The current year of 2020, could be considered a breakthrough year in the field of renewable energies.
Solar energy, in particular, has seen a lot of advancement as a whole, since it’s now easier than ever to acquire solar panels, set them up and harness electricity from the sunlight.
But just how beneficial is using this type of energy, not just for the planet, but for ourselves?
And most importantly, can it really become a replacement for fossil fuels altogether?
The short answers is– very beneficial and yes, it can.
The long answer is –a little more nuanced than that, let me elaborate.
When you think about it closely, it makes perfect sense that solar energy is growing in popularity each passing day, since it’s a concept that is simple to grasp and that anyone can get behind for plenty of reasons besides the better-known benefits of using “green” energy.
After all, nothing is more convenient than having all the electricity you consume be generated by that huge star that illuminates us by day and that gives life to all of the living creatures on the planet.
In that order of ideas, I present to you the 7 main reasons why you should consider going solar.
1. It’s Cheaper Than You Think
The big problem with renewable energies in the past has always been the same problem associated with new technologies, the cost of producing it.
In fact, many governments have a history of subsidizing the research and development of new options to replace fossil fuels, but things are starting to change.
Many developed countries are either reducing their subsidies to all of the renewable energy programs and in Europe, these are stopping altogether.
It seems counter-intuitive until you realize that the costs of production of Solar energy especially have fallen 85% since 2010 becoming considerably cheaper than the highly contaminant coal production, which is currently the most used type of energy source in the world.
With this in mind, it’s expected that by the year 2025 the green energies, led by solar, start to outperform the coal industry as a whole, in the relation price/energy produced, even accounting for the set-up of new turbines and panels.
This means that even though there is still quite a long ride to take before we can to completely replace fossil fuels, a trend is starting to set towards the use of renewables and solar energy is at the top of this curve both in popularity and cost-efficiency.
2. As Clean As You Can Get
Fossil fuels have many disadvantages in this aspect as well.
Not only is extracting them very expensive, but the methods of transporting them are prone to leaking hazardous materials and while these don’t seem to be a problem for the result, we all have constant energy available to us after all, they pose a serious threat to both the people working in these areas and the environment as a whole.
Fossil fuels not only emit Carbon Dioxide, but they also produce Methane which has 32 times more warming potential and this gas particularly is produced in its majority during oil extraction, especially if fracking, and during natural gas leaks when it’s transporting through the pipeline.
Compare to that, while the manufacturing of Solar panels still requires hazardous materials they’re essentially risk-free as long as they’re handled with care.
Once the panels are built, they can be easily transported free of risk of any kind of emission during the process which makes them cleaner and safer for workers.
And as if that wasn’t enough, the industry by its very nature encourages recycling of panels due to the rarity and high value of the materials involved in building the panels themselves.
The cherry on top of the cake is the fact that panels do not emit greenhouse gases during the actual electricity-generating phase which is what makes them viable for long term, clean energy production.
When compared side by side, we can note that Solar Energy is easily better for everyone involved in the process of producing it.
3. Your Lungs Will Thank You
As we just established, fossil fuels imply leaks during transportation.
Some of these hazardous substances such as methane, arsenic and other derivatives of heavy metals bring serious health risks to everyone unlucky enough to be exposed to contaminants and it’s not limited to the people working near them.
For example, families living near gas pipes, or anyone living close to an oil pit that’s being exploited through fracking is at risk and even if you live far from these types of places, you still have the risk of consuming poisoned resources like water.
And the health damage is not light either, we’re talking about afflictions ranging from heart decease, strokes, cancer, lung diseases like chronic bronchitis to birth defects on newborn children, damage to the kidneys, and the list goes on.
But the extraction and transportation aren’t the only activities that produce these risks.
Air pollution is another factor to take into consideration.
Currently, there are cities like Beijing and Santiago de Chile that are filled with smog, in which the risk of being hospitalized for pneumonia due to exposure is ever so high.
In Canada, a study shows that older adults are already suffering the consequences of pollution-related pneumonia facing up to double the risk of being hospitalized due to Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) exposure, this being one of the many polluting agents found in smog.
Meanwhile, Solar Panels emit a minimum amount of gases.
A widespread use of them would ensure a gradual decrease in the total emission of hazardous materials into the air, which would benefit everyone in the long run.
As for Carbon Dioxide (CO2), while Solar Panels still have emissions of it, these are at worse 3 times less than the emissions caused by conventional fossil fuels.
