Why Is Solar Energy Good And Bad?

Why is solar energy good and bad?

Solar energy is the conversion of energy from sunlight into electricity through the use of photovoltaic (PV) panels. It has both positives and negatives as an energy source. Solar power relies on the sun as an essentially inexhaustible fuel source (Introduction to Solar Energy Technologies). Solar panels use PV cells to generate electricity from sunlight, with the levels of electricity generated varying based on exposure to sunlight and climate conditions. The main benefits of solar energy are that it is renewable, reduces reliance on fossil fuels, lowers energy bills, and creates new jobs (An Introduction to Solar Energy). The main drawbacks are that it can be intermittent when the sun is not shining and requires significant land area for utility-scale solar farms (Introduction to Solar Energy). This article will explore the pros and cons of solar energy in more depth.

Pros of Solar Energy

Solar energy is a renewable resource that relies on the sun’s radiation and will be available as long as the sun shines (1). The energy from the sun hits the solar panels, which convert sunlight into electricity that can be used to power homes, businesses or fed into the grid. Unlike fossil fuels, the sun will not run out and solar radiation is freely and abundantly available (2). As a renewable source, solar energy reduces reliance on our limited supply of non-renewable resources like coal, oil and natural gas.

Solar power is one of the most sustainable energy sources available today since it doesn’t directly produce any air or water pollution. Some toxic materials and emissions are associated with the production of solar panels, but the operation of solar systems does not create any pollution when properly integrated (3). The more society can transition to renewable solar power rather than burning fossil fuels, the less air and water pollution will be generated, creating environmental benefits.


(1) https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/how-does-solar-power-work

(2) https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/how-does-solar-power-work

(3) https://www.nationalgrid.com/stories/energy-explained/how-does-solar-power-work

Clean Energy Source

Solar energy is considered a clean energy source because it does not emit any greenhouse gases during its generation, use, or storage (1). Unlike fossil fuels, solar energy does not release pollutants into the air that contribute to climate change, acid rain, and health problems (2). Solar cells, also known as photovoltaics, convert sunlight to direct current electricity silently without any emissions. The only waste produced by solar cells is during the manufacturing process. Once installed, solar panels provide clean renewable electricity for decades without harmful emissions.

(1) https://www.seia.org/initiatives/about-solar-energy

(2) https://www.nrdc.org/stories/renewable-energy-clean-facts

Reduces Reliance on Fossil Fuels

One of the main benefits of solar energy is that it helps reduce our reliance on fossil fuels like coal, oil and natural gas. Burning fossil fuels releases greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide into the atmosphere, contributing to climate change. According to the EPA, the electricity sector accounted for 25% of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions in 2019[1]. By switching to solar energy, we can help lower emissions from electricity generation.

Solar power gives us a clean alternative to fossil fuels for generating electricity. As of 2021, solar provided about 3% of total U.S. electricity generation, but that number is rising steadily as solar installation costs fall[2]. The Department of Energy has set a goal for solar to provide 20% of U.S. electricity by 2030. Widespread adoption of solar power will help reduce our dependence on coal, oil and natural gas over time.

Lower Energy Bills

One of the biggest pros of installing solar panels is that they can significantly lower electricity costs for homeowners and businesses. According to Palmetto, solar panels allow homeowners to reduce their dependence on the grid and save money on electric bills. The amount of savings depends on factors like location, system size, electricity rates, and financing options. But on average, homeowners with solar panels can reduce their electric bills by 50-90%.

For example, an average home using 800 kWh per month could save over $100 on their electricity bill with a 5 kW solar system. The more sunlight and higher electricity rates in a given area, the greater the potential savings. Businesses with large rooftops or land can install megawatt-scale systems and lower operating expenses even more. And unlike fossil fuel prices which fluctuate, the “fuel” source of solar power is free.

According to Earth.org, solar energy systems can help protect homeowners and businesses against rising energy costs. Once the upfront system costs are paid off, solar customers benefit from nearly free electricity for the rest of the system’s 25+ year lifespan. Going solar provides a hedge against inflating utility rates and allows households and businesses to take control of their energy production.

Job Creation

The renewable energy industry, particularly solar, is growing rapidly and creating many new jobs across the globe. According to data from the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), renewables jobs nearly doubled in the past decade, reaching 13.7 million in 2022, with solar jobs growing the fastest at 25% between 2020 and 2021 (IRENA, 2022). The US Department of Energy reported that clean energy jobs grew in every US state in 2022, adding nearly 300,000 jobs with an increasing percentage in solar (Department of Energy, 2023). Solar farms in particular create many construction and maintenance jobs in rural areas. The growth of the solar industry indicates it will continue creating new employment opportunities around the world.

Cons of Solar Energy

One of the biggest disadvantages of solar energy is the high upfront cost. Installing a solar energy system can cost anywhere from $10,000 to $25,000 depending on the size of your home and energy usage [1]. While solar panels can end up paying for themselves over 20-30 years, the initial investment is steep for many homeowners. This is especially true compared to conventional energy sources like natural gas and coal which have very low equipment costs.

While the cost of solar panels has decreased dramatically over the last decade, the inverter systems required and installation costs are still expensive. Most homeowners take advantage of tax credits, rebates, and solar incentives to offset the upfront cost. But even with incentives, solar energy systems still require a large investment up front.


One of the main drawbacks of solar energy is that it suffers from intermittency, meaning its generation depends on external factors like weather and sunlight availability. As the Scientific American article explains, “Intermittent renewables are challenging because they disrupt the conventional methods for planning the daily operation of the electric grid.”1 Solar panels can only generate electricity when the sun is shining. Output varies throughout the day and seasonally as the position of the sun changes.

Times of peak demand don’t always align with peak solar output. The EnergyX article notes, “Solar power peaks at noon and declines throughout the afternoon just as demand starts to increase.”2 Cloud cover and storms further reduce solar generation in unpredictable ways. This intermittency makes integrating large amounts of solar power into the grid difficult. Better energy storage solutions can help overcome these challenges.

Cons of Solar Energy: Land Use

Solar farms require large amounts of land, which can have negative environmental impacts if not managed properly. According to research, it takes about 10 acres to produce 1 megawatt (MW) of solar power electricity (Source: https://betterenergy.org/blog/the-true-land-footprint-of-solar-energy/). As the solar industry grows, an increasing amount of open space and agricultural land is being converted for solar development. One study estimates that solar energy could require up to 1.9% of total land area globally if it provided all electricity by 2030 (Source: https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-82042-5).

Proper siting and land management practices are necessary to minimize the environmental impact. Solar projects should avoid developing on protected lands, wildlife habitats, and productive farmland whenever possible. Vegetation management, pollinator-friendly plantings, and grazing livestock can make solar sites more compatible for agriculture and wildlife. Though solar requires land, the overall footprint is small compared to other energy sources when accounting for the full life cycle. With proper planning and siting, solar’s land use challenges can be addressed.


Solar energy has both advantages and disadvantages that must be considered when determining if it is the right renewable energy source for a particular situation. The main pros of solar are that it is a clean, renewable source of energy that reduces reliance on fossil fuels and can lower energy bills through on-site power generation. Solar also creates jobs in manufacturing, installation, and maintenance. However, solar suffers from intermittency issues due to reliance on the sun, can require large amounts of land for utility-scale projects, and may not provide a positive return on investment in some regions or installations. Careful analysis of solar’s pros and cons can determine if it is a viable and beneficial energy solution.

Similar Posts