Solar power, along with other alternative sources for energy, is quite popular these days and it’s no surprise. With fears of climate change being stoked by the media, people are looking for ways to reduce their carbon footprint and use green, renewable energy. Unfortunately, there are serious drawbacks to solar power that people don’t consider.
Solar energy isn’t efficient enough, isn’t reliable enough, and there’s no way to store the energy in a compact enough space. On top of that, solar panels take a lot of energy to create and are quite expensive. Although the government can help subsidize the cost of solar panels, that doesn’t change the reality of what prices represent – the resources and labor required to create a solar panel.
Solar power just can’t match other fuels for performance. Jet fuel, for example, has an amazing amount of energy stored in its chemical bonds. When solar power is applied to aviation, it’s apparent just how far it falls short. Solar Impulse 2 made headlines after flying around the world purely on solar power. While an incredible feat of engineering and human determination, Solar Impulse 2 shows just how much is lost when going with solar power.
Solar Impulse 2 has no pressurized cabin, requiring supplemental oxygen to keep pilots conscious, averaged a blistering 30 miles per hour, and its four engines added up to a whopping 70 horsepower, about the same power as an old VW Beetle. Sure, Solar Impulse 2 flew around the world, but took 15 months to do it.
Compared to a 747 that carries upwards of 500 people with a cruising speed of 580 miles per hour and enough cargo capacity to store 1.5 double decker buses, the shortcomings of solar power are obvious. The energy simply isn’t available to come close to what other planes do effortlessly. There’s no better way to point out the shortcomings of solar power than to show the inability of solar powered things to match up to their conventionally fueled counterparts.
Another notable example of implementing solar power was an utter failure. A solar road was built in Idaho to the tune of $3.9 million and took 6.5 years to develop, despite criticism from scientists. An epic failure, the project could not deliver on a single promise. Design notwithstanding, if the road had functioned it would have produced enough energy to power a small bathroom’s lights and a drinking fountain. For nearly 4 million dollars.
Of the funding for the solar roadway, $2.2 million came from crowdfunding. The information was out there that this was a fundamentally flawed project, available to anybody and still people funded it. People love the idea of solar power but they don’t want to hear that it just isn’t good enough.
Yet people are convinced that solar power is somehow superior. Especially here in Seattle, people love the thought of solar power, forgetting that Seattle is the greyest city in the nation. Seattle may have a reputation for rain, but other cities have more rainy days. What Seattle is number one for is overcast days.
This isn’t to say that there should be no usage of solar power, but it shouldn’t be considered as a major source of energy for society on a whole. It’s entirely possible that with advances in technology, solar energy can become more viable but we’re not to that point yet. Battery technology on its own can’t produce a battery that has anything close to the energy storage capacity of conventional fuels.
For my money, nuclear power is the way to go. Incredibly powerful as well as safe and clean, nuclear energy is where the future is. Of course, nuclear power is scary to people. Fukushima and Chernobyl are well-known examples of failures of nuclear power plants but out of the thousands of nuclear reactors that have been running for decades, only a miniscule amount of them have actually failed, and aside from Chernobyl, have not had any significant long-lasting effects.
Solar power might be a neat novelty, but it’s just not efficient enough to use on a large scale. We need to focus on effective sources of energy instead of wasting money on things that aren’t efficient.