More energy from the sun falls on the earth in one hour than is used by everyone in the world in one year. And yet, solar energy myths continue to plague the public at large. The following post is reproduced from the Climate Reality site. I’m a Climate Reality leader from the Chicago2013 class. (Rolly Montpellier, Editor for BoomerWarrior).
Despite the tremendous source of energy staring many of us in the face every day, some keep debating the merits of solar power and other renewable energies, asking the same questions over and over again. How effective is solar energy? Is it more expensive? Where and how does solar fit in the larger energy grid?
Many of the arguments against solar are based on outdated or incorrect information. That’s why we’re setting the record straight on some of the most common solar energy myths.
Solar Energy Myths
1. Myth: Solar energy is too expensive and isn’t economically viable for most people.
Fact: The claim that solar energy is too expensive is out-of-date and continues to be proven wrong. The average cost of solar panels fell 75 percent between 2009-2014 alone, and some analysts predict the cost of PV modules will drop 25 percent by 2018. The result is that in many regions around the world and parts of the US, electricity from solar is as cheap – or even cheaper – than electricity from coal, oil, or natural gas.
So it’s no surprise that clean energy is one of the world’s fastest growing industries, and already makes up more than 20 percent of the world’s electricity generation. Bonus: when you use solar energy to do things like power homes or schools, you’re helping protect humans from higher carbon emissions, unnecessary air pollution, and the devastating impacts of climate change.
2. Myth: Carbon dioxide isn’t the main cause of global warming. What about solar variations?
Fact: There is a consensus from 99 percent of climate scientists that human activities are the cause of the global warming we’re seeing now.
Scientists know our climate is changing, primarily due to carbon pollution from the burning of dirty energy like oil, natural gas, and coal. Changes in the radiation the sun emits – known as “solar variation” – affects the climate, too. But scientists take this into account and weigh the contributions these changes make to our climate, which today are minimal to negligible compared to those from carbon pollution. It’s clear that man-made carbon dioxide pollution is overwhelmingly responsible for the global warming we’re experiencing now.
3. Myth: Clean coal is the answer. Why invest in solar when we have clean coal?
Fact: There’s no such thing as “clean coal.” Solar power, on the other hand, is a real, clean energy technology that is viable today.
In reality, “clean coal” is a false solution. Coal is a dirty fuel no matter which way you look at it. The coal mining process blasts away mountaintops and leaves toxic slurry ponds behind. Burning coal results in pollutants that are harmful to human health, like mercury and smog. As if this weren’t enough, worldwide, more carbon pollution comes from the burning of coal than any other fuel.
4. Myth: Solar power isn’t worth it because it won’t work in locations that are cloudy or cold.
Fact: Solar power works even in cold or cloudy places. Because of the way the technology works, solar panels are just as effective—and usually more effective— in cooler temperatures as in hot ones. And while it’s true that clouds can affect the efficiency of solar panels, they can still produce enough power to be viable sources of electricity. Germany, for example, is a country that is not particularly warm or sunny, but is nevertheless the world leader in solar energy
5. Myth: Solar panels are unreliable.
Fact: The opposite is true. Most solar panels produce electricity for over 20 years or more as their parts do not wear out easily. In fact, many of the first solar systems installed over 40 years ago are still active today.
Additionally, using solar power diversifies our energy sources, making the entire grid more dependable. We have more tools available to make solar and other variable renewable technologies more reliable than ever, such as larger and more integrated grids, better resource forecasting, and more use of energy storage technologies.
What will need to be replaced in the next 30 years are aging fossil fuel infrastructures like outdated coal-fired power plants. If we make the switch and rely on renewable sources of energy like the sun, we can save billions of dollars by avoiding not only the costs of replacing these plants, but also the increasingly higher costs of climate change in areas like healthcare expenses and damage from extreme weather.
Rolly Montpellier is the Founder and Managing Editor of BoomerWarrior.Org. He’s a Climate Reality leader, a Blogger and a Climate Activist. He’s a member of Climate Reality Canada, Citizens’ Climate Lobby (Ottawa) and 350.Org (Ottawa), the Ethical Team (as an influencer) and Global Population Speakout.
Rolly has been published widely in both print and online publications. You can follow him on Facebook, Twitter, Linkedin and Pinterest.
Solar never works at night.
Nuclear power is the only way to stop making CO2 that actually works. To stop Global Warming, we must replace all large fossil fueled power plants with nuclear.
Renewable Energy mandates cause more CO2 to be produced, not less, and renewable energy doubles or quadruples your electric bill. The reasons are as follows:
Since solar “works” 15% of the time and wind “works” 20% of the time, we need either energy storage technology we don’t have or ambient temperature superconductors and we don’t have them either. Wind and solar are so intermittent that electric companies are forced to build new generator capacity that can load-follow very fast, and that means natural gas fired gas turbines. The gas turbines have to be kept spinning at full speed all the time to ramp up quickly enough. The result is that wind and solar not only double your electric bill, wind and solar also cause MORE CO2 to be produced.
