Solar energy is an enticing alternative in the energy wars of today. Developed countries have urban areas that are energy dependent for everything from elevators to street lights. A power outage in a major urban area can bring an entire region to a standstill, since the urban centers are the centers for jobs, advanced medical care, government, transportation hubs, shopping, tourism and cultural affairs for vast regions of a state.
Power outages in rural and isolated areas can affect the ability to draw water from wells for feeding livestock and irrigating crops, for managing other livestock, to have communications with distant resources, and to heat and cool in extreme weather.
As a result, the costs of having standard and reliable power are included in the cost of living and surviving, whether in an urban or rural environment.
The costs of installing solar power are initially very high and will be so until there is enough production and demand to draw down the size of the initial investment, making it pay off in a shorter period of time. Thus, one of the few drawbacks to solar power is a catch-22 that comes from a need for more customers to make more demand so that income, production, development and research and competition can lead to lower initial investment costs.
Another drawback is in solar powered cars, which do not seem to have the power that people want for high speed, long distance driving. But local utility vehicles, in-town or suburban neighborhood cars, mini cars, public transportation and other vehicles can definitely benefit from solar power.
Solar energy will definitely reduce dependency on fossil fuels, which are creating an increasing threat to peace, to the environment and to the costs of doing everything from production to having a basic living. The push to drill for gas and oil under more and more treacherous conditions, such as the super deep disaster of the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico or the BP expedition in the Arctic Ocean could be stopped if the solar alternative was more readily supported or offered.
Natural gas extraction has been an out of control and unregulated disaster in hundreds of areas of the country, with resulting water pollution so severe that home water taps can be ignited as the water comes out.
In other words, there is a desperation for oil, gas and profit that is leading to more and more destructive and risky prospecting and extraction schemes. Solar power will relieve the demand to the extent that the most risky ventures can be shut down and possibly abandoned.
There is a relatively small “footprint” required for solar equipment, where wind and fossil fuels require large amounts of property for their equipment. Solar power allows some amount of battery storage for times when there is no sun available to generate power, but areas where no sun comes in, plus strong air pollution and nighttime hours are the other major drawbacks to having solar power.
There is very little maintenance required for solar panels, so the energy source is not labor intensive and the future costs, after installation are low. The panels and equipment make little or no noise to contribute to noise pollution if they are installed in massive quantities, especially in urban areas where there are so many sources of noise that no more are needed!
Best of all, since there is no ongoing service that should be required, so there are few or no recurring costs until more solar panels are wanted. Once the systems are installed and power is generated, the user is no paying for someone else’s power on a recurring basis.
Also, power grids and natural gas extraction schemes have been poorly set up and are a disaster waiting to happen. Power grids across the US are a mishmash of competing and separate controlling interests, such as districts, private concerns, power brokers, and other for profit utility operations that will be incredibly difficult to manage in a major and regional power crisis, as Californians learned during the 1990s.
In the end, solar power should be getting a lot of investment and attention as a part of an overall program of developing the most efficient combination of traditional and alternative power sources to reduce dependency on fossil fuels. The initial investment is expensive, but pays off over time. There are any number of nooks, crannies or large tracts of land where solar “farms” can be built and maintained. There is no air pollution or dependency on volatile markets where profit seeking can cause huge fluctuations in month to month costs.
With solar power panels and equipment in every area where they can be made functional and effective, the overall financial, environmental and usage burdens of powering either a single property or an entire urban area can be greatly reduced. The major drawbacks of the initial investment and being able to locate the panels where the sun can reach them should be dealt with in order to allow more homeowners, apartment owners, small businesses and rural property owners to create more demand, which should bring down costs.