Busting Myths About Solar Power

|| Science Article |

There are misconceptions about solar power generation that ought to be obsolete but still persist to this day. One of these is the myth that says solar energy is feasible only in areas that enjoy plenty of sunshine. Another states that a home powered by solar panels will experience intermittent power interruptions depending on the weather. 

Both are categorically false.
While it is true that location affects the cost-efficiency of solar power generation, it is also a widely known fact that solar technology works incredibly well almost anywhere around the world. As a rule of thumb, a larger solar power plant in less sunnier locations like Connecticut should generate the same output as that of a smaller plant in a location like New Mexico that enjoys a lot more sunlight. Places that are cloudy and rainy may somehow limit the stored energy harnessed by solar panels, but not significantly enough to make solar power plant installations prohibitive or downright unprofitable.

A good example is Germany. Located in Northern Europe, a substantial portion of the country experiences a continental climate wherein winters can be harsh and days rather cloudy. In spite of not having plenty of sunshine, however, Germany still ranks as the largest solar power ecosystem in the world and is now remarkably profiting from its energy policies that gave the country an early head start on the now lucrative market for renewable energy. Now that should altogether crush the misconception that you need tons of sunlight for solar power generation to be feasible.

On the contrary, consistent findings in different experimental studies indicate that solar panels constructed in sunnier locations may actually experience periods of low efficiency as temperatures rise above 42 °C. Even at the 35 °C to 42 °C range, slight drops in power output were experienced. Optimum efficiency was regained only after cooling the solar panels with water sprays. This phenomenon clearly indicates that a little rain even helps optimize solar power plants.

Another good example is Japan. Like Germany, Japan is at the forefront of solar technologies, controlling a solar power market that is around three times the size of its American counterpart. It is also way up in terms of latitude compared to the US as a whole.

The fact is, solar panels should work anywhere where the sun shines, and that's practically on just about the whole surface of the Earth. Any place where inhabitants can easily distinguish night and day should be able to accommodate a feasible solar power generation plant.

Another myth that should have been busted years ago is the one that says homes with solar panels will inevitably experience intermittent power interruptions depending on the weather. Properly planned solar panel installations squarely make this claim non-existent. Commonly, homes with solar panels are also connected to the main power grid and the power just switches to the grid if solar storage cells are running on empty. This is how most homes in the US with professionally designed solar power systems allow their owners to even earn extra income from either the government or the utility provider. "Running on empty" should not even be the case if the installation has been planned well. If the target is to use 100% solar, then the appropriate number and capacity of panels and storage cells should be deployed. In addition, the energy generated during periods of sunshine should be readily available during moments of heavy clouds or no sunlight. In many systems, stored energy is even available after one whole month of sunless period. This is how sophisticated lighthouses in very cold climes such as Washington and Alaska harness and use solar power. By all indications, this is also how self-sustained, environmentally sound communities of the future will be empowered.