Solar energy pros and cons

Renewable energy stands poised to become a major player in Georgia with solar electricity apparently leading the way. A guest writer noted today that Georgia, in 2013, had the fastest-growing solar energy market in the United States. Energy-related projects are expected to become economic mainstays.

Meanwhile, debate continues nationwide about this environmentally-friendly concept. Here’s a compilation of pros and cons as it relates to the increasing trend to “go solar.”

Pros

* Solar energy is renewable, abundant and sustainable. The sun will outlive us.

* The manufacturing, transportation and installation of solar power systems produces emissions, but not like conventional energy sources.

* Solar reduces electricity costs.

* Federal and state incentives can reduce the cost of going solar for homeowners and businesses.

* Solar is a clean energy source.

* Solar panels, which can be installed on rooftops, pay for themselves in the long run.

Cons

* The initial cost to install solar panels is expensive, though prices to install them on homes have dropped in recent years. Quality solar cells are estimated to start at $1,000 or more. One’s home, location and size add to the cost of system installation. Then there’s site preparation - reconfiguration of a house’s electric system, infrastructure upgrades to roofs where solar panels would be installed and so on. It’s been said that one-fifth of U.S. homes are unfit for solar panels.

* Solar energy can only produce power during the daytime, when the sun shines. Climate and weather patterns — think cloudy days — can influence how well panels work.

*Batteries to aid demand, load and give homeowners access to power during evening hours — when the sun doesn’t shine — are heavy, large and require occasional replacement.

* While less of a pollutant than fossil fuels, greenhouse gas emissions stem from some manufacturing processes. Nitrogen trifluoride and sulfur hexafluoride have been traced back to solar panel production. Still, the carbon footprint is much lower than for fossil fuel alternatives.

Sources: Conserve Energy Future, Energy Informative, Aboutmoney.com and USA Today.

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