The 21st Century has marked the first time since the birth of industrialization that humanity has started moving past fossil fuels and the like. While these fuels can certainly be useful in their own way, the fact of the matter is that they are essentially limited. Another drawback to them is that they have a tendency to be quite harmful for the environment. Hence, alternative and renewable energy sources have started to become increasingly popular, with solar power being the preferred option that a lot of people tend to go for.
Solar power is in many ways the answer to a major problem humanity has been facing, but it is important to grasp the reasons behind why it is so beneficial. In this article we will highlight some of the advantages of solar power, as well as attempt to explain the nuances behind these advantages. While it is true that solar power is enormously beneficial for humanity, it is important to note that it’s not quite as cut and dry as all that. So without further ado, here are seven benefits of using direct solar energy that you should pay attention to.
#1 It’s Highly Cost Effective
If you speak to someone about renewable energy, a common criticism that would be brought up is that it’s just too expensive to be worth it. This has actually been true for quite some time. Historically speaking, using renewable energy has just been too expensive to implement on a wider scale. Producing renewable energy might not seem like much of an issue since you are using energy that already exists in nature. But capturing this energy and putting it to use is definitely an expense that needs to be met and in the past it has been far too great to make solar energy worthwhile.
That said, the cost problem of solar energy was the result of inferior technology. As time has gone by and technology has progressed, the cost of solar energy has fallen dramatically. If you compare current costs with costs that were relevant only 10 years ago in 2010, you would notice that these costs have fallen by about 85%. This which is a pretty radical number. This means that current implementation of solar power technology costs a fraction of what it used to. Which means that it is now firmly a cost effective energy solution.
You can see this in the policies that countries are putting in place for solar technology as well. European countries have started to subsidize solar power less and less this decade. While that may make it seem like they are shifting away from solar power the actual reason behind this is that research that was funded through subsidies has helped make solar energy cheap enough that it no longer needs to be subsidized to the same extent. In the next five years, solar power will become cheaper than power derived from coal. This will necessitate a shift towards the renewable resource.
#2 It’s One of The Cleanest Possible Sources of Energy
Fossil fuels have become so popular because of how effective they are at providing energy. Through the combustion of oil, coal or natural gas, rapid industrialization can become possible and standards of living can increase large amounts. However, extracting these fossil fuels, apart from being dreadfully expensive, is also quite harmful for the environment.
The transportation of these fuels can’t happen without random leaks occurring. And these leaks release toxic elements into nature that can do a lot of harm and are a big part of why our environment is deteriorating so rapidly. Even the use of fossil fuels is quite harmful. Because it releases carbon dioxide and methane. Both of which contribute quite significantly to the rise of global warming and the destruction of natural habitats that many animals rely on.
Now, the generation of solar power requires the assembly of devices that use hazardous materials in them. However, these materials can be transported much more safely than fossil fuels. Perhaps the most pertinent thing to note here is that once the assembly of solar panels and batteries has been completed, the actual generation and use of the energy will not emit any harmful gases, chemicals or any other forms of elements.
Recycling is also highly encouraged when it comes to solar panels. The way they are manufactured makes it so that you can repair them easily and pass them on to others. This all comes together to make solar power cleaner and more environmentally friendly than any fossil fuel alternatives. This is a fact that is currently being denied due to a valuable fossil fuel industry, but as time passes solar energy will undoubtedly get the respect it deserves.
#3 It’s Better For Human Health
The byproducts of fossil fuel extraction, refinement and usage has been having a catastrophic impact on human health. Cities that have high rates of fossil fuel usage such as Beijing and Los Angeles are notorious for how much smog gets into the air. This smog is poisonous and can cause untold damage to the human body. Lung damage is being widely reported in such areas, and in Beijing the air quality can be so low that people have to use air filters in their home and these air filters get choked quite quickly before they can end up doing much good. Canadians are being more and more frequently hospitalized because they are breathing in nitrogen oxide which is a gas that is released as a byproduct of fossil fuel usage.
The extraction of these resources is another thing that can harm human health. Fracking is one method of drawing oil from the ground, and it can pollute the water supply for people living there. This can lead to all kinds of problems ranging from cognitive decline to birth defects, all of which are really harming large numbers of people.
Many people who are critical of solar power claim that the use of this energy source also results in some emissions. However, if you compare these emissions with those of fossil fuels and especially the kind of health impact they can have, you would see that the comparative impact is miniscule. Methane is not released during solar power production, and only a third of the CO2 emitted by fossil fuels ends up being released. Widespread adoption of this type of power can result in a major improvement in average air quality. This becomes particularly important when you see how many people are moving into urban centers where fossil fuels do the most damage.
#4 It’s a Highly Efficient Form of Energy
If you look at the numbers around solar panel efficiency you would notice that they are only about 18-22% efficient. However, when you take into account the fact that they are using an essentially unlimited resource, this efficiency starts to seem a lot more beneficial. Using a single solar panel might not do all that much but people rarely settle for a single panel when they could get a whole array. Arrays work even better because they boost each other’s efficiency, so much so that the more you buy the more total energy you would end up getting as well. Suffice it to say that solar panel arrays are far greater than the sum of their parts.
