Solar energy, the energy harnessed from the sun using a variety of different technologies, has been at the forefront of innovation for years. Researchers are constantly coming up with new ways to retain the Sun’s energy.
While solar panels seem to have been around for quite some time now, they aren’t as widely utilized as one would think. So why don’t we use power panels more universally? Are they not as efficient as they seem? Are they too expensive? If solar energy is so revolutionary, then why isn’t it more mainstream?
The cost associated with installing solar panels
Like many things in this world, it partially comes down to cost. One of the greatest talking points on solar panels is how much money they save on electricity – the average household could spend as little as $73 per month on electricity, according to Solar Power Authority. What they sometimes fail to mention is the cost of installing the system.
The average cost of installing one solar panel is $7-$9. Not too bad, right? Then multiply that by the number of panels you’ll need to give your home sufficient power.
A costly hypothetical scenario
A 5kW solar panel system would cost anywhere from around $25,000-$35,000, which a lot of homeowners can’t afford all at one time. Many companies that offer solar panel installments have come up with programs to subsidize half or most of the cost, but is the payback worth it?
Say you pay for a system on the lower end, $18,000. After you pay to install that system, it will take 20 years to make back the money you spent. As the systems increase in price, the payback period increases as well.
For people with more of a disposable income, or for those set on “going green,” this may be an attainable venture, but for a family of four that doesn’t have the amount of money needed to install an entire solar panel system, it may not be as feasible.
You will not see any energy conversion process, at least not anytime in the near future, work at 100% efficiency. This includes solar panels. The panels have to be set to a certain wavelength to harness the Sun’s rays, which are then converted into energy.
When they are set to one certain wavelength, only these rays can be absorbed. This means that any other rays, or waves, that are emitted by the Sun are either reflected back or simply absorbed as heat instead of energy.
Solar panels are also known to lose efficiency as they heat up – I know, “But they work with the Sun!” When the panels begin retaining the Sun’s rays, they heat up and are unable to convert as much energy as they could when they started. Because of this, the panels are forced to omit much of the rays they are trying to convert.
Interrelated factors leading to the fall of solar energy
Some of the factors that cause panels to be less efficient that desirable are completely out of anyone’s control. On a cloudy day, sun panels aren’t able to work as well due to the Sun not being as visible.
Rain can also cause the solar panels to under-perform, as they can block some of the rays power panels or not allow proper absorption into the panels. There are a few projects underway aimthat to fix these issues, such as the solar road in France.
Even with the work being put into projects like these, there is still a lot of work to do to create much more efficient energy absorbers.
Some light at the the tunnel… literally
Although there are many reasons roof sun panels haven’t exactly ‘taken off’ as expected, there is still a lot of innovation going on thanks to the solar power industry. In December 2016, the city of Las Vegas became the first major U.S. city to have its government building run entirely off renewable energy – mostly due to the solar panel fields along the state’s border with California.
So while we may not be where we want to be in terms of price or efficiency of solar power, there are huge strides being made everyday that help improve the process, the product, and the lives of people.