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Solar energy: Advantages and disadvantages. Find out if it's right for you.

Are you thinking about installing solar energy in your home or business? From the large amount of information you can find on the internet, we describe below the most important advantages and disadvantages of photovoltaic solar energy and also summarise them. Take a few minutes to look into this topic and find out if you should take the step to a system with photovoltaic solar panels for your home or business.

We'll start with a brief introduction of what solar energy is and how photovoltaic solar panels work, followed by a list of all the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy and a detailed description with examples and facts.


WHAT IS SOLAR ENERGY?

Solar energy is a renewable energy obtained by harnessing the electromagnetic radiation (light and heat) coming from the sun through a number of technologies in constant development and converting it into electrical energy or thermal energy. These technologies include: photovoltaic solar energy, solar thermal energy, solar thermoelectric energy...

Did you know that the energy provided by the sun for one hour could meet the world's energy needs for one year?


HOW DO PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR PANELS WORK?


Photovoltaic panels consist of interconnected photovoltaic cells made of semiconductor materials (mainly silicon) that convert solar energy into electrical energy in the form of direct current at the atomic level. These cells use a property called the photoelectric effect

The photoelectric effect was first observed in 1839 by Edmond Becquerel (French physicist and grandfather of Henri Becquerel, Nobel Prize in Physics with Marie Curie for the discovery of radioactivity).

To understand the photoelectric effect, we first need to know that sunlight is made up of tiny particles called photons that radiate from the sun in the form of electromagnetic waves. When a photon with the right wavelength (energy) hits a silicon atom in the photovoltaic cell, it causes an electron to flow (jump). The impact of many photons therefore generates a continuous electric current.

The inverters installed between the photovoltaic modules and the electrical panel convert this direct current into the standard alternating current we need in our homes and businesses. The electrical energy generated is used for self-consumption and, in the event of a surplus, can be stored in batteries or fed into the distribution grid.


LIST AND SUMMARY OF THE ADVANTAGES AND DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR ENERGY


Advantages of solar energy

Disadvantages of solar energy

Green energy that reduces carbon footprint

Offer intermittent and variable power

Cost-effective maintenance of the system

Aesthetics can be improved

Long life of photovoltaic modules

Toxic substances are produced during manufacturing

Cost-effective investment

Batteries have not yet reached optimal performance

Savings on electricity bills


Independence from the volatility of the electricity market


Increases the value of your property


Silent technology



WHAT ARE THE ADVANTAGES OF PHOTOVOLTAIC SOLAR ENERGY?


IT IS A RENEWABLE ENERGY THAT RESPECTS THE ENVIRONMENT

This means that, on the one hand, it is an inexhaustible source of energy and, on the other, it does not produce greenhouse gases like fossil fuels (gas, coal and oil). The use of these types of fuels releases enormous amounts of carbon dioxide, whereas solar energy does not release any carbon dioxide into the earth's atmosphere. It is estimated that a residential solar system reduces carbon dioxide emissions by three to four tonnes per year, which is equivalent to planting more than 100 trees per year.

In addition, a cleaner atmosphere helps to improve public health.


SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAIC SYSTEMS ARE EASY TO MAINTAIN

The main task in this regard is to keep the photovoltaic panels relatively clean, for which cleaning once or twice a year is sufficient. If in doubt, you can always call in a specialised cleaning company.

Since there are no moving parts, there is no wear and tear. The only part that may need to be replaced after about 10 years is the inverter. 


SOLAR PANELS CURRENTLY HAVE A GUARANTEED LIFESPAN OF ABOUT 25 YEARS

The most reliable manufacturers of solar modules offer a guarantee of 25 years. But even after this time, they continue to function, although they lose some of their power.


IT IS A PROFITABLE INVESTMENT

Yes, because the medium and short-term savings pay off in the vast majority of cases. 

Solar energy is cheaper today than ever before and its cost has dropped by more than 70% in the last ten years. This makes it more affordable than ever for homeowners and business owners. It gets even cheaper when you take advantage of state and regional incentives.

You need to think of solar as an investment: a low-risk, high-return investment

The initial investment depends mainly on the size of the photovoltaic panels, based on the capabilities of the roof or land and the use that individuals or businesses will make of it. 

It also influences whether the systems are "on-grid", i.e. connected to the grid, or "off-grid", i.e. solar power systems not connected to the grid, as the latter require the installation of a battery. 

