Conclusions About Solar Energy

In these discussions, some general features concerning the use of solar energy, as opposed to fossil-fuel and nuclear energy, have emerged, and others have also been reached by energy analysts. Many of these conclusions apply to all forms of renewable energy.

The advantages of solar energy appear to be that it

• is free and fantastically abundant;

• has low environmental impact;

• has low operating costs;

• does not require imported oil or large, centralized suppliers and expensive distribution networks; and

• has high public acceptance as a "natural" form of energy. The disadvantages of solar energy appear to be that it

• is intermittent in its availability and thus requires that efficient storage or backup systems be constructed so that power can be supplied continuously;

• is diffuse—it provides a low density of energy per unit of surface collection area, so large areas of solar collectors are required to harvest the energy (one kilowatt requires about one square meter, on average);

• requires high capital costs to construct the energy collection and storage systems, offseting the free nature of the energy itself for many years until the investment is paid off; and

• receives little or no economic (tax) or regulatory credit from governments in recognition of the low amount of air!pollution and greenhouse gas emissions it causes relative to fossil-fuel usage.

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