As our planet runs out of fossil fuels, the main source of energy in the world, we must find a way to harvest our renewable resources. One of the major renewable resources is solar power. Since the sun is not available at night, it is necessary to store the energy so that it is accessible throughout the 24-hour day. A solar power plant may be the solution to our need for a renewable energy source and the storage issue, but there are both advantages and disadvantages to this method of energy production.
One of the major drawbacks of using fossil fuels is that burning them releases pollution into the environment. Some effects of pollution include global warming, acid rain and smog. A major advantage of solar power is that a solar power plant is self-sufficient, running completely off of the power of the sun. As the energy is stored or converted into electricity or heat, it does not release pollutants.
One of the main disadvantages of solar power plants is the extremely high cost of building them. The semi-conductive materials used in storing and converting solar energy have yet to be made as economically as the equipment used in electricity. Also, in order to collect a large amount of energy, many solar panels need to be set up. Since even a single solar panel is expensive, purchasing hundreds or thousands of panels requires a major investment.
After the initial investment, however, the cost of solar power plants is an advantage. After setting up solar panels, there is little maintenance needed, leading to lower costs. Energy from the sun is completely free, and it will stay free for the foreseeable future. Some government agencies are offering financial incentives to companies and individuals who use solar power. For individuals using solar power, solar energy that is not used can be sold back to the utility company.
Solar power plants require a large area of land to efficiently absorb solar energy. These plants are only as effective as the amount of solar energy they can absorb. This means that certain locations where there is less sun are workable for a solar power plant. Areas of the world with high pollution or cloud cover are also not good locations for solar power plants. Some solar power plants may require some use of fossil fuels to power the plant in times of less sun.
- solar powered car image by Yali Shi from Fotolia.com