  • For "on-grid" systems, the payback of the investment is about 5 years.
  • For off-grid systems, the additional cost of the battery and the fact that it has to be replaced after 10 years of daily use extend the payback period. However, the latest lithium batteries already guarantee a much longer service life and are maintenance-free. And in cases where the costs rival those of connecting a building or plant far from the grid, it is practically the only reasonable solution.

On the other hand, the main factors that determine the performance of the installation are: the available surface area, the orientation in relation to the south and, for roofs, their degree of inclination.


YOU CAN SAVE ON YOUR ELECTRICITY BILL

Yes, and the savings depend on several factors, including: the size of the solar installation and the consumption of your home or business. 

To find out the actual savings, there are specialised companies that can calculate the cost of installing and maintaining solar panels, as well as the savings they can generate in your electricity bill, and compare this data with the annual expenditure when using the traditional electricity grid.


THEY ARE AN INSURANCE AGAINST THE RISE IN ELECTRICITY PRICES

Staying on the topic of saving money: Many of us know that the price of electricity has been rising steadily in recent years and will continue to do so in the future. 

A photovoltaic system protects you from these rising electricity costs, as you produce much of the energy you need yourself. 


IT IS A SILENT TECHNOLOGY

Unlike other renewable energies, it does not produce noise.

On a societal level, it not only contributes to environmental protection, but also creates jobs, contributes to technological development, helps in the use of desert regions and urban space, enables the generation of electricity in remote places (irrigation systems in the fields, lighting of roads, navigation systems and buoys...).


INCREASES THE VALUE OF YOUR PROPERTY

Numerous studies in recent years have shown that solar panels increase the value of your property by about 3-4%.

Among these studies, the one from the North American real estate platform Zillow stands out. It is based on statistical sales data from 2018 and confirms the 4% increase in sales value of homes with photovoltaic panels. Moreover, it found that in 80% of cases, the energy efficiency of the property was the important element in the purchase decision.


WHAT ARE THE DISADVANTAGES OF SOLAR PHOTOVOLTAICS?


IT IS A GLOBAL BUT INTERMITTENT AND VARIABLE RENEWABLE ENERGY SOURCE

As it depends on the sun, solar energy is only available during the day, although it must be said that its maximum output usually coincides with the time of highest energy demand. 

The intensity of solar energy varies depending on factors such as: location, season, time of day, air pollution.... However, it is possible to install solar panels even in the most undesirable areas.

Although more hours of direct sunlight will help a solar system generate more electricity, modern panels are quite efficient and can generate energy even in low light situations. A person living in Bilbao, for example, may need a slightly larger solar panel to get the same results as someone in Almeria.


AESTHETICS, A "BUT" THAT IS ALSO IMPROVING AS TECHNOLOGY ADVANCES

While solar panels can be clunky, today's models are often slim, compact and fit perfectly on the roof. They can even be integrated into building materials such as roof tiles and windows.


THEIR PRODUCTION HAS AN IMPACT ON THE ENVIRONMENT

The biggest environmental problem associated with photovoltaic systems is the use of toxic chemicals such as cadmium sulphide and gallium arsenide in their production. These substances are highly toxic and can persist for a long time. 

However, the impact of carbon dioxide on the climate is far greater than that of these substances.


STORAGE BATTERIES, ANOTHER DEVELOPING SECTOR

Energy generated by photovoltaic solar systems cannot yet be optimally stored. However, there has been significant progress in the development of batteries and it is expected that in the near future they will be elements with a long lifespan that can provide a large storage capacity of electrical energy.


CONCLUSION

While it is true that not so long ago solar energy was widely criticised as being expensive or inefficient, in recent years technological advances have made it a beneficial type of energy, not only for the environment but also for your wallet.

Installing solar panels is the perfect alternative if you want to save on energy costs in the medium term and the cost-benefit ratio is clear

  • You contribute to the sustainability of the planet
  • You are less dependent on rising energy prices.
  • You reduce your electricity bills 
  • You increase the value of your property
  • So the sooner you go solar, the sooner you can start saving.


At Luxsystems, we offer a personalised study based on the available area of the property and the electricity consumption curves of the installations. With the recently approved electricity tariffs in Spain, where peak hours roughly coincide with sunshine hours, solar energy makes more sense than ever.

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