Solar energy technology harnesses the sun’s energy and converts it to electricity through a specifically designed power system. The process can be accomplished on both large scales for metropolitan regions of certain sizes, and solar power can also be accomplished on a smaller scale for individual homes and businesses. While solar energy shows some promise as a viable power source, there are still some factors that may well make it a challenge to completely replace other fuel sources with solar energy.
Benefits of Solar Energy
The market for solar energy has grown exponentially in only a few years, and it’s available as a power source in many more cities and towns than in the recent past. Depending on the specific region, cost savings can be significant for some home owners who opt to install solar panels as replacements for their traditional electrical services. The average savings for each solar-powered home are about $100 per month off the monthly energy costs. Reliability is another main incentive for small scale solar energy; the majority of solar panel manufacturers guarantee the panels’ full functionality for a minimum of 20 years.
Possibilities for Oil and Fuel Replacement
Solar power technology in its current form holds some promise as an alternative for some usage of costly oil and other fossil fuels. Before this option can become a reality, some refinements and upgrades to the current technology will be necessary. Sufficient battery storage is a major challenge for long periods of time with no sunlight to collect, and this factor is tied directly to the measured gravimetric energy density of solar grid batteries versus that of fossil fuels. This measured density of solar energy needs to equal or surpass that of fossil fuel sources, and it has yet to reach that point.
Costs and Geographic Factors
Battery efficiency and the costs of enough solar energy storage are two of the main obstacles as far as solar power completely replacing oil and other fuel sources. The current technology of home solar power system batteries often isn’t strong enough to store enough energy needed for longer periods without direct sunlight. This could definitely spell problems for solar panel owners in some geographic regions of the northern hemisphere, such as Scandinavia and Northern Canada. For certain stretches of the year, these countries experience as much as 20 hours per day of darkness, likely making sufficient solar energy storage a serious strain on home systems’ batteries.
So, as much as solar energy is a great replacement for fossil fuel, it still needs to overcome a few obstacles before it can become a real option. For the time being, fuel and oil are the more convenient options we have.