Debunking Common Myths About Solar Power

23rd May 18

Cameron Quin

Written by Cameron Quin

Commercial solar power brings many benefits, including significant power bill savings and a reduction of your carbon footprint. However, like with any building upgrade, knowing what to expect is fundamental. Photovoltaic technology excels in some aspects, but it also has limitations, so make sure you deploy it in a way that yields maximum benefit. This article describes some common myths about solar power, and why they are wrong.

Myth 1) Solar Photovoltaic Systems Are Expensive

This was true around the year 2000, but photovoltaic panels have experienced massive price reductions since then. Residential and small commercial solar systems are now being installed for less than $2 per watt in some cases, while industrial and utility-scale systems have reached prices below $1 per watt.

On the other hand, consider that commercial solar systems replace electricity from the grid with electricity generated on site. Since kilowatt-hour prices are very high in Australia, the savings are remarkable. When you combine a low upfront cost with an ongoing long-term benefit, you get a winning investment.

Myth 2) Solar Panels Are Fragile

This is true if you have an exposed solar cell, but an assembled photovoltaic panel is very sturdy. Solar panels normally last for more than 25 years, and you can get excellent warranties if the panels come from a reliable provider; the industry standard is a 10-year warranty against manufacturing defects and a 25-year warranty for energy generation.

The enclosure of solar panels can resist a wide range of temperature conditions, and it is also waterproof. Also consider that solar panels do not have moving parts, so they are not subject to mechanical wear. The only exception is when you deploy solar trackers to keep the array pointed at the sun all day long.

Myth 3) Once You Have Solar Panels, You Can Go Off the Grid

This is another myth that is partially true. You can go off-grid if you combine solar panels and batteries, but not with a photovoltaic array by itself. The reason is simple: they cannot produce electricity at night, and they cannot store energy by themselves.

When solar panels generate electricity, it is immediately consumed by your appliances. When your building is not using electricity, or when solar generation exceeds consumption, all surplus energy is exported to the power network and you get a feed-in tariff. However, this tariff is only a fraction of the retail kWh price billed to you. With a battery array, you can store surplus generation for nighttime, or when you need more power than what your panels are generating.

Myth 4) The Energy Needed to Produce a Solar Panel is Less Than all the Energy It Ever Generates

There is another version of this myth: that the environmental damage caused by solar panel manufacturing exceeds the damage prevented with clean energy generation. However, this is not the case: a solar panel normally takes 2 to 4 years to offset its resource consumption and environmental impact, which is great for a device that lasts 25 years of more.

On the other hand, generation systems that use fossil fuels have an initial impact due to manufacturing and construction, and then an ongoing impact with emissions during operation.

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