Today, solar panels are all the rage, yet there is no shortage of sceptics either. Truth be told, if you are on the fence about whether solar panels are right for you, you are likely to find a plethora of information about PV technology. This can make it difficult to determine whether or not solar panels are a right fit for you. We’re going to help you decide and try and cut through the cacophony of information. So, without further ado, let us take a look at the advantages and challenges involved in installing, using and maintaining solar panels.
The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy: Putting them in Perspective
We are going to be looking at solar energy from the perspective of a homeowner. And while much of these points will apply to commercial plants, there are additional considerations commercial enterprises and businesses will have to factor into their decision to purchase solar panels. Nevertheless, let us briefly glance at the pros and cons of going solar.
|The Pros of Solar Energy||The Cons of Solar Energy|
|Reduced energy bills.||Relatively high upfront cost.|
|Insurance against fluctuating electricity prices.||Unreliable and intermittent source of energy.|
|Solar power is consistently getting cheaper.||Manufacturing solar panels may not be environmentally friendly.|
|Visible and tangible return on investment.||Solar panels require space.|
|Environmentally friendly.||Solar panels are a long term and static investment.|
|Gain energy independence.|
The argument for Australians to switch to solar energy for their homes is stronger than ever now, because (spoiler alert) the pros clearly outweigh the cons. The cons can also be mitigated with proper planning and some investment. Nevertheless, in the interest of transparency, we are going to dive deep into the pros and cons of solar energy.
Advantages of Going Solar
1. Reduced Energy Bill
This is what most people think of when they decide to go solar. Reducing electricity bills is one of, if not the best way, for households to reduce their overhead costs. And given that energy prices are always on the rise in Australia, it is generally considered a good idea to switch over to solar energy. This switch can take two forms:
- Customers can decide to reduce their bills by supplementing their electricity supply with solar energy.
- Or, customers can decide to make solar their primary source of power.
Either way, there is a mass shift towards solar power, not just in Australia, but all over the world. This shift to renewable PV technology is not limited to more developed and advanced parts of the globe like Europe, North America, East Asia and Oceania, but developing countries like Pakistan, India and Bangladesh and others are also beginning to make ambitious shifts towards solar power.
Another major advantage of going solar is net metering. Most Australian states have robust net metering support and regulations. This means that consumers can feed excessive energy back into the grid instead of letting it go to waste. This is an excellent way to save money on bills, but not only that, should a consumer expand their solar energy system enough, net metering makes for an excellent and viable source of supplementary income. Going solar can easily save you over $1000 per year in energy bills. Studies have found that in California, for instance, consumers save $99,181 on average, throughout the lifespan of their solar PV system. Australian customers can expect to save as much, if not more, given the sunny disposition of our nation.
2. Protect Yourself Against Fluctuations in Energy Prices
Power hikes and electricity fluctuations are a major cause for concern not only in Australia, but all over the world. Protecting yourself from constant energy hikes through solar energy is one of the best financial investments that you can make. Modern solar panels last well over thirty years, and the really good ones, like Aleo, Jolywood and RECOM, can hold 80% of their efficiency well over twenty-five years. As it stands, Australian electricity prices are some of the lowest in the world, according to a new analysis by the Australian Energy Council (AEC). Using statistics from various watchdogs, the AEC determined that an average Australian household spent $1434 per annum on electricity in 2020-2021, which was $128, or 8%, lower than 2018-1019. Among the world’s advanced economies, Australians were paying the 10th lowest rate for every unit of electricity used. But wait a minute, if it is all roses and sunshine, and if Australian energy prices are projected to drop further, why do customers need solar panels? Well, the answer to this is simple. Energy prices in Australia are only dropping because of renewable energy, primarily solar. Solar panels have, in recent years, flooded the Australian market with clean, renewable and environmentally friendly electricity. Dropping costs of solar panels and widespread adoption of PV technology have greatly contributed to the reduction in power prices. However, this is not the only reason. Power prices have also dropped because of the immense competition that comes with increased renewables flooding the market. Coal plants, for example, have been forced to reduce prices to remain competitive, which has translated to lower bills. Furthermore, Australia’s transmission and distribution networks have also improved after years of heavy investment earlier this century.
However, as good as this sounds, this is not going to last. We can expect energy prices to begin to rise again as coal-fired plants begin to shut down and are run out of business because of their bad economics. As a result, solar and wind energy are going to step in and take the lion’s share of energy generation. A side effect of this (we will look at this in more detail later on) is that both these sources of energy are intermittent at best. Wind and solar energy will have to provide back-up or “firming” services to ensure that energy supply remains constant and does not dwindle. Demand has to be met even when the sunshine and wind speed are less than ideal. In a similar vein, the network will need to be upgraded in the future as well, to accommodate the increasing supply of solar energy and increasing demand for this energy from electric vehicles. This will lead to increases in power prices, and the best way to protect yourself from them is by going solar.
