Why is Solar Power so Expensive?
Jan 29 2016 Read 4447 Times
Despite increased competition in the solar power market over recent years (largely due to the influx of cheap Chinese imports), solar power still represents a significant investment in terms of the initial outlay. Government subsidies have helped to make this outlay more bearable over the past few years, but recently announced cuts in this area have prompted mixed reactions about the future of the industry and its popularity.
It’s likely that it is this initial investment and expense which puts off the majority of potential solar power converts. So why is solar power so expensive? Here’s a look at some of the principal reasons.
Despite advances in the technology over the past decade or so, the average solar panel is still far from being efficient. At the moment, the current highest efficiency rate produced by a prototype panel is 42.8%, however in practice, the average amount of the sun’s rays able to be converted into electricity rests closer to around 25%.
This means that a vast amount of solar energy is going to waste. Of course, scientists are constantly working on innovative new ways of producing solar power in a bid to increase efficiency, and there are some promising projects in the pipeline, including perovskite solar. As things stand, however, solar is simply too inefficient to be any more affordable.
Investment vs Pay-off
Currently, solar panel systems must be installed onto existing buildings, rather than being incorporated into the construction process. This entails additional charges due to the extra labour and materials needed to undertake the project. Though solar shingles have been touted as one potential alternative to this problem, the fact remains that households generally require a significant investment before they see any return.
Of course, over time, monthly bills will be significantly reduced and the panels will pay for themselves eventually. However, how long this takes will depend entirely on each individual household’s circumstances. Depending on the efficiency of their panels, the amount of sunlight they receive each day and their homes’ typical energy consumption, it could be a matter of months, years or decades before the panels become a cost-effective solution, thus making them unattractive to many prospective converts.
Location, Location, Location
Finally, a solar panel is only as good as the environment in which it is placed. If you live in a part of the country where the sun refuses to shine for prolonged periods of time (as it does in an unfortunately large proportion of the British Isles), the panels simply won’t receive enough sunlight to generate the requisite amount of energy to heat, light and power your home.
Similarly, the exact geographical position of your home will have a direct effect on the cost of the panels. If surrounding buildings or landmarks cast a lot of shade on your roof (a particular concern in urban environments), you will need an increased number of panels to compensate – which obviously entails higher costs.
Even factors such as wind can play a part – after all, if dust and dirt is displaced by frequent gusts of wind onto your panels, their efficiency will be greatly compromised. This means you will generate less electricity and will still have to rely on the grid for the majority of your energy needs.
As such, it’s important to take all of these factors into consideration before making the jump to solar energy.
Image Source: Michael Mazengarb
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