4. You Won’t Believe How Efficient It Is
Solar panels are very reliable at the moment of generating energy, gathering solar power and turning around 18% to 22% of it into usable AC energy per panel, meaning that a big array of panels will have increased efficiency, especially if the weather conditions are favorable.
Besides, more modern panels are tested for resistance to wind, ice, snow, and other environmental factors so they interfere as little as possible during the energy process.
Essentially, the more panels you have, positioned optimally on your roof, on a favorable day will be more efficient than standard grid electricity, which has losses of power the longer the distance the electricity has to travel, this makes solar energy more reliable.
Also, the cost of maintenance of panels is of around 300 to 500 dollars, pretty cheap considering that they should be checked every 12 months or so, depending on weather conditions and other variables.
5. You Won’t Believe The Number Of Uses
Now, we can start talking about the fun and interesting stuff, and there is plenty to be said in that regard as well.
Turns out that solar panels are not just for roofs and with enough imagination and engineering, they can be applied to anything from small and simple torchlights to very complex irrigation systems for your garden.
Yes, modern Solar panels are as versatile as they can get, allowing you to replace not just fossil fuels, but even batteries and other contaminant energy sources.
And while these uses may seem obvious, the truth is you can apply them to pretty much anything that requires electricity, yes even security cameras or your next Christmas decorations.
6. There Is Still Room For Improvement
If you think that classic solar panels are the only type, then you would be wrong.
For example, one of the most recent breakthroughs in the solar energy field was the development of Solar Cell Fabric, yes, fabric.
As you would expect, these are malleable, stretch resistant, panels that can be adhered to clothing, carpets, blinds and anything else made of fabric.
This gives even more versatility and potential to solar panel use.
It also makes them more durable because the classic panels are rigid, glass structures that could be easily broken by hard objects thrown at them.
Not enough with that, many other innovations being researched.
Another one of these would be the hairy solar panels, which are essentially nanowires with more capacity of energy absorption than silicon which could lead to up to 40% efficiency, on tiny strings of gallium arsenide cables.
Yes, indeed, many of these new solar technologies are pretty much in their infancy but the fact that these tech is being researched and developed as I write this gives us hope that the future is going to be at least partially solar, if not completely.
7. You Can Start Right Now
The saying goes something like this “be the change you want to see in the world”.
We all want a better future, for ourselves and our children, and the best way to start is by doing something that will help ensure our sick planet survives.
Amidst all the imbalances that climate change is bringing to the world like unprecedented heat in Germany to dangerously low temperatures in some of the US’ most prominent cities, it’s clear that a change is urgently needed in our societies and the way we produce electricity to supply our needs.
The good news is that the solar alternative also has a low barrier to entry.
On one side, while the installation of Solar Panels themselves are best to be left to professional electricians, the costs of setting them up is relatively cheap, with plenty of options for the material of the panels, area to be covered, etc.
That will give you a personalized cost depending on your own needs.
On the other side, many of the parts of the installation process can be made by anyone skilled enough with electric circuits.
The more you can do yourself, the cheaper the final installation cost will be.
It will also depend on which company you choose to be the installer of your new equipment and it’s worth noting that usually, the most recognizable brands are the most expensive ones yet not necessarily the best option if what you need is a small to mid-size home installation.
And honestly, that is all you need to know when it comes to installing solar panels in your home and as you can see it’s not as complex as one might originally think.
After all of that’s been said, one thing is clear.
Sustainable solar energy is a reality, and it’sn’t going any time soon.
All evidence shows that one way or the other, at least some part, an important part, of the future of energy is going to be solar since it’s cheap to install and maintain, less hazardous overall and simple to understand and use.
Now the only thing that’s left to ask yourself is “Do I want to join the energy revolution now?”
Changes like this tend to be gradual, meaning that we’re not going to wake up tomorrow and have all the electricity be green.
It takes time and most importantly, it takes the effort of all of us as individuals to start adopting the ways of the future.
And yes, skepticism is always understandable because it’s also a reality that solar energy just recently started to become a truly viable method of energy production and there is a lot of room for improvements to be made.
But if humanity is to advance to more sustainable methods of producing electricity, it will need of us all to contribute to the standardization of viable alternatives and right now solar is the most convenient and efficient source available.
For instance, it’s safe to say that the biggest benefit of using direct solar energy is that it will allow you to be at the vanguard of an unstoppable trend that will benefit all of humanity in the near future while being directly beneficial for your individual needs.
So what are you waiting for?
These next following years are going to be decisive for the future of energy and while nothing is set on stone, odds are we will be seeing a takeover of the energies of the future soon.