So, in conclusion:
- Solar energy will help keep power prices on their downward trend. Together, we can greatly reduce the price of power by installing as many solar PV systems as possible.
- Even when the prices inevitably do begin to increase, you can protect yourself y relying as much as possible on your own solar PV systems.
- Solar power will not only keep the downward trend of energy prices, but it will also help keep your power cheap when the national prices inevitably rise.
- As far as long-term investments go, solar energy is the best one you can make.
3. Solar Power is More Affordable than Ever
This might seem a bit out of touch to say, but it is as true today as it was in 2019. Solar energy is cheaper than ever, and while it is getting expensive because of supply chain problems and increase in the prices of rare earth materials, this price hike is most likely a temporary phenomenon. By 2023, industry experts expect the prices of solar PV modules to begin reducing again. And even for this year (2022) the prices of solar panels are only as high as they were in 2019. Solar energy systems were viable then, and they are viable now. Suffice it to say, solar energy is the most affordable and lowest cost option for energy independence and sustainable electricity. This is true today and it will be even better post 2023. As it stands, there is no alternative or conventional source of energy that integrates longevity, sustainability and affordability like solar energy does.
In the past decade, solar energy systems have shed 70% of their price, and the quality and efficiency of these systems have been improving rapidly. As a result, solar panels are more accessible to homeowners than ever before. Installing solar panels in Australia is even more affordable when you take into consideration the sheer number of rebates and financing options available.
4. Solar Panels Offer a Tangible Return on Investment
Solar panels are not only good for cutting down electricity bills, they can also be a viable source of income for their owners. Through net metering, customers can earn money by selling excess power. Depending on where you live and on the size of your system, solar panels can help you earn hundreds of dollars per annum. In Australia, solar PV systems can pay for themselves from anywhere between three to five years, depending on the price and rebates available. Once the system has paid for itself, for the remainder of its life, it will generate free energy for your home.
5. Solar Panels are Environmentally Friendly
Aside from savings and affordability, being environmentally friendly is one of the major selling points for solar panels. Solar panels are a source of renewable energy. This means that once they use their source of energy (sunlight) it will not diminish or deplete the source. As you know, sunlight is, for all intents and purposes, unlimited. There is no way we can possibly use all the sunlight available to us. And the sun will always shine the next morning.
Another positive is that solar energy does not produce any greenhouse gases or pollutants. The only output is clean energy.
6. Solar Panels are Your Road to Energy Independence
Solar panels allow homeowners to create their own energy. This gives them independence from the national grid and all its potential failings. A solar home is not dependent on the traditional grid. Homeowners can take their electricity and power in tot their own hands and control the source, amount, input and output of their electricity. This is an unprecedented level of independence and has the ability to make Australia free of external energy imports. The implications for not only individual homes, but also for national security and the national economy are tremendous.
Challenges to Solar Energy
Solar energy is, pardon the pun, not all roses and sunshine. Well, technically it is all sunshine, but maybe not all roses. There are some serious challenges that may put people off solar energy unless addressed up front. We are going to do our best to address these problems and get ahead of them. In the interest of transparency, we need our customers to know what challenges they can expect and how they can be better prepared for them.
1. Solar Energy has a Relatively High Upfront Cost
This is without a doubt one of the biggest challenges to going solar. The upfront cost of solar panels is massive and downright unaffordable for many households. This huge price of admission can put many people off purchasing solar panels. Even with a whopping 70% decrease in price, this is still a major obstacle. Also, the actual cost of a solar PV system will vary from state to state, and so getting a quote online is not ideal.
The solution to getting price quotes is a simple phone call or message. You can call a national or local supplier to get a quick quote on what a PV system will cost in your area. The other way to mitigate prices is through rebates and incentives. The solar industry is heavily dependent on solar rebates and financing options. Fortunately for Australian residents, every state has very worthwhile and financially sound rebates and financing options available for you to take advantage of. If you are o the bench about solar energy because of the high up-front cost, don’t fret. Everyone has been there. Just pick up the phone, give us a call with no prior sales commitment and have a conversation with us about what works best for you. We’ll find the best rebates available in your region and have your PV system up and running in an affordable and cost-effective manner.
2. Solar Energy is Intermittent at Best and Unreliable at Worst
Here are some major considerations that homeowners need to keep in mind when installing solar panels. Solar energy is an intermittent source of energy at best, and at worst it is downright unreliable. Here’s why:
- Let’s start off by playing Captain Obvious. The sun doesn’t shine at night. Solar panels do not generate any energy at night.
- The intensity of solar radiation (aka sunlight) varies not only from season to sea and day to day, but also from hour to hour.
- Clouds, rain, dust, haze, fog or any number of atmospheric conditions can severely dent a solar energy system’s ability to perform.
- Any obstructions like tall buildings, foliage cover, etc can have a negative effect on solar yield. The amount of solar energy produced can drop significantly if the panels are obstructed.
