Solar Energy Advantages and the Other Side
Solar energy advantages - these come in many forms, ranging from selling power back to the grid to selling your 'green tags.' But, as always there are two sides to the story. These days, you can charge your camera via a small solar battery charger on your bag while climbing in the rocky mountains, but it might take you several months before you get a tax rebate for your roof panels.
Lets go over some of the pros and cons.
Firstly, there is the eco friendly aspect of solar energy. As long as the sun is shining, you are collecting energy. Solar panels produce no pollution while they are collecting sunlight energy. This is 'clean and green' energy - but it comes at a price.
There is a high initial purchase price on most solar energy systems. They can take between 5-15 years before they pay themselves off in with energy bill savings and start earning you money.
Once installed, solar cells are relatively low maintenance. They have no moving parts, causing them to have a long life(estimated at 50 years.) The panels themselves are made mostly of silicon, (like a window.) This means that, (like windows) they can withstand harsh weather - strong sunlight, wind and rain.
The energy created by the solar cells can be used for powering many types of appliances, from battery charges to fridges to cars. This energy can be acessed anywhere there is sunlight, and there is no size limitation. From tiny solar collectors able recharge your ipod or camera, to giant 'solar farms' the effiency is the same. (Provided you are using the same type of cell.)
Governments see solar power as a valuable resource. It is flexible in that it can be home owner installed and managed. House owners can have sell power back to the grid, or get tax rebates. To encourage home solar power, many governments and states have incentive rojects. They make it cheaper to buy solar panels through rebates and offer cash back on solar energy purchases.
Another solar energy advantage comes from solar energy being such a high growth market (a 20% 2006*) Companies are spending lots more money developing and improving solar technology. As solar panels get less expensive and more efficient, the 'break-even' time gets shorter.
However, solar collectors are currently quite ineffecient - about 12% of sun energy hitting a panel is actually converted into energy. This means that a large area of your roof (or somewhere on your land) is need to create enough energy to power your house. This can be aesthetically a problem if you live in the city, though for people in the country with space to spare this is seldom an issue.
*SEIA report 2006
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