We know that the sun is an amazing source of clean, non-polluting, renewable and sustainable energy. Solar energy is generated by installing solar energy cells that get charged by the sun’s rays falling on them. Solar panels can be installed on the roofs of buildings or open areas that get plenty of the sun’s light with no shadows interrupting the light.
This energy is then used in much the same way as electricity: for heating, cooking, lighting, and so on. Though solar energy may not completely replace traditional energy needs of our homes just yet, it can at least reduce our electricity consumption and reliance on the grid. It can partly light up or heat up our homes if not completely.
Advantages of solar energy
There are numerous advantages of using solar energy. Here are some of them:
1. No harmful byproducts: Since solar energy has no harmful byproducts, it is one of the cleanest known sources of energy. Also it is free (after the cost of initial installation of solar panels) and always available if you live in a sunny part of the world.
2. Power in distant locations: Solar energy is able to generate power in distant locations that may not be connected to the main electrical grid. So, some of the very remote and undeveloped parts of the world are able to get benefits of solar energy as well as developed areas.
3. Energy can be stored: The development of solar power battery chargers means that solar energy can be stored for later use. This has made it possible for us to use solar power even during night time, whereas earlier its use was restricted to daylight hours.
Challenges in using solar energy
With all of the benefits, how is it that we are still burning coal for generating electricity and that not every building in sunny areas has solar panels perched atop?
1. Initial Cost: This is one of the biggest challenges of harnessing and utilizing solar power. Solar panels are required to be purchased and fitted in order that solar energy can be used. These can be a significant outlay and many panels may be required to generate useful amounts of energy. Further the cleaning, maintenance and replacement of damaged panels could mean recurring costs.
2. Space Constraints: One has to have the kind of space required for installing enough solar panels to generate significant amounts of power. That space has to be in a sufficiently sunny part of the home or building and there should be no obstructions in terms of shadows cast by other buildings, trees and so on.
3. Location Problems: The parts of the world which have sunny climates throughout the year can make greater use of solar energy than colder and cloudier climates. When the sun is out only for some days of the year and then not the entire day, solar panels may not be an effective energy source.
4. Storage Challenges: Though solar power battery chargers have made it possible for solar energy to be used even during the night, storage and portability remain the main challenges of solar power. Unlike conventional electricity it is not yet possible for solar power harnessed in sufficient quantities and to be transported over longer distances.