Photovoltaic solar panels are used to convert solar energy into electrical energy. Photo stands for ‘light’ and voltaic means ‘volt’- the unit for electric force. Solar radiation is converted to direct current electricity by use of semiconductors that create voltage in a material once it has been exposed to light. The photovoltaic solar panels are mostly made of crystalline silicon and gallium arsenide and with the increase in demand for renewable energy the manufacture of these solar panels has grown tremendously.
Advantages of photovoltaic solar panels
Photovoltaic solar panels are an imperative part of electricity production and are becoming even more important with the increased need for ‘green’ energy sources. More homes are investing in solar panels to cut on their electricity bills as well as becoming self-reliant with electricity. But what really are the advantages of solar panels?
• Low maintenance costs- after the initial installation there is no need for repairs as they are no movable parts that need to be maintained and once you have set up the panel there is no changing of parts or refueling unlike electrical generators or turbines.
• Long lasting – This has been proved over the years and most manufacturers give a warranty of about 25years but as long as you keep it clean it can serve you even longer.
• Efficiency – Photovoltaic panels are proficient in converting the maximum amount of solar energy into electrical energy and are very useful in areas where there is limited space.
• Low installation costs.
• Great resistance to heat.
• Free from pollution and thus very good for the environment. This is especially true for monocrystalline panels that do not contain toxic materials and are also able to conserve fossil fuels and do not emit harmful gases to the environment.
• Photovoltaic solar panels are also cheap in the long run.
Disadvantages of solar panels
Disadvantages of solar panels also have to be considered by comparing them to other sources of ‘green’ energy such as hydro or wind.
The foremost disadvantage is the cost of the solar panes which has not been affordable for most consumers. However, this is changing with time as the price of coal energy is going up and thus the cost of solar energy is coming down.
Secondly, photovoltaic solar panels cannot be used well in areas with wet climates as this would lead to corrosion of exposed parts and thus increase in cost of maintenance and also these areas have limited amounts of sunshine.
Thirdly, proper disposal of photovoltaic solar panels and the batteries can be quite a problem once they have ceased to be useful. This is because both the storage batteries and solar panels contain materials such as cadmium, arsenic and lead that are very toxic to both humans and animals.
The fourth disadvantage is the issue of space for storage batteries as well as the solar panels. When the sun is not out you may need batteries to power your house and these can take up a considerable amount of space but if you are on an electrical grid you don’t need batteries.
Fifth, photovoltaic solar cells produce direct current which must be converted to alternating current and this leads to a loss in energy.
Sixth, most photovoltaic solar panels are designed to generate a maximum amount of electricity and hence a bulk array of these panels may be required to provide sufficient amounts on energy or electricity to large companies or consumers.
Finally the materials used to manufacture solar panels are not only exposed to photons but to other things such as UV that cause them to deteriorate.