Disadvantages of Solar Energy

This post is derived from RP Siegel’s post Solar Photovoltaics: Pros and Cons and concerns photovoltaics specifically.

Enough sunlight falls on the Earth in one hour, to meet the world’s energy demand for a year, if it could be collected.   Let’s break down some of the disadvantages of solar energy:

Disadvantages of Solar Energy:

  • Intermittent source. Not available at night or under clouds.
  • Relatively high cost, especially with storage
  • Requires inverter to produce AC current
  • Requires storage or grid connection for continuous round-the-clock use
  • Less available for heating demand (time of day and season)
  • Exotic materials required in many thin-film systems
  • Requires a relatively large amount of open space
  • Relatively low efficiency (around 17-40 percent)
  • Relatively low energy intensity ( ~8-12 m2/ kW)
  • Fragile materials
  • Possible aesthetic issues
  • Technology risk: a much better system might come out next year

What about the advantages of solar energy?

Besides the relatively clear cut pros and cons of solar PV, there are also the transformative socio-economic impacts of moving from centralized to distributed power generation. There is clearly a technical advantage, since efficiency losses associated with long range transmission are eliminated, as are, possibly hundreds of miles of power lines that now crisscross the landscape. Lost would be certain economies of scale and centralized control. Distributed power generation is more resilient against large-scale blackouts as well as acts of terror, though it could mean a change in business models for today’s utilities.

Find out what it takes to put solar on your home.

Nick Aster is a new media architect and the founder of TriplePundit.com

TriplePundit.com has since grown to become one of the web's leading sources of news and ideas on how business can be used to make the world a better place.

Prior to TriplePundit Nick worked for Mother Jones magazine, successfully re-launching the magazine's online presence. He worked for TreeHugger.com, managing the technical side of the publication for 3 years and has also been an active consultant for individuals and companies entering the world of micro-publishing. He earned his stripes working for Gawker Media and Moreover Technologies in the early days of blogging.

Nick holds an MBA in sustainable management from the Presidio School of Management and graduated with a BA in History from Washington University in St. Louis.