewable energies for reducing their carbon footprint. However, even the most environmentally passionate person cannot pursue such endeavors without the proper financial resources. The professional installation of a solar energy system can cost in the thousands, so many resourceful individuals are turning to the many great resources that help you build your own solar panel.

It is possible to completely build your own solar panel, but for the most part, these panels are small and do not produce the wattage necessary to power more than a simple lamp and only for a couple of minutes. The most effective way to produce power from the sun, when you can't afford to hire the professionals, would be with a solar panel kit. These build your own solar panel kits come with everything you need to successfully build your own solar panel in the comfort of your living room, or the garage may be a wiser choice. 

Surprisingly, build your own solar panel kits are not difficult to find. With large companies like GE producing these kits, the build your own solar panel sets are very affordable and offer quicker return on your investment than purchasing and professionally installing a solar energy system. In general the instructions are easy to follow, even for teens and children, and in no time you are on your way to your own solar power system. 

If you are looking to build your own solar panel there are a numerous resources and guides available to help you through the process. By involving the whole family in the building process, every one will learn how a solar power system works and exactly how the components are put together. Also, when you build your own solar panel you are giving yourself the knowledge to expand your system on your own, without calling back the installers, and the ability to adapt your current system to meet new design needs. 

Making the choice to build your own solar panel is a great investment for your future and the world's future. Start making your own power at home and take advantage of this great way to educate yourself while saving money and helping the environment and learn how to build your own solar panel today.

Comment by Tom Delconte on March 13, 2012 at 11:12am

Comment from Joe Reale, Cnet blogger:

The most power load demand is when the sun is shining and the afternoons are very hot, so it matches well. Storage batteries are having longer life cycles and are getting cheaper.

Low efficiencies? Solar PV is the most efficient method of converting energy from the sun into electricity. No other known plants, not even the mythical algae will match the overall efficiency fro sunlight to electricity! The fossil oils that came originally from plants which has tremendously low solar efficiencies to start with, then there was enormous amount of tectonic energy to bury the deep, and tremendous amount of heat and pressure to convert them to oil, after so many million years, then you spend inordinate amount of resources and energy to get them out of the ground, and refine them. Even if solar cells were at 0.5% overall efficiency, it will be a trillion times more efficient than using fossil oils.

when scarcity of the easier ones to mine become a reality, rice hulls are excellent raw materials to make ultrapure silicon when needed.

Power washer can be had for cheap from Home Depot, courtesy of our CEO's who have outsourced them to China. And that worries me for these US innovators. They can copy the machine, in a few days time, mass produce it and market it worldwide, at far lesser price than what Twin Creek is selling them for. Which of course, can benefit humanity by helping cost of production of the equipment and the products way down.

If these new solar cells are to be sold plug and play at less than $1/watt, it can pay for itself in a year or less, especially in developing nations where the average price of electricity are about 3 to 10 times than that of the US.

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