All these factors combined make a compelling surface level argument that solar energy may not be the best investment, and that solar power is not suitable for ‘mission-critical’ appliances. However, this argument is only surface level, as we shall see.
Solar power may be intermittent, but that does not mean that it is unreliable, or that it has to be. One of the biggest advancements in solar technology has taken the shape of improvements in battery systems. Batteries provide exceptional storage and standby capacity for any solar PV system, and they are extremely cost effective now. Batteries allow homeowners to store solar power at peak hours and then use it later on at night or when the output is suboptimal because of clouds or incremental weather. Battery options are getting more cost effective with time and serve as an excellent solution to the intermittent nature of solar power.
3. Manufacturing Solar Panels May not be Environmentally Friendly
Solar energy is emissions free and renewable. This is an established fact. Nevertheless, it is also true that there is pollution associated with manufacturing solar panels. Solar panels contain harmful pollutants like sulphur hexafluoride, which is far more potent than carbon dioxide.
Nevertheless, it is also true that the impact of solar panels on the environment is negligible compared to the damage being caused by burning fossil fuels. Climate change is our generation’s greatest challenge, and our future generations will judge us on our ability, or inability, to mend this self-inflicted wound. As it stands, extracting the materials needed and manufacturing solar panels is far, far less harmful for the environment than continuing down the course we are at. Solar panels are actually better for the environment than wind power, because they are much more affordable, and much less obtrusive. Wind farms are known to disrupt the migratory patterns of insects and birds. Solar panels do no such thing. They are affordable, far less damaging to the environment than their alternatives, and unobtrusive.
There is also a growing concern that solar panels will result in the heating up of urban environments. While this is true, there are natural and easy remedies to this problem. Surrounding commercial rooftop panels with plants, for instance, has proven to be an excellent way to reduce ambient temperature and increase the efficiency of solar panels. Increasing the number of greenbelts in an area can help counter the increase in heat emission, and this will only have the added benefit of increasing solar efficiency. So, as you can see, there are many ways to counter any of the impacts that solar energy will have on the environment. The same is not true for other sources of energy.
4. Solar Panels Require a Dedicated Amount of Space
Solar panels require a dedicated amount of horizontal space to work properly. For homeowners, this usually is not a problem, as they can just install them on their roofs. It can become an issue when you consider solar panels for commercial use, or when homeowners decide that they need more panels. Remember that every part of a roof is not idea for solar panel placement, and so space may quickly become an issue.
Space is a problem because solar panels have a lower power density in comparison to other sources of energy. Power density is the amount of power that can be derived in a given area from a certain energy source. For solar panels, this is measured in watts per square metre (W/m2). Compared to fossil fuels, solar energy has a low power density.
This density problem is overcome by increasing the surface level of exposure. Meaning that to produce the same amount of energy as a coal plant, a solar farm would need a much larger surface area.
There is one catch when talking about the space constraints of solar panels. For instance, why do we not consider the acres upon acres of land that have been absolutely ruined to mine coal when considering its space? So yes, solar farms may need a larger area, but they most certainly do not need nearly as much space as coal mines or oil rigs do. Nor is the production process for solar PV systems as invasive as fossil fuel extraction, refinement and use. For homeowners, if your roof runs out (which is highly unlikely) there are always extra spaces where you can install solar panels. Solar panels can be installed on sheds, car parks, rooftops, and any other space that would otherwise not have been used. This is one of the biggest advantages of solar energy.
5. Solar Panels are a Long Term and Static Investment
Solar Panels are a very long-term investment. They can take from three to five years to pay off and will last over thirty years. Buying a solar PV system is a big commitment and a very long lasting one at that. This can cause a problem for homeowners who decide that they want to move or sell their house later down the line. Moving these expensive panels is not going to be easy or cheap. And if they are damaged during the process, your company may not cover them in the warranty. Therefore, a case can be made, albeit a weak one, that perhaps homeowners who plan on selling out or moving should reconsider solar power.
Nevertheless, there is a flip side to this. Sure, solar panels are difficult to move, but perhaps you should not be considering moving them? Homeowners should consider the fact that a solar PV system adds value to your property. Not only do houses with solar panels sell much faster, they also sell at a higher value. The cost of your solar panels can be recuperated in the value of your house!
One thing to consider is that if you do plan to move, you might want to consider buying a PV system outright instead of financing one. Transferring the lease, though entirely possible, just adds another layer of complexity to your sale that a customer may not appreciate. But that aside, solar panels actually work better for you if you plan to move or sell your house.
Concluding Thoughts: Should You Go Solar?
The pros of going solar far outweigh the cons. The only downsides that solar energy does have can be mitigated with a bit of planning, forethought and investment. In the long term, solar panels are very much worth every cent you invest in them. Not only are they better for the environment, but they are also better for the national economy in the long run.