The black panels atop houses are becoming a familiar sight in eco-conscious homes or those looking to save money on electrical bills. However, these panels, while touted as a cheap, sustainable and environmentally friendly means of powering homes and businesses, also present several problems. These range from the panels themselves having defects to how they are used to their final disposal when finished. Despite problems, solar panels are still a viable source of alternative power that should be considered when building or equipping a home or business.
Solar panels are considered one of the greenest ways to power homes, leaving no apparent carbon footprint on the Earth's environment. However, the carbon footprint created by the panels' initial manufacturing is huge. Large amounts of fossil fuels are used to create the panels, according to Tree Hugger. The panels are also created out of materials that are fragile, both glass and semiconductors, making them prone to breakage due to the way they are manufactured.
Solar energy technology is more costly than using coal power plants, according to Weather Questions, and if installed on a home, can often take 10 years before it will pay itself off through reduced electricity bills. The panels often must be replaced and need to be repaired and maintained constantly. According to Oracle ThinkQuest, "single solar panels are not sufficient power producers" with "only about a 40 percent efficiency."
Cloudy days, especially in regions of the Earth such as the Pacific Northwest of the United States where winters can mean weeks on end with cloud cover, can create insufficient power for the business or home. This is the main problem and concern with solar panels, as constant light is needed for constant power. If there is no more than an average of 5 hours of direct sunlight a day, not enough energy is created to power a home. Overhanging branches, trees and shadows from other buildings can also pose challenges in obtaining enough sunlight.
While solar panels are considered a green form of generating heat, they are not so environmentally friendly when disposed of. Many panels are constructed for 25 years of use. However, they can occasionally break and must be replaced after this time. Harmful chemicals are contained in the panels, such as chromium and mercury, that, if thrown into the usual garbage disposal, can seep into groundwater systems, according to the Los Angeles Times.
- Home Solar Power Hour: The 3 Most Under-Anticipated Problems With Solar Energy And What You Can Do About Them
- Solar Companies: Solar Panel Problems
- Los Angeles Times: Solar energy's darker side stirs concern: Marla Dickerson: Jan. 14, 2009
- Weather Questions: Solar Energy, Solar Power
- Tree Hugger: The Dark Side of Solar Panels: Kristin Underwood: Jan. 14, 2009
- Oracle ThinkQuest: Problems With Solar Power
- Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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