The latest solar panels are also more efficient because they have been tested for their efficiency in inclement weather. Hence, the argument that the 20% average efficiency only occurs during bright, sunny days now no longer applies. A top quality solar panel can use 20% of the energy it obtains regardless of what the weather is like because it has been designed to function in rain, snow or sun.
Another thing to note here is that power you get from a grid is highly inefficient as well. You lose a lot of power in the lines that are transporting this energy to you, and what’s more is that this power is being derived from non-renewable resources which makes this inefficiency far more harmful and wasteful since the fuel has already been burned to produce it. An array of solar panels on your roof can therefore be more efficient than power drawn from a grid. Maintenance costs range from three to five hundred dollars per year which is nothing when you think about how you won’t be paying any electricity bills.
#5 It Has Tons of Different Uses
Whenever someone thinks of solar power, they think of panels arrayed on a roof drawing power from the sun. This can be a bit limiting since you would still need batteries for battery powered objects. The thing is, solar power is now being used to power all kinds of different things.
You can now buy chargers that utilize solar power to charge your laptop. There are phone chargers that you can look into as well which would come with tiny built in solar panels. These chargers are immensely portable, meaning that you can take them around with you wherever you go. Hence, portability is no longer an issue when it comes to solar powers. From backpacks that can charge your devices while they are inside to specialized chargers, the uses of solar power have become far more diverse than ever before.
Everyday objects are also being used with solar power now as well. Flashlights are one great example of this. Instead of having to buy batteries which contain contaminants and contribute quite a bit to how much waste we end up producing as a species, you can simply charge your flashlight from the sun. This has a wide array of uses in camping as well as in disaster situations, and not having to carry around batteries will certainly be a bonus for most people.
Solar light sources are perhaps the best example of how useful and versatile this form of energy can be if you know how to use it. Most of the time these light sources are going to be independent of your internal power grid, so you won’t need to get solar panels installed at all if you just want a few handy devices that run on solar power.
#6 The Technology is Advancing Rapidly
Solar energy is one of the fastest growing industries out there. The level of innovation that is occurring in that sector is truly ahead of anything else in the game, so much so that the traditional solar panel that you might be familiar with is rapidly becoming a thing of the past. If this confuses you, you should realize that solar panels are essentially clusters of solar light absorbing cells, and the panels just happened to be the most functional way to arrange these cells in the past.
Now, advances in technology have resulted in solar fabric being created. This is a flexible, durable kind of panel that is very different from the rigid panels you might be used to. The benefit of these panels is that they are adhesive and they can be stuck to any part of your home. You can even fix them onto your roof allowing you to actually make use of it if you have a flat roof. If old school panels are a bit unsightly in your opinion, this kind of fabric can be a real game changer because it can just become a part of your roof and therefore be far less visible even though it is quite effective.
This is just one example of how rapidly solar tech is advancing. Hairy solar panels are also being developed. These panels contain nanowires made out of silicon, and these kinds of solar panels have the potential to double the efficiency of energy production to an average of 20% all the way to 40%. This can tremendously increase the efficacy of these kinds of panels and help make them even more cost effective down the line. Hence, if the current state of solar power is not feasible for you, just know that advances are soon coming that will help make this kind of energy even more efficient than it currently is.
#7 It Can Be Implemented Immediately
If you feel like the way human society is functioning is not sustainable, you can do something about it right now. Solar power isn’t some nebulous philosophical concept that people hope might come true at some point in the future. Much on the contrary, it’s something that you can make use of right now, and in a very cost effective manner.
While previously solar energy has been notorious for having a high barrier for entry, things have changed in the past decade. It is now affordable to install. All you need are some solar panels and electricians who know how to set them up. The great news is that if you are knowledgeable in electrical circuits and the like you could even end up doing something like this all on your own. This can be an incentive to gain a new set of skills since it would help you become self sufficient with regards to the energy that you use in your home.
Another great thing about solar power implementation is that you don’t have to sign up for the full package. If you just want enough solar power to run your HVAC then that is what you can get installed. If you just want a single solar panel to power your fridge then you can get that as well! Since this is a rapidly growing industry there are more and more service providers getting into the mix. This gives you a range of options to get the type of service you want at a price that seems reasonable to you.
Human society is notorious for being rather resistant to change. Whenever an innovation occurs there is usually strong opposition to it, and this usually happens because previous paradigms end up becoming so thoroughly entrenched in our societal fabric. Solar power has taken this long to become a major player simply because previous generations couldn’t fathom a world without oil, coal or gas.
It’s fair to say that the world has started to accept the solar revolution at long last. Solar energy is sustainable, clean, efficient and cost effective. What’s more is that it’s something you can look into right now. While there are certainly a few issues here and there that need to be addressed, judging solar power based on these isolated issues would be entirely unfair. No energy source comes without any drawbacks, and the few drawbacks of solar power have far less of an impact and are being addressed through innovations as well. So what are you waiting for? Unlimited energy can soon be at your disposal, it’s up to you to go out and get it!