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Considering both solar thermal energy conversion to electrical energy and photovoltaic, the following are some disadvantages and how they are being resolved:
1) Solar energy is only available during daytime and the effects of climatic changes or geographical location are a big concern. Solar energy availability during the day only is a hard fact and probably a trade-off considering solar power is freely available to everyone. Power producing plants adjust to this fact by utilizing solar thermal energy during peak or non-peak hours of the day depending on weather conditions and power demand. Another option is a provision of thermal storage for utilization during night time or peak/non-peak hours of the day.
2) Energy conversion rates or efficiencies are low compared to other energy sources. Low energy conversion rates to electrical energy in both solar thermal and photovoltaics are being addressed by increasingly stronger research and development activities of key companies to eventually come-up with highly efficient materials and cost-centric solar energy systems or facilities. Other than going towards highly efficient solar cell materials, another approach in mitigating this low efficiency issue is by developing solar applications that would require less power. Also, another way would be to increase efficiency in solar energy storage using highly efficient batteries. Ideally, these efficiency-increasing as well as cost-reducing opportunities should be combined to achieve optimum results in the use of solar energy.
3) High capital cost requirements for the procurement or production of materials and installation of solar energy systems or facilities. This high capital cost requirement is being offset by the following:
a) Usage of cheap barren lands not frequently affected by climatic changes and that typically have sunny weather conditions throughout the year, and new architectural designs of solar energy facilities and houses to incorporate solar panels in the case of photovoltaic. Stationary or fixed facilities are suitable to adopt solar panels with acceptable architectural taste in its designs. With the advancement in technology, solar panel installations would become less troublesome now these days.
b) Reduced operating costs given the fact that solar power is free. The only limiting factor is that though solar energy is free, the availability is limited by half a day or less aside from climatic-related issues that prevent peak power generation. Also, since conversion efficiency is low, means that more solar modules need to be installed to increase more available power.
c) Reduced harmful effects to the environment (reduced carbon emissions) as compared to using other sources of energy like crude oil. Undoubtedly, we can say that solar power generation is environmentally friendly- no worries about carbon emissions. Also, solar panel installations don’t require much stringent prerequisites or requirements. The only critical concern would be in achieving optimum power for photovoltaic which would require a good tracking mechanism to achieve the correct position with respect to sunlight direction as the sun moves from east to west. The more automated is the tracking mechanism, the more efficient is the installed system. Since there are no major complications, troubleshooting and preventive maintenance measures would not be highly difficult. Potential issues that eventually might arise would be damages caused by natural phenomena or perhaps man-made accidents.
d) Reduced dependency on imported crude oil. The most critical issue with crude oil dependency is when oil prices fluctuate, thereby affecting a majority of global economic markets. So, with the availability of electrical energy coming from renewable energies like that of solar energy, a certain dependency to imported crude oil is reduced. Solar energy applications however, have limitations. The challenge lies on determining which applications need to maximize to achieve potential savings or reduced costs.
Also, recent developments show that some key companies increased their manufacturing capabilities of solar panels. This will eventually pull down the cost per unit of producing highly efficient silicon photovoltaics. Solar panel producing companies increase production as demand increase. As technology becomes more complicated, solar energy applications further widens its scope of use.
Regardless of how difficult it is for these key companies to produce solar energy or other forms of renewable energies, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages. Researchers must hurry to develop solar power further as the world waits for the big thing to come in the energy revolution.
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U.S. Department of Energy Solar Energy Technologies Program, http://www1.eere.energy.gov/solar/.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/solar.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/energy.
Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary, http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/photovoltaic.
U.S. Department of Energy ENERGY.GOV, http://www.energy.gov/energysources/oil.htm.