Why Solar Energy?

Why would someone use solar energy if the cost of photovoltaic (PV) panels and solar thermal panels are so high?

Yes, in the terms of price per kilowatt-hour, it is much more expensive than producing electricity using coal or nuclear power plants.  This is mostly due to the high cost of building materials, especially the copper and high-grade silicon used to make the solar cells.  So why use solar energy?

The price of PV panels has been slowly decreasing and is expected to continually decrease in the future.

Solar thermal heating systems are cheaper than using PV cells because the cost of raw materials is lower: steel, glass, and concrete as opposed to the copper and silicon needed in PV cells.

It is very important to understand that the high cost of solar energy mostly comes from the raw building materials.  Once the investment is made and the cost of maintenance is factored, the money you will save from using a renewable energy source will eventually outgrow the original cost of the investment. The amount of time needed to reach these returns depends on the overall size of the project and the original cost of the investment.

Why solar energy is used could be eventually broken down into five categories:

1.  It is used strictly to reduce the carbon footprint left from alternative sources such as coal or fossil fuels.  In this case the item is used regardless of the cost of the system.

2.  It is needed to supply power to something that is not included in an energy supply grid.  Usually in this case creating a connection with a larger electrical grid will come at higher cost than using solar power.

3.  It is used as backup in locations where constant electricity flow is vital, like in hospitals or airports.  It could also be used as backup power in locations that have inefficient connections with an energy supply grid.

4.  It is used because it is a cheaper alternative to other sources of energy and electricity.

5.  It is used as a symbol of prestige, usually at a higher cost than the alternative.


Why someone chooses to use solar energy is on a case by case basis where cost usually becomes the most important decision factor.