Tuesday, November 21, 2023

The Biggest Drawbacks of Solar Panels

Photo by American Public Power Association on Unsplash
According to the MISO Dashboard, Solar produced one Mw of the 66.828 Mw in the 14 state upper midwest region today. Two thirds of the energy we relied on today came from coal and natural gas. A little less than a quarter was wind, and the rest primarily nuclear

Despite the emphasis on renewable energy sources, it's apparent we are long ways from satisfying current Net Zero targets or expectations. I decided to ask ChatGPT what the biggest drawback of solar energy were, and received this detailed reply: 

While solar panels are a clean and renewable source of energy, there are some drawbacks and challenges associated with their use. Here are some of the main drawbacks:

  • Intermittency and Variability: Solar power generation is dependent on sunlight, making it intermittent and variable. Cloud cover, time of day, and seasonal changes can affect the efficiency of solar panels. Energy storage solutions or alternative power sources may be required to address this intermittency issue.
  • High Initial Costs: The upfront cost of purchasing and installing solar panels can be relatively high. While the costs have been decreasing over the years, the initial investment can still be a barrier for some individuals or businesses. Government incentives and subsidies can help mitigate this issue.
  • Land Use Concerns: Large-scale solar installations may require significant land area. This can raise concerns about land use, especially in densely populated areas or regions with limited available space. Balancing the need for renewable energy with land conservation and other land uses can be a challenge.
  • Energy Storage Challenges: Storing solar energy for use during periods of low sunlight can be challenging and may require additional technologies, such as batteries. Current energy storage solutions, while improving, may have limitations in terms of efficiency, cost, and environmental impact.
  • Resource and Environmental Impact: The production of solar panels involves the extraction and processing of raw materials, some of which are non-renewable. Additionally, the manufacturing process and disposal of solar panels can have environmental impacts. Efforts are being made to improve the sustainability of solar panel production and recycling processes.
  • Aesthetic Concerns: Some people find the appearance of solar panels on buildings or landscapes unappealing. Aesthetic considerations can be a factor in the adoption of solar technology, particularly in residential areas.
  • Geographic Limitations: Solar energy generation is more efficient in regions with abundant sunlight. Areas with frequent cloud cover or long periods of darkness may not benefit as much from solar power without additional support from other energy sources.

One other concern regarding solar panels is their lifespan. I'm currently trying to confirm this, but solar panels become increasingly inefficient over time and need to be replaced every twenty years. Which means they will create rather mountainous garbage dumps around the country and around the world wherever they are utilized and discarded. By way of contrast, I was told (all these facts need to be confirmed) that all the nuclear waste of the past sixty years could be stored in an Olympic sized swimming pool.  

Leave a comment and identify your sources if you have more accurate numbers. 

The topic of energy creation and use is an important one. I hope to continue providing information that is useful, insightful and thought provoking on this topic going forward.

Meantime, life goes on all around you. Engage it.

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