The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Day 142 – Now more than ever, we are in need of renewable energy sources. We have reached a moment in time where real change needs to happen or we (the human race) will be unable to recover from our destructive ways. Solar Energy is one of those renewable energy sources. I have seen countless ads in my social media feeds for solar panels. I thought I would look at the pros and cons of solar energy.

Let’s start with the CONS:

  1. Solar panels are not very efficient – The solar panels on the market, today, are only able to convert about 17-21% of the sunlight collected into electricity. That is a lot better than in the past, but still rather low. Scientists have found a way to increase the efficiency to 50%, but the cost is not practical for commercial use. We can only hope that like many technological breakthroughs, the cost will come down.
  2. Recycling solar panels is difficult – Even though solar panels are relatively recyclable, the infrastructure to handle the recycling is lacking in the U.S. “The European Union holds PV module (solar panels) installers accountable for their electronic waste and requires solar producers to recycle, and Japan holds project developers and owners liable for waste disposal and requires payment into a decommissioning fund. However, there is a vacuum when it comes to U.S. federal leadership on solar recycling and treatment of end-of-life PV modules. For now, the future of solar panel recycling is in the hands of the states.”PV Magazine
  3. Not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly – You would think that any business selling solar panels would be environmentally friendly. However, that is not always the case. The Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition produces a solar scorecard that ranks companies based on sustainability.
  4. Solar batteries are expensive – Solar batteries are needed to store the energy converted by the solar panels. Unfortunately, solar batteries can add an additional cost of $8,000 to $10,000. Solar batteries are recyclable, but like solar panels, the U.S. lacks the facilities capable of recycling them.


  1. Community solar farms are becoming more popularCommunity solar farms allow a group of people to go in on solar energy. This is nice for renters or homeowners in heavily shaded areas.
  2. There are more reputable solar panel companies – Even though one of the cons was that not all solar panel companies are eco-friendly, it is a pro that there are many more environmentally friendly companies than there are unfriendly.
  3. Tax credits help with the overall cost “The 26% federal solar tax credit has been extended through the end of 2022. This solar incentive is available for both residential and commercial solar systems. A tax credit is more valuable to the taxpayer than a write-off because it is a dollar-for-dollar reduction in taxes owed. In addition, businesses can get solar tax write-offs, further reducing the total cost of installing a solar system. For the project to be eligible, the solar system must be purchased. Thus, many community solar farm memberships, solar leases, and power purchase agreements do not qualify.”Earth911
  4. Accessing a free source of energy – Currently, there is no fee to access the sun’s energy. Along with the fact that it is a renewable source of energy. Using it will help decrease greenhouse gas emissions.
  5. Low maintenance cost – Once installed, solar panels can be maintained for as little as $300 per year (even if a professional cleaning company is used). Additionally, companies providing solar panels usually offer warranties, which further helps to minimize costs.
  6. Decrease electrical bills – Solar panels can help both companies and individuals keep their electric bills low. Traditional sources of electricity only need to be used during times when, for an extended period, the sun isn’t out, or during months when hours of available sunlight are restricted.

There is a lot to think about when deciding if solar panels are right for your home or business. This information is just the beginning of the process. If you do decide to contact a solar panel company be sure to ask questions about the issues discussed in the list of CONS.

Tomorrow, lawn furniture made from recycled plastic.

Fossil Fools Day

Image borrowed from National Geographic

Day 91 – It is no joke that the use of fossil fuels is not good for the planet. However, we rely on them everyday. The gas in our cars, the flame on our stoves and the electricity needed to power our lights are just a few ways we have become dependent on fossil fuels . It is such an efficient source of energy and even its byproducts are used to produce plastic, which can be found in pretty much everything. Unfortunately, the use of fossil fuels is killing our planet. The release of fossil fuels pollutes the air (among other things) and increases the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere which contributes to greenhouse gases. Like an actual greenhouse that traps heat to keep plants and other vegetation nice and warm during the cooler months, greenhouse gases are trapped in our atmosphere and heats up the planet. The more greenhouse gases, the more heat that is produced. This increase in temperature is causing global warming.

So, what can be done? What is the answer to this global problem?

Well, the answer is renewable energy sources. There is much debate when it comes to fossil fuels vs. renewable energy. For me, it seems like a no brainer. Choose the energy sources that will stop destroying the planet.

  1. Biomass – wood waste, solid waste, biodiesel, etc.
  2. Hydropower
  3. Geothermal
  4. Wind
  5. Solar

Imagine a world, where we are able to power our homes with the waste we produce. It sounds like science fiction but it’s already happening at waste management facilities. This type of resource is only viable if the emissions given off by burning trash are kept from entering the atmosphere. Unfortunately, many facilities are not equipped and end up polluting the air.

In 2017, a press release from the Argonne National Laboratory discusses a paper written in the Journal of Cleaner Production, which helps assess the environmental benefits of various waste-to-energy production pathways while avoiding emissions of methane and other harmful air pollutants. The paper was written by Uisung Lee of the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Argonne National Laboratory. In his paper, he writes,

“By using waste to produce energy, we can avoid emissions from landfills and potentially reduce the need for additional landfills across the country.” 

“Our study shows that using what would otherwise become landfill waste to produce fuel typically generates less greenhouse gases than simply letting the waste decompose.”

The work has already started to move our country and the world to renewable resources. So, what can we do to help the cause?

Well, I don’t know about you, but I’m in no position to purchase an electric car at the moment, or invest in a wind turbine. The solar panels, on the other hand, are something to look into. What I can do, is support renewable energy whenever and wherever it makes sense to do so. Realizing that this is the direction we all need to move to ensure a healthier planet is the first step. Convincing an oil loving country that we need other options is a Herculean challenge, but as consumers, we have more power than we think.

Tomorrow, voting with our purchases.