According to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar power is the cleanest and most abundant renewable energy resource available to us. It is energy which comes from the sun and is covered into either electrical of thermal energy. To capture this energy resource on a m ass scale, a solar farm utilizes active-capture systems to create a central station that is similar to a traditional power plant.
The goal of using solar energy is to reduce, if not eventually eliminate, our dependence on fossil fuel resources. We might run out of oil or natural gas one day. If we run out of sunlight, then life on our planet would change dramatically.
Here are the key pros and cons of solar farms to consider.
List of the Pros of Solar Farms
1. They take advantage of a reliable energy resource.
As far as we know, the sun is not going anywhere any time soon. Our best estimates place the current lifespan of the sun at several billion years. That means we do not need to worry about running out of solar energy, like we do with fossil fuels. Solar energy is the one form of abundant energy that we can use right now. Enough sunlight hits the planet every day to fuel the world’s energy needs, at current consumption levels, for an entire year.
2. Virtually every country can benefit from solar farms.
There are certain locations in every nation that receive more sunlight than others. In the U.S., for example, one might decide that a solar farm in Phoenix is a better idea than a solar farm in Seattle. The bottom line, however, is that the sun shines everywhere on our planet. Although the far north and far south have extended periods of darkness where other energy resources would be required, virtually every country can benefit from the installation of solar farms.
3. Solar farms require very little maintenance.
Once installed, the photovoltaic panels at a solar farm are very easy to maintain. Some farms may use moving parts to maximize sunlight exposure throughout the day and these components may require additional maintenance. From a standard installation, however, once the panels are installed, the occasional cleaning is all that is required to maintain high levels of productivity.
4. Once created and installed, solar farms are a zero-emission energy resource.
It would be a lie to say that solar energy is completely free of emissions that are potential greenhouse gases. Petroleum is often used to create the photovoltaic panels, which means there are emissions released during the processing of the panel. What makes solar different is that it creates a net savings in emissions when compared to other energy resources. You only consume the petroleum products once, which means there is one emissions price to pay. If you continually combust coal or oil for energy, on the other hand, you’re paying an emissions price with every energy generation effort.
5. It allows everyone to benefit from solar power.
In the United States, about 20% of all homes are considered to be unfit for a residential solar panel installation. The reasons can vary, from not having enough space to not receiving enough sunlight every day. By installing a solar farm for a community, the energy collected can be shared with homes that would normally not be able to benefit from solar power. That helps to reduce overall emissions while limiting the number of property modifications that some homeowners would need to do to benefit from this renewable power resource.
6. Solar energy can be used in a variety of ways.
Solar energy can be used to generate electricity wherever it is collected. It can be used to distill water. We are even using solar energy to power satellites in orbit around our planet. When an inverter is installed on battery storage, solar energy can be used for virtually anything that requires power. It is incredibly versatile, which means our lifestyle routines wouldn’t need to change much to incorporate the many benefits that solar farms would be able to provide.
List of the Cons of Solar Farms
1. They take up a lot of space.
Solar farms are large-scale applications of active energy collection, most commonly through the installation of photovoltaic panels. These panels generate electricity, which is then fed into a distribution grid. They are usually developed in rural areas because of the amount of space that is required for them. To generate 1 megawatt, a solar farm would require about 2.5 acres. Most solar farms are 100 acres or less in size. The facility in Kamuthi, Tamil Nadu, has a capacity of 648 megawatts and covers 10 square kilometers.
2. Output levels can be affected by weather conditions.
Solar farms must be installed in regions where there is abundant sunlight available. When cloud cover obscures the sunlight, then energy production becomes limited. Facilities that have excess shade levels are also impacted in a negative way. Without storage capabilities at the solar farm, the actual energy levels being produced at the facility can become inconsistent. That impacts all the homes and businesses which rely on this power source for their daily energy needs.
3. It may impact the local environment in negative ways.
To construct a solar farm, numerous panels must be installed. This alters the landscape in practical and aesthetic ways. The land can no longer be used for anything but power generation. The reflective panels may not be personally attractive to some people. The panels, once installed, can also alter local habitats and affect wildlife in negative ways.
4. Solar farms are expensive to build.
In the United States, the estimated installation cost for a single megawatt of production from a solar farm would be $3 million. That means large-scale projects are often not affordable, especially if the local community is funding the project. A 1-megawatt installation is enough power to provide energy to about 200 homes. There may be some tax subsidies and additional incentives available for some projects, but for the average community, a solar farm has capital expense which fall outside of what their budget is able to handle.
5. Energy storage costs can be expensive.
For solar farms to provide 24/7 energy to homes, some type of storage capacity must be installed with the panels. This capacity stores excess energy that can be distributed during the overnight hours. A battery is one such example of a storage system. According to Energy Sage, the price of solar batteries can range from $400-$750 per kilowatt hour required. The Tesla Powerwall 2.0 is priced at $5,500 and it offers 13.5 kilowatt hours of storage.
These solar farm pros and cons show us that there is a lot of potential with this technology. It may also require extra space and have added costs with it that may be difficult to meet. If we make the investment into solar, however, there is a good chance that future generations will be able to experience a happier and healthier planet.