Introduction: The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy and the Uses of Solar Energy
When it comes to using the energy of the sun to power our modern-day civilization, there are a number of advantages and disadvantages of solar energy that we should take into consideration.
Industrial and post-industrial societies need lots of power, and with the rise of the digital age, energy consumption will only continue to increase despite the massive increases in energy efficiency.
One way to offset the increases in energy use is through finding and taking advantage of the different uses of solar energy. While the solar energy benefits are widely known due to an increased awareness of the dangers related to global warming and climate change, the wide range of uses of solar energy are still relatively unknown.
In this brief article, AdvisoryHQ will look at the overall advantages and disadvantages of solar energy.
We will begin by explaining what solar energy is and what is the current use of solar energy. We will then turn our attention to possible solar energy uses that are being developed for the future.
Next, we look at some of the ecological and social advantages and benefits of solar energy. To end, we will explore some of the solar energy advantages and some of the solar energy disadvantages from the perspective of the consumer and the producer.
What Is Solar Energy and What Is the Current Use of Solar Energy?
Solar energy uses the energy from the sun to create electricity and power. The sun is the most powerful and constant source of energy pouring through our atmosphere and easily offers the most abundant energy source for our civilization.
Why don’t we use the sun for our energy needs? One of the biggest solar energy disadvantages is that the development of technologies to capture, store, and use that energy has been slow.
Image source: Pixabay
The most obvious of the benefits of solar energy is that it is a renewable resource. Our sun will continue to burn and produce energy for several billion years, and the amount of energy that it offers is constant and more than enough to power our industrial lifestyle.
A couple of decades ago, however, the technologies that we had available to us were extremely inefficient and weren’t able to translate the sun’s energy in an economical and efficient manner.
As solar energy benefits and solar energy advantages have become more and more obvious in recent years, however, more money and time has been dedicated to research and development in new, more efficient technologies.
The solar energy uses have long been used by even our primitive ancestors for a number of uses. According to Wikipedia, as it currently stands, our civilization has the following uses of solar energy:
- As heat for making hot water, heating buildings, and cooking
- To generate electricity with solar cells or heat engines
- To take the salt away from sea water
- To use sun rays for drying clothes and towels
Image Source: Add Star Power
Possible Solar Energy Uses for the Future
Since technology is continually evolving, however, there are a number of other solar energy uses on the horizon. As people continue to consider the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy and the potential benefits of solar energy, more technological innovations will continue to come forth.
Jeremy Rifkin is the visionary author of the book entitled “The Third Industrial Revolution.” Rifkin believes that as the benefits of solar energy and the solar energy advantages become more and more apparent (and necessary), the ability to produce mass amounts of electricity through household generation will essentially decentralize the production of electricity.
According to his website, the benefits of solar energy and the wide array of uses of solar energy will show “how Internet technology and renewable energy are merging to create a powerful ‘Third Industrial Revolution.’”
He asks us to imagine hundreds of millions of people producing their own green energy in their homes, offices, and factories, and sharing it with each other in an “‘energy internet,’ just like we now create and share information online.”
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Imagine neighborhoods full of homes and rooftops filled with ultra efficient solar panels producing an excess of energy. One of the potential benefits of solar energy in the future would be that these homes would be connected to a grid (like the internet), allowing people to share and sell their excess energy to their neighbors, local industries, and the like.
While there are plenty of advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, this possible scenario shows the potential for the uses of solar energy in the future. Furthermore, many solar energy developers have looked into developing solar roof tiles and even solar roads.
While we’re still at the stage where it is advantageous to consider the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy, we should all realize that the benefits of solar energy and the potential uses of solar energy will continue to grow in the immediate future.
The Ecological Benefits of Solar Energy
One of the most advantageous aspects of the use of solar energy is that it is a renewable resource. While our industrial civilization has been built on the burning of fossil fuels, there are two major problems with that energy source.
Firstly, fossil fuels such as coal and oil are not renewable energy sources. Many experts believe that we may have already reached peak oil, meaning that the discovery and production of oil will only continue to go down in the foreseeable future until there simply isn’t any left.
In comparison, one of the solar energy benefits is that the light and energy from the sun is renewable, at least for a couple million more years.
Secondly, the burning of fossil fuels to power our modern lifestyle is one of the main causes of global climate change and global warming. Virtually all scientist are in agreement that burning fossil fuels releases large amounts of greenhouse gases, like carbon dioxide, that get trapped in our atmosphere and are leading to a change in our climate.
One of the most important solar energy benefits or solar energy advantages is that the energy from the sun does not contaminate nor contribute to global warming. As global warming continues to become a serious threat to our civilization and our survival, finding more and more uses of solar energy will be an urgent need.
Image Source: NRDC
An Overview of Solar Energy Advantages
One of the biggest solar energy advantages is that there are so many solar energy uses. All of us might have seen solar panels on top of one of our neighbor’s homes, but you can also take advantage of the benefits of solar energy with relatively simple and easy-to-use and install technologies.
A solar water heater can be made by yourself or purchased relatively inexpensively. These contraptions simply catch the light and heat from the sun to heat the water of your home.
Passive solar design is another easy way to take advantage of the benefits of solar energy. By angling your home toward the sun (south in the northern hemisphere) and building large windows in the south-facing wall, your home will “suck up” the light and heat from the sun.
By incorporating earthen flooring options, the heat from the sun will get trapped in these earthen masses and essentially release heat into your home over long periods of time.
Another simple way to take advantage of the benefits of solar energy is through building skylights into your home. The light from the sun is free and plentiful and you can save a ton of energy by simply finding ways to let the light into your home.
An Overview of Solar Energy Disadvantages
Despite the numerous solar energy advantages, there are a number of solar energy disadvantages that we need to take into account. One of the most commonly heard solar energy disadvantages is related to the cost of generating enough energy through solar panels.
According to the University of Minnesota, “even today’s most efficient solar cells only convert just over 20% of the sun’s rays to electricity. With increased advances in solar cell technology this number is likely to increase. Besides their low conversion efficiency, solar panels can be a substantial initial investment.
However, the cost of solar panels incurred is only the initial cost, after buying and installation they create free energy for use.”
While there is a legitimate concern regarding the initial price of solar energy, most of these solar energy disadvantages will be improved upon and become more efficient. Nonetheless, depending on your current financial situation, considering the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy from an investment standpoint might be a necessary consideration.
Conclusion – The Uses of Solar Energy and the Benefits of Solar Energy for a Better Future
Our civilization will continue to need large amounts of energy and power to help us continue to develop and progress in the coming decades. At the same time, we also need to radically transform the types of energy we are using to depend less on fossil fuel energies. The benefits of solar energy are too important to be ignored.
While the high initial cost of solar energy might very well be an issue for many people, almost all experts agree that the cost of solar energy will continue to drop in coming years. Furthermore, the uses of solar energy will continue to diversify so that they become an even larger and more important part of our society.
Once you are convinced of the benefits of solar energy and the wide array of solar energy uses, making the switch to solar power doesn’t only make sense economically, but it will also be an important contribution to the creation of a more sustainable and environmentally-friendly society.
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