The Pros and Cons of Solar Energy

Telling the power company to switch generating technologies is easy. After all, it’s someone else’s money! But choosing an alternative power source for your own home is hard. This post lists the pros and cons of solar energy.

Solar Energy Cons first…

1. Nerdy
Solar power is nerdy and complicated. First, you have to figure out if it’s worthwhile — do you have the roof area you need, and is it facing the right way? Then you have to pick a panel supplier, which means choosing between amorphuous silicon and cadmium telluride. And there’s all the extra wiring and grid tie inverters and power controlslers and who knows what else.

2. Expensive
You know those $300 solar kits you see at the DIY shop? They’re toys. A real solar installation that will power your lights and fridge will cost $5000 min. Who has that kind of money these days?

3. Slow payback
How big was last year’s power bill? Less than $5000? A lot less? So, how many years before your installation pays for itself?

4. Moving target
They tell us panels are getting better all the time. They also tell us that panels last 20 years. That’s just great. How are you going to feel in 12 years’ time when you’ve got a big museum piece on your roof?

And now the pros of solar…

1. Proven
People have been running solar installations since the early 70s. The big panel companies can give you accurate stats on how much power your installation will generate, and they will give you a guarantee on the performance of their panels and supporting electrics. When you buy solar, you know exactly what you’re getting into.

2. Small is OK
Maybe a full solar installation is just too expensive? OK, but you can still do something useful on a small scale, even if it’s just some yard lights.

3. Money back
Taking the plunge with a full-scale installation? You don’t have to buy panels outright. Many solar companies will offer leases of one kind or another. If you don’t like the thought of having someone else’s equipment on your roof, you can still get grants and subsidies against your purchase money. And in many states you can sell surplus power back to the grid!

4. Time to relax!
Solar panels take years to pay for themselves, and the technology is advancing all the time. Think of those panels as a 10- or 20- year investment. You’ll be in profit for much of that time and, with a solar home up and running, you’ll be well-placed for any new advances. And you won’t have to wince every time power charges go up!

Of course, the solar game really takes off when people start designing new houses around the technology. But adding panels to your present home is a pretty good start…