Solar energy is a pretty big deal. Especially when you consider the fact that everything on this planet is powered by the sun. Every type of energy present anywhere in our world has come from the sun at some point in time - whether it is this morning or 300 million years ago.
And one of the greatest achievements of humans as a species is figuring out how to use this power directly, instead of using polluting, ancient fossils. All of this makes solar power special - different from other technologies.
However, that does not warrant blind adoption of the technology. Many people understand the appeal of solar, and are yet curious to fully understand the technology’s advantages and disadvantages, which they certainly should.
That’s why we decided to put together a comprehensive list of all the pros and cons of solar. Let’s take a look.
Advantages of Solar Power
1. Lowered Electricity Bill
Probably the most popular advantage of solar - it can help lower your electricity bill. In some cases, it may even fully eliminate it. For a typical homeowner, a solar power system can easily cut down his power costs by more than 60%.
Electricity bills are one of the recurrent costs any home or business has to keep paying indefinitely - like car fuel. Over thirty or more years of a solar system’s lifespan, you can save enormous amounts of money.
And speaking of car fuel, you can even set up a system that can charge your electric vehicle with it. This means another of your lifelong recurrent costs is also reduced or eliminated (AKA free travel!).
2. Protection Against Rising Electricity Costs
Nope, we’re not done talking about electricity bills yet. Alongside the fact that you have to keep paying for it, another major problem with conventional, grid power is that its prices never stop climbing. Just google ‘New Zealand electricity price rise’ and dozens of news about price increase show up - from different points in time.
Add to this the fact that lower income neighborhoods are often paying more for power, and it becomes clear that many homeowners want to take their energy matters in their own hands.
3. Significant Return on Investment
Even if you are not upset about the recurring and increasing electricity costs, solar power makes an excellent case as a monetary investment. Some crucial traits of a good investment are high returns, low risk, and long-term benefits. Solar checks all three items.
It is therefore no surprise that the largest businesses are making gigantic investments in solar power - from IKEA and McDonald’s to Microsoft and Amazon.
At the smaller, household level too, solar provides an impressive return on investment, through bill savings as well as revenue generation. Wherever applicable, owners of solar power systems can feed the power back into the grid for a certain price.
It therefore becomes a great investment option, from young homeowners to retiring people alike.
4. Increased Home Value
Several homeowners are worried that they might lose their money invested in solar if they sell their house. Fortunately, solar seems to be an excellent add-on for home buyers, and they are willing to pay more for a solar-powered house.
Multiple studies worldwide have confirmed that homes with solar sell for a higher cost (averaging about 4% higher, according to a Zillow study conducted in the U.S.).
5. Environmental Impact
A number of experts worldwide voice their concerns about this being the sixth mass extinction. However, according to them, this one is brought about by humans - primarily through climate change. Needless to say, one of the strongest tools to reverse this situation is to use non-polluting sources of energy.
Solar power has long been an excellent contender for replacing fossil fuels. Here in New Zealand, a large portion of our power comes from renewable energy. But with increasing demand and a worsening climate, we can do better, and solar can be the best tool to do it at an individual level.
6. Low Maintenance
Last but not the least, a remarkable thing about solar equipment is that it barely needs any maintenance. Compared to fossil sources like coal or oil, solar needs no dirty fuel, has no fumes, and therefore needs no heavy cleaning. It has no turbines, gears, or other moving parts, which could cause friction, noise, or vibrations.
Solar panels simply sit facing the sun, quietly and without any movement. This makes them nearly maintenance-free - reducing the cost and hassle that comes with other power sources. In most cases, occasional cleaning of solar panels is the only maintenance needed.
Disadvantages of Solar Power
1. Solar Generation Is Intermittent
The most notable and obvious disadvantage of solar is its intermittency. In almost all places on the Earth, there are several hours without sunlight. On top of that, the majority of a household’s energy consumption happens during evenings and early mornings, when solar power is at its weakest.
Typical Load Profile/Hour-wise Energy Consumption for a House (source: Researchgate)
Thankfully, there are ways to solve this mismatch of timings. The most traditional method is to use a battery bank, which stores excess energy during the day and supplies it in the evenings (or on cloudy days) as required.
Another option is to sell the excess power to the local grid (wherever applicable), and use grid power during the night. You may have to pay for the grid power, but you also get paid for the power sold during the day.
2. Big Upfront Cost Of Solar Power
Solar energy in itself, is free. The sun never sends you a monthly bill because you used its light to power your appliances. However, the equipment needed to convert this sunlight into electricity needs to be purchased.
Over 30 years (a typical solar power system’s lifespan), your electricity bills might amount to 2-3 times the cost of solar equipment, but they are spread out over this duration. For solar, on the other hand, one must pay the equipment cost upfront.
For Kiwis, however, the good news is that they can spread out the equipment cost too. Several banks have started to offer low or zero-interest financing for solar and similar energy efficiency upgrades, making it much easier to go solar.
3. Low Returns With Low Electricity Prices
Although it is true that solar power saves money in nearly every case, it is also true that the savings depend on how much you are spending on power bills before going solar. In places where the electricity rates are high, solar power can save massive amounts of money.
However, in places where customers are already paying low prices for power, the savings from solar can be slow and limited. In the case of New Zealand, though, being a small country, the variation in electrical costs is not as pronounced as, say, the U.S. And although different people will save different amounts of money, the returns are attractive in most cases.
Should I Install Solar Panels?
Finally, let us address the ultimate question - the question that this activity of listing pros and cons is supposed to answer. Should you go solar?
It is true that solar power has a small number of flaws, but then who (or what) doesn’t? The important thing to note is that the advantages of solar are far greater - not just in quantity but quality too. Furthermore, some of its disadvantages are not fully applicable for everyone, especially Kiwis.
It is therefore safe to say that the pros of solar outweigh the cons and the verdict tips remarkably in favour of solar power. There is no doubt that going solar brings more benefits over the long-term than continuing an unfulfilling relationship with grid power.
In simpler words - Yes, you should go solar!
Get 3 free quotes from quality, SEANZ-approved solar power installers here.