Solar Power is the thermal or electrical power generated by harnessing solar energy. Utilizing the sun’s energy this way is the best and most sustainable form of green, renewable power. However, despite its rising popularity and benefits, the solar industry faces numerous challenges in widespread implementation and adoption. We talked to the experts to better understand these challenges;
The electric utility grid throughout the U.S. was constructed to handle the traditional generation and transmission of power. In that structure, power is generated at a plant, fed over high-powered transmission lines to local utility companies, and then distributed to end-users. The directional flow of power in this scenario is one-way and easily managed.
Power is fed onto the grid at the location of the generation plant and flows downstream to the consumer. With the advent of solar energy, a bi-directional flow was introduced to the grid. That is, when electricity produced from a solar array at an end user’s location is not consumed, it is fed back onto the grid at that location.
And because electricity is not currently being stored in large quantities, grid operators must continually balance supply and demand in order to avoid blackouts. Since the sun does not always shine, it is hard to forecast when these solar arrays will overproduce and feed new power onto the grid. This unpredictable nature of solar power generation is putting undue stress on grid operators.
Although the cost to install solar energy has dramatically decreased over the last decade, it is still relatively expensive when compared to the cost of traditional electric power generation. In many states, such as Illinois, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, utility electricity costs can be up to 40% less expensive than solar energy when not taking incentives into account.
As more utility markets deregulate and fossil fuel prices continue to decline, the economic challenges facing the solar energy industry will be ever-present.
Paul Rhoads (CEP), Vice President EnergyPricing.com
It is a shame that solar energy is priced way too high just so that only the people who are concerned for the environment would buy it. From my experience, these are the challenges faced by solar panels. I am writing from the experience of my previous panels; the panel I use now- Sun Power, does not seem to have these issues listed.
Lack of Stability
A 5 Kw battery presumably means it holds five units. If there’s no sun, you’ll use that in the afternoon if you run the washing machine and cook a meal. Then you’ll need half a dozen incredibly sunny days to be able to power the house as well as recharge the battery. And unless you’re generating enough to do all that and more, you won’t get anything back from the grid. Even if you do, the amount you get nowadays is tiny because the feed-in tariff has been cut a lot.
If you’re paying $15 or so for a unit from the grid, there’s no point in getting paid $5 or so for every surplus unit you generate.
Highly Fluctuating Results
We had a 4 kW system in Seattle once. On a very good day, we’d generate 20 units. On a bad day, it was more like 1 or 2. So it used to be unreliable. After which, we moved to a different location, changed our panels to a higher efficiency panel which performed well even under poor sunlight exposure.
Gian Moore is a Partner and Marketing Director at Mellowpine
Production of Solar Tech Involves Environmentally Harmful Elements
While solar panels offer a more green solution to energy, they are actually not completely green. The manufacturing of solar panels and other relevant necessary technologies involves environmentally harmful elements like nitrogen trifluoride, which is common among electronics.
This greenhouse gas is actually much more potent than carbon dioxide (which the ridding of emissions of is one of the main purposes of solar panels). Therefore, a clear dilemma is presented. How can we make green energy products in a green way?
Andre Kazimierski, CEO Improovy Painters Phoenix
High Cost of Installation
One of the biggest challenges that faces the solar energy industry is simply the price. The cost of a Solar home system has decreased significantly in recent years, but the high cost of installation is still a huge barrier for most homeowners.
In saying this, there are more and more government schemes and grants available to those who wish to go green and install a solar panel system; there are even leasing schemes you can opt into also.
Efficiency is another issue. Unfortunately, most panels on the market at the moment only have an efficiency level of about 20%, which means the panels are not capturing the vast majority of energy available – This is because the panels are stationary and are unable to move and catch the sun’s rays; however this is changing. Efficiency is increasing on a yearly basis due to advancements made.
Martin Desmond, Founder & Solar Panel Expert Wizer Energy
Coal-Fueled Factories Involved in Solar Manufacturing
Our clean energy transition and sustainability goals are at risk because of solar supply chain problems in Asia, but not in the way that most people think.
The vast majority of polysilicon, a necessary component of solar PV, is made in China with coal-fired plants. The use of coal-fired factories in China dramatically undercuts the environmental benefits typically associated with solar panels.
The Renewable Energy Buyers Alliance (REBA), a group of large corporate energy customers, estimates that emissions from solar manufacturing over the next 20 years could exceed the emissions of the aluminum industry, creating 14 -18 gigatons of unnecessary carbon pollution by 2040.
As major corporations flesh out their net-zero climate pledges, deploying solar modules with low embodied carbon will become a top priority for sustainably conscious purchasers. Legislators are taking notice as well.
Michael Parr, Executive Director of The Ultra Low-Carbon Solar Alliance