Solar Power

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy is one of the world’s most popular and promising renewable energy sources. The energy comes from the sun and can be converted into electricity or heat. Solar energy has many advantages, such as being clean, abundant, sustainable, and cost-effective. However, solar energy has some disadvantages, such as being intermittent, variable, and dependent on weather conditions. In this blog post, we will explore the advantages and disadvantages of solar energy in detail.


Solar power offers an endless supply of clean, renewable energy from the sun. Harnessing solar energy can reduce reliance on fossil fuels, lower electricity bills, and power remote areas. However, some downsides, like intermittency and space requirements, should also be considered when evaluating solar energy systems. Examining the pros and cons helps determine the best applications for solar technology.

Advantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy has many advantages that make it attractive and beneficial for various applications and sectors. Some of the main advantages are:

  • It is a renewable energy source: Solar energy is a renewable energy source, which means that it will never run out as long as the sun exists. Unlike fossil fuels, which are finite and depleting, solar energy can be replenished and used indefinitely. According to NASA, the sun has enough power to last for another 5 billion years.
  • It reduces electricity bills: Solar energy can reduce bills by generating free or cheap electricity from the sun. By installing solar panels on rooftops or ground-mounted systems, homeowners or businesses can produce electricity, sell the excess to the grid, or store it in batteries for later use. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the average annual electricity consumption for a U.S. residential utility customer was 10,649 kilowatt hours (kWh) in 2019. Assuming an average electricity price of 13.28 cents per kWh a typical U.S. household spends about $1,415 annually on electricity. By installing a 5-kilowatt (kW) solar system, which can produce about 7,000 kWh per year, a household can save about $930 per year on electricity bills.
  • It can be used in rural and remote areas: Solar energy can be used in rural and remote areas where access to the grid or other sources of electricity is limited or unavailable. Solar energy can provide electricity for lighting, heating, cooling, cooking, pumping water, communication, education, health care, etc. According to the International Energy Agency (IEA), about 759 million people in the world still lack access to electricity as of 2019. Most live in sub-Saharan Africa and South Asia, where solar energy has great potential to improve their lives and livelihoods.
  • It has diverse applications: Solar energy has diverse applications that can meet various needs and purposes. Solar energy can be converted into electricity using photovoltaic (PV) cells or into heat using solar thermal collectors. Solar electricity can power homes, businesses, industries, transportation, etc. Solar heat can be used to heat water, air, or fluids for domestic, commercial, or industrial uses. Solar energy can also produce various sectors’ hydrogen, synthetic fuels, or other chemicals.
  • It does not cause any kind of pollution: Solar energy does not cause any kind of pollution that can harm the environment or human health. Unlike fossil fuels, which emit greenhouse gases, particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, mercury, etc., solar energy does not produce emissions or waste during its operation. Solar energy also requires no water or land resources that could affect ecosystems or biodiversity.

Solar energy has compelling benefits, making it a leading renewable power source worldwide.

Renewable and Sustainable

The sun provides an inexhaustible fuel source that will shine for billions of years. Solar energy is renewable and sustainable, unlike finite fossil fuels.

Reduces Electricity Costs

Solar panels can generate electricity for free once installed, reducing or even eliminating monthly utility bills. Excess power can be sold back to the grid.

Accessible in Rural Areas

Solar power can provide electricity in remote regions without access to the utility grid. This enables lighting, appliances, communication, and more.

Diverse Applications

Solar energy can produce electricity, heat water, cook food, distill water, charge devices, and much more. It has universal applications.


Solar power generates electricity without emitting air and water pollution, carbon dioxide, or other greenhouse gases linked to climate change.

Disadvantages of Solar Energy

Solar energy also has disadvantages that make it challenging and costly for some applications and sectors to implement and use. Some of the main disadvantages are:

