While solar energy is often talked about as a solution to the problem of increased carbon emissions, dwindling supplies and a need to find sustainable sources of energy, there are a few cons of solar energy.  These cons of solar energy do need to be taken into consideration.  The cons of solar water heating systems and the cons of photovoltaic panels for solar electricity generation are different, but need to be considered. Passive solar heating has another set of cons again.

Cons of solar energy panels:

  • Photovoltaic panels take quite a lot of energy to manufacture.  Some experts believe that it can take up to 11 years until the energy produced by a photovoltaic panel equals the amount of energy used to make it.  However, most people wanting to install photovoltaic panels intend to use them for longer than this.  And naturally, plans are underway to use solar energy as the source for manufacturing the photovoltaic panels…
  • Photovoltaic panels can’t be used at night for obvious reasons without some form of storage cycle – usually a deep-cycle battery.  In areas with a lot of cloudy weather, households that depend on solar energy only may struggle.  Get the right sort of deep cycle battery for your needs – a deep cycle battery designed for motor homes is no good for a regular home.
  • You need quite a few PV panels to supply enough household energy.  This writer has seen a household where the owners installed no more than 2m2 of panels: the general rule of thumb was that if you had one light turned on, all was well.  Two lights worked OK, three lights were pretty dim, but don’t bother switching on four – candles will be brighter.  The lights also dimmed if the water pump went into action (e.g. if someone flushed the loo).
  • PV panels need to be installed at the right orientation and the right angle to catch the maximum amount of sun.  This angle and orientation can often make the panels a popular roosting place for birds, which means that you will have to clean bird crap off the panels periodically, as this will really block the amount of sunlight reaching the business part of the panel.
  • Some people don’t like the look of PV panels on the house.
Solar panels have several drawbacks which must be considered.

Solar panels have several drawbacks which must be considered.

Cons of solar water heating:

  • Again, the solar water heating system may look unsightly.
  • While they can be retrofitted, a house needs to have a suitable area on the roof (north facing and unshaded for most of the day) near to the hot water tank.  Not all houses have been made like this.

Cons of passive solar design:

  • Passive solar design cannot be retrofitted to an existing house.  It must be part of the design from the beginning.
  • Bare stone floors (the best sort for passive solar heating) can be unwelcoming and uncomfortable, especially with small children in the house.  They are also hard on the feet.
  • The materials can often be quite expensive and the design considerations may be unfeasible for domestic situations
This shows a home that uses solar energy to heat the floor.

This shows a home that uses solar energy to heat the floor.

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9 Responses to “Cons of Solar Energy”

  1. How to Generate Sustainable Electricity in a Nutshell | Energy Rant Says:

    [...] The photovoltaic effect.  This involves quantum physics, but basically, what happens is the energy of sunlight can knock a few electrons loose from certain materials.  This is the basic principle behind solar panels. [...]

  2. Kerry Says:

    Yeah, a friend of mine who is an electrical engineer told me about how bad making solar panels is for the environment. It’s unfortunate that theyre produced in countries that don’t dispose of the toxic by products used in PV production as well.

  3. Rob K Says:

    Hi Kerry, thanks for your comment.

    Yes, solar panels are toxic to produce and the by products can very easily harm the surrounding environment.

  4. Jason Says:

    Yeah you’re right – I heard somewhere that PV cells have highly toxic by products from their manufacture.

    I also watched a documentary once which argued that this sustainable source of energy wasn’t sustainable as we were using non-renewable resources to produce them. It made a good point. Just goes to show that you need to diversify thins.

  5. matt Says:

    All the critics above make good points, however the production methods are changing to reflect less harmful effects to the environment. First Solar has cut its use of semiconductor by 98%, which has also lowered its cost of doing business, and thus the cost of purchasing their solar modules.

    Also, there is work being done to integrate solar power into the manufacturing of solar products. As the technology accelerates and the costs come down, solar power has more practical applications.

  6. dude Says:

    this sucks

  7. harald boenigk Says:

    We are selling a brand new German made SOLAR PANEL MANUFACTURING PLANT For sale, which was install in 2008 with two production lines & worked only 9 months,then stop it because of family & Bank issues,here are spec of the plant

    Production Capicity: 36 MW by 36 cells (156 mm) per Module (140 W)
    Line 1: ML 1050 mm x 1050mm
    Line 2: ML 1069 mm x 990mm
    Cell Sizes: ZL 156 mm x 156 mm
    Cells Out put: 3,5 W
    speed: 180 Sec./Line
    All M/C are from Germany like Reis Robotics, Buxtrup, Kragarm, Prolass, Kleber, Flascher & Hipot, Somont Gmbh, Meier Icolam, BBG GmbH, Hnnek, Robotherm,

    plant is ready to visit & can be viewed till 20 th May 2011 & must be disassemble till 4th week of July.
    any further question just ask or email.

    our contact details are B & E INERTNATIONAL GmbH Tel. +49-176-96894814 or cell +49-176-96894814

    Mit freundlichen Grüßen / Best Regards

    H. Boenigk

    B & E International GmbH
    41236 Moenchengladbach / Germany

    Tel: ++49(0) 2166 920350
    Tel: ++49(0) 2166 920351
    Fax: ++49(0) 2166 920352
    Steuerno 12758330604
    VAT : DE204545866

  8. MIKR))!!! Says:

    i hate solar energy i got a third degree burn

  9. Dale Says:

    I disagree with your “Cons of passice solar design” text and as an Architect working in the UK I am happy to explain why.

    1. Passive solar design can be retrofitted to almost any dwelling by adding a sunspace that may be opened onto, or closed off from, the main dwelling. Adding a solar space will provide a buffer zone from cold ouside air / weather and provide solar preheat passively, by opening the separating doors or actively, by using a whole house ventilation system (MVHR) and extracting preheated air from the solar space during winter months.

    2. Any dense hard surface on walls or floor will provide a good solar absorber. The solar space is best designed as an “inside / outside” space and should be regarded accordingly. For instance such spaces provide ideal clothes drying areas, dining, or playroom spaces during winter months.

    3 Sorry but this is nonsense. Other than the glazing this is simply a carefully orientated and considerd part of the dwelling, it’s not rocket science. The solar spaces at Hockerton Housing Project, Nottingham, UK provide heating to the dwelling for free. Central heating is expensive and needs maintaining and eventual replacement. In fact, by simply orientating the dwelling correctly with habitable rooms and larger windows to the south and ancillary rooms and smaller windows to the north any dwelling will be ‘passive solar’ by design, be better to live in and cost less to run.

    You really should think twce about posting this kind of ill advised disinformation on the web, many people will simply believe it without question.

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