Misunderstanding of solar energy

Aug. 09, 2023

The benefits of solar energy are unquestionable. As a renewable energy source, once solar power generation facilities are installed, it can save energy expenditures for individuals, businesses, and society, mitigate climate change, and protect the ecological environment. Although solar energy is a very beneficial renewable energy source, there are also some misunderstandings in the process of popularization and use.

Many people believe that solar energy is only suitable for specific regions, which can generate electricity in areas with high temperatures or high illuminance. However, solar panels do not require high temperatures or high illuminance to generate electricity.Although direct sunlight produces the greatest amount of energy, even on cloudy and rainy days, solar panels can still extract energy from scattered sunlight and generate a certain amount of electricity.The efficiency of solar panels continues to improve, coupled with the coordination of energy storage lithium batteries. Although the intensity and availability of solar energy resources vary in different regions, as a global energy resource, through reasonable planning and technological choices, solar energy is a feasible energy choice in most regions, playing a role in different climate conditions around the world.

12V solar panel

Some people believe that solar panels are not economical enough. Although the initial investment in solar panels is relatively high, with the progress of technology and the increase of economies of scale, the cost of solar panels gradually decreases. And once installed, the operating cost is very low, and the investment can be recovered within decades.

I think one of the biggest flaws in logic a lot of people have is acting like only one kind of green energy (usually specifically renewables) is best for both cost and the environment. Studies have shown that the best way to get the most green energy for the lowest cost and environmental impact is to have a combination of solar, wind, nuclear, hydro, and battery storage. We could get so much farther if we stopped treating it like a competition between energy sources and used them together.

For example, the cooperation between wind and solar energy significantly increases energy production to meet the needs of high energy consumption periods. And it can generate electricity day and night, reducing energy fluctuations and reducing the instability of the energy system. If combined with an energy storage system, it will be able to stably provide clean energy.

solar power system

Kela plant in Sichuan is part of a huge renewable production base planned by the Chinese government.This technology solves the safe connection of solar power with the grid and prevents wastage, addressing solar power’s inherent dependence on the weatherThe plant is part of a huge renewable production base planned by the Chinese government to eventually generate clean energy for 100 million households – almost equal to the US population – for the length of the 1,500km-long river.

Many people believe that there are many ways to reduce carbon emissions, and it is not important to replace traditional energy with new energy sources. It would be helpful to compare solar cells with respect to conventional energy for other variables than CO2 emission. There are about 10 million death yearly from air pollution, mainly from burning coal. The amount of toxic waste that coal burning produces is staggering. Over 400 million tons of fly ash is produced yearly, of which only one third is reused. The rest is dumped in land fills or ash ponds. Fly ash contains a lot of toxic heavy metals. Fly ash can even contain as much nuclear waste per kWh produced as the nuclear waste produced by a nuclear power plant. The radioactive waste from coal is dumped, while that of nuclear power plants is contained and stored. Than we have the enormous amount of mining, the oil spills,  the gas flaring en methane leakages, the water polution by fracking, the domestic polution of burning fossil fuel for cooking, etc... We have to consider all these things when comparing to renewables.  Not only the CO2 emissions.It's more about the environment and ourselvesThe benefits of solar energy are unquestionable.

Overall, understanding and correcting these misconceptions about solar energy can help promote and apply solar technology better, and promote the development of sustainable energy.

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