Dispelling Myths Against Solar Energy

The internet has made information available to anyone in the world today, as long as he is connected. However, with this age of information also comes misinformation. And more often than not, lies and myths are often spread and believed much faster than the truth. As the saying goes: "A lie gets halfway around the world before the truth has a chance to get its pants on." The same is the case with solar energy, most especially because it has only become popular just recently. And with many other groups that are rooting for other energy sources to replace fossil fuels, there has been a lot of motives to discredit solar energy and shift the public's attention away from it.

In this article, we will dispel some of these myths. Myth #1: Solar Energy is Inefficient

Yes, the solar panels that are available in the market today mostly never get to have an efficiency of greater than 20%. Other energy sources however, are very efficient, with coal power plants at around 80% efficiency and nuclear power plants at +90%. But, so what? Efficiency is simply the ratio of output energy to the input energy. However, these different technologies have different fuel sources, which means different inputs. It is like comparing the efficiency of burning wood for heat (70-80%) to the efficiency of an electric heater (very close to 100%). The comparison doesn't make sense because one uses wood for input while one uses electricity.

So, how can we compare these technologies?

A great way to compare these different energy sources is to look at the levelized cost of energy or LCOE. The LCOE is calculated by dividing the total lifetime cost of the system by the total lifetime energy production. This value shows you how cost-effective an energy source is. The lower the LCOE, the better because this means that it is cheaper compared to another. Based on a study in 2017, the LCOE of solar and wind are the lowest among all energy sources, which also means that they are the cheapest. And at the end of the day, isn't cost the one that drives leaders and investors to use a specific energy source?

Myth #2: Solar energy requires a lot of land area

While it is obviously true that solar energy is land intensive, which simply means that it takes up a lot of land area, what is not obvious is how much land intensive it really is.

Did you know that to power the whole world using solar energy, we would only need a land area that is as big as Spain? This is very small if we consider the fact that it will already be able to power the world! Also, this much land area will be distributed among all the countries of the world, which makes the land requirement per country even less. Lastly, do not forget that solar panels can be installed on unused roof space, so the actual land requirement will actually be even much less. Myth #3: If I have a solar panel installation, I will have a power supply during power outages.

This may come as a surprise, but having a solar panel installation will not automatically mean that you will still have an energy supply during power outages. It depends on the type of system that you have.

There are 3 types of solar energy systems: on-grid, off-grid and hybrid systems. Off-grid systems are the ones that have batteries with them. In this type of system, you rely only from your solar panels and batteries for your energy supply. You will be disconnected from the electric grid, which means that you will never experience power outages anymore. On-grid systems, on the other hand, are connected to the electric grid and do not have batteries with them so it does not have a capacity to store energy. Also, when the power outage happens in the morning, the whole solar energy system will stop producing power as this may become an electric hazard. Electric linemen may start working on the electrical lines, knowing that they are not energized and so may be electrocuted by your solar energy system. Safety considerations aside, however, an on-grid system that is still running during a power outage will be ineffective anyway because the energy from it will also leak to your neighbor's houses.

Lastly, hybrid systems are like on-grid systems but it also has a smaller battery storage. This type of system can disconnect from the electrical grid during a power outage and use the energy stored from the battery to power your appliances. However, the battery capacity of these systems are most of the time enough to power just your essential appliances for several hours.

Myth #4: Solar Panel Installations Will Cause Leaks on Your Roof

To install solar panels on your roof, installers will indeed need to penetrate your roof. However, solar mounting system manufacturers have already this for consideration in their design. Because of this, the mounting systems that are used by solar installers usually have provisions to prevent leaks on your roof. Specifically, they use EPDM rubber and metal flashings to minimize the riskes of leaks. Solar installers may also opt to use sealants to further protect the roof.

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