  • It can be costly: Solar energy can be costly to install and maintain due to various factors, such as the initial investment, the quality, the efficiency, the durability, the warranty, etc., of the solar panels or systems. According to EnergySage, a leading online marketplace for solar quotes and information, the average cost of a 5-kW solar system in the U.S. was about $12,810 in 2020. This means that a typical U.S. household would need about 14 years to break even on their solar investment, assuming an average annual savings of $930 on electricity bills. However, the solar project’s cost of solar energy can vary widely depending on the location, size, type, design, incentives, etc.
  • It is weather dependent: Solar energy is weather dependent, which means that it can be affected by the availability and intensity of sunlight. Solar energy can be reduced or interrupted by clouds, rain, snow, fog, dust, etc. Solar energy can also vary by season, time of day, latitude, etc. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the average annual solar radiation in the U.S. ranges from 3 to 6 kWh per square meter per day. This means that some areas in the U.S. have more or less solar potential than others. For example, California has an average annual solar radiation of 5.8 kWh per square meter per day, while Alaska has an average annual solar radiation of 3.1 kWh per square meter per day.
  • It may not produce enough energy: Solar energy may not produce enough energy to meet the demand or load of some applications or sectors. Solar energy can be limited by the solar panels or systems’ size, capacity, efficiency, or orientation. Solar energy can also be limited by the storage or backup options that are available or affordable. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), solar energy accounted for only 2.3% of the total U.S. electricity generation in 2020. This means that solar energy still relies on other sources of electricity, such as natural gas, coal, nuclear, etc., to supplement its supply or to provide backup power when needed.
  • It requires a lot of space: Solar energy requires a lot of space to install and operate due to the low power density of sunlight. The power density of sunlight is about 1 kW per square meter at the Earth’s surface. This means a 5-kW solar system would need about 5 square meters of solar panels to produce its rated power. However, this does not account for the spacing, shading, mounting, wiring, etc., that are also needed for a solar system. According to NREL, the average land-use requirement for a utility-scale solar PV plant is about 3.5 acres per megawatt (MW) of direct current (DC) capacity. This means that a 100-MW solar PV plant would need about 350 acres of land to operate.
  • It needs energy storage devices that are expensive: Solar energy needs energy storage devices that are expensive to store excess or surplus electricity for later use or to provide backup power during peak demand or outage periods. Energy storage devices can be batteries, flywheels, capacitors, pumped hydro, compressed air, thermal storage, etc. Energy storage devices can improve solar energy’s reliability, efficiency, and flexibility by balancing the supply and demand of electricity. However, energy storage devices are also costly to buy, install, and maintain due to various factors, such as the type, size, capacity, efficiency, durability, warranty, etc., of the devices. According to NREL, the average installed cost of a battery energy storage system in the U.S. was about $1,220 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) of usable capacity in 2019. This means that a 5-kWh battery system would cost about $6,100 to install.

While compelling, solar power also comes with some limitations to consider.

High Upfront Costs

Purchasing and installing solar panel systems can be prohibitively expensive for some households and businesses. But costs are dropping.

Dependent on Sunlight

Solar panels only produce power when the sun is shining. Output depends on weather, time of day, and other factors.

Intermittent Power Output

Passing clouds, storms, and nighttime cause solar power generation to rise and fall unpredictably. Energy storage helps smooth variability.

Requires Significant Space

Solar farms require acres of land. Rooftop systems need square footage proportional to energy needs. This constrains some applications.

Expensive Storage is Needed

Batteries and other energy storage systems are needed to store solar power for nighttime or cloudy days. Storage adds considerable costs.


Solar energy offers a clean, renewable power source with energy independence and environmental benefits. But factors like high initial investment, intermittent output, and storage needs should also be weighed. Solar power can sustainably meet energy demands with thoughtful system design and favorable conditions like sunlight and space. Combining solar with other generation sources creates reliable and affordable decarbonized electricity systems.


How much does a typical home solar system cost?

The average cost to install a home solar system is $15,000-$25,000 before tax credits and incentives. Larger systems cost more. Costs vary by location, components, and complexity.

How long do solar panels last?

Quality solar panels can reliably generate electricity for 25-30 years or longer. Panels may produce power for 40 years or more with some maintenance and component replacements.

Can solar panels work on cloudy days?

Solar panels can still generate 10-25% of their optimal output on cloudy days. More diffuse light goes through clouds. Panels work best on clear, sunny days.

What are the best locations for solar power?

The Sun Belt region of the southern U.S. has the most solar resources due to intense, consistent sunlight. However solar power is viable in most locations with sufficient space and sun exposure.

How much land does a sizeable solar farm require?

A typical 50-100 megawatt utility-scale solar farm needs around 300-600 acres of land to generate power at scale. The actual footprint of panels and equipment is much smaller.

Engr. Muhammad Ali Raza

Hello, I'm Engr. Ali Raza, an Electrical Engineering Professional with a passion for innovation and a commitment to excellence. I completed my electrical engineering degree in 2017 and have since been actively engaged in the field, where I've had the opportunity to apply my knowledge and skills to real-world projects. Over the years, I've gained valuable experience in Engineering field, allowing me to contribute effectively to the development and implementation of electrical systems and solutions. I thrive in dynamic and challenging environments, constantly seeking opportunities to expand my expertise and make a meaningful impact in the world of Electrical Engineering.

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