We do not have battery or energy storage technology that could smooth out wind and solar at a price that would be possible to do. The energy storage would “cost” in the neighborhood of a QUADRILLION dollars for the US. That is an imaginary price because we could not get the materials to do it if we had that much money.
The only real way to reduce CO2 production from electricity generation is to replace all fossil fueled power plants with the newest available generation of nuclear. Nuclear can load-follow fast enough as long as wind and solar power are not connected to the grid. Generation 4 nuclear can ramp fast enough to make up for the intermittency of wind and solar, but there is no reason to waste time and money on wind and solar.
Thank you Asteroid Miner for your perspective on nuclear energy.
I think we will need the full repertoire of alternative sources of energy in order to get off fossil fuels — nuclear, solar, wind, geothermal, tidal, improved energy storage technology, etc. Right now the nuclear energy industry does not enjoy the popular support nor the political support to make it happen. All eyes and investments are solar and wind.
You have not addressed the fact that nuclear energy requires non-renewable minerals which are in finite amounts. Could you please address that in a follow-up comment?
I’ve been disappointed in how solar photovoltaics are being used these days – the large industrial paradigm still seems to be the mindset of most, and the uptake of smallscale generation has been disappointing. What will it take to have more solar panels on rooftops in the city instead of taking over farmers’ fields?
(And, in addition to solar panels working better at lower temperatures, it’s also worth noting that Ottawa is better for solar generation than some more southerly cities such as Toronto – our winter days may be shorter, but they are also sunnier.)
(My solar installation: https://heliospower.wordpress.com/pv-in-the-suburbs/)
Seanna – thank you for your comments. Congratulations on having your own solar installation. I checked your link.
It seems to be taking a lot longer for Canadians to get on the solar energy wagon. In many other countries, including developing countries, solar is showing tremendous success. Why even our new government is focused on pipeline development rather than the clean technology, in spite of all the rhetoric about transitioning to a clean economy.
We must keep the pressure on.
I agree with Seanna.
Solar energy production does require super batteries for adequate storage for the ‘dark’ hours, but that doesn’t negate the personal use of panels on our houses. I have friends who inatalled 13 panels on their roof…they can run all their electrical items for ‘free’ as their electricity meter goes into reverse on their town supply. While they cannot store for the ‘night time’ they can power up all their devices, do their cooking and turn down the gas central heating while they run a fan heater and a water heater dedicated to electric during daylight hours. This saves on their other energy bills, and saves on their use. They also installed an electric car charger to charge their hybrid car during the daylight hours. Initially, they were sceptics, and now sing the praises of having solar…their initial costs will be paid back very quickly.
I have four 100 watt solar panels (a far cry from the 4 to 6 KWH output that my friends have), that feed into 5 storage batteries. They will run laptops, lights, TV and even a washing machine on cold wash. They are not enough for a water heater, microwave or electric fan heater, but I cook with gas and have other ways to power up those large wattage items. Nevertheless, I wouldn’t be without my solar! I am even looking at the possibility of a composting toilet powered by a solar fan.
We people will be the force that pushes our industry into revamping, improving and distributing solar technologies that ‘will do the job.’ We are the driving force that will bring alternative energy to the forefront of what industry wants to sell to us!
It’s always like that when we humans enter a new technological age. The radio was just a fad. Television would ruin children’s eyes. Computers – what did Bill Gates say? And the same goes with energy. Stone age man did not use up all the stone before moving on to the next energy source and neither should we. Solar has arrived. I feel no moral obligation to protect the interests of those who are involved in producing fossil fuel products. We must move on to survive and yes there will be losers and there will be winners.
No one mentions a fairly large and, as yet underutilized battery (energy storage) everyone has in their house. Your water heater. It doesn’t take any new technology to add hot water capacity and heat a home with hot water. It is a clean even heat and can significantly reduce heating costs if the water is heated to a very high temperature during the day, stored, and used to heat your house at night. I am sure this will be a part of a many faceted solution/approach to our storage problems. As for nuclear, I agree with Hansen etal that we need it as a COMPONENT of our grid for the next 50 years or so but they don’t recommend, in any way, cutting funding for renewables. I think many estimates are that around 30 to 50% of power come from nuclear in many areas. In BC we have hydro so don’t need it at all but many countries don’t have the right circumstances to get rid of FFs without nuclear.
I wish this issue was handled in a more rational manner by those of us who want to fight ACC. We seem to be stuck with many PRO nuclear people dissing renewables and vice versa when the rational solution lies in the middle where we embrace both but use only as much nuclear is necessary. Greens should remember that, in general, nuclear plants REPLACE coal and gas and when we shut a nuclear plant down it is usually replace with coal or gas. That is not good. Anyway my main point is that we need to say YES to ALL non-FF technology and YES to grid improvements to facilitate renewable usage.
Daniel – the most pressing, urgent action that is required is to get away from fossil fuels. I see nuclear as a 50-year bridge to a full renewable clean energy platform somewhere around 2050-60. So I agree that we should be more practical and accepting of a technology like nuclear that can get us there.
Thank you for your comments.