Eco Insights: Alternative Energy Series Part 1- Solar Power

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In our latest Eco Insights series, we cover the main types of alternative energy. We start with the most ubiquitous: solar power

Solar Energy 101

Solar power (also known as solar energy, the two terms are equivalent) is defined as using the sun’s solar radiation, also know as electro-magnetic energy and composed of both light and heat, to power human needs. There are two ways to convert this energy are: 1) convert the sun’s heat energy through solar heaters and 2) convert the sun’s light energy through photovoltaic cells. 

Solar Power Pros 

  • -Free cost: once installed, solar energy generation is completely free.
  • -Solar panels are useful for remote areas that are not linked to utility grids; this makes them ideal for use in the developing world.
  • -Solar panels in action cause zero carbon emissions; they do not negatively impact the planet’s environment.
  • -Solar panels make use of a wasted space: rooftops. All building structures have them, so why not get that real estate working?
  • -Solar panels provide energy with no extra pollution: no air pollution, no light pollution, no noise pollution. They are one of the most nature-friendly forms of alternative energy. They do not affect their environment’s biodiversity.
  • -Solar panels require minimal maintenance- they only need to be cleaned once or twice a year.

Solar Power Cons

  • -Initial installation cost: solar panels are expensive and it is often difficult for households to justify the cost of acquiring and buying solar panels as compared to their current energy bill spending. This is changing- as more solar startups join the game, costs are coming way down.
  • -Limited by sunlight: solar panels, quite obviously, require the sun’s energy to generate power. This means that during long winters and at night, no energy is produced.
  • -Limited by weather: solar panels are dependent on good weather. Rain, storms, fog- all can affect the output of solar energy generation.
  • -Limited by pollution: solar panels do not produce as much energy in polluted areas, making them less efficient energy sources for heavily polluted cities and other urban areas.
  • -Limited by components: depending on the model/brand, manufacturing solar panels can require some very difficult-to-source materials that are not necessarily eco-friendly as they are limited on the planet and non-renewable. Cadmium telluride is an example. 

Join us for Part 2 of this series next week for the 411 on wind power

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