The Locally Owned Voice of the Capital Region
Elizabeth Hanchar is a sixth-grader at the Academy of the Holy Names

Solar energy needs work

Thursday, May 10, 2012
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Elizabeth Hanchar
Photographer: Marc Schultz
Elizabeth Hanchar

You may think that the sun is an excellent source of energy; clean, free, and powerful. However there are challenges with solar energy. The panels that transfer the sun's rays into electricity are expensive. These panels are also not very efficient they waste a lot of the sun's power. Energy is used in the production of the solar panels, and the processes that make them are not that clean. Though solar panels seem like a great source of power, there are many complications with them.

In this tough economy, solar panels cost a great deal of money. How many people could pay for these pricey panels? Solar panels that people would put on their house to produce a portion of electricity cost about $20,000. The electricity solar panels produce is more expensive than the current coal-fired electric power plants. Would people make the switch to solar? For average people, panels producing a portion of their electricity would take around 7-14 years to pay back for themselves. Solar panels are a very expensive investment.

Solar isn't a very efficient source of energy. Currently, only about 15% of the energy produced by the sun is actually converted into usable energy. That means about 85% of the energy is wasted. When compared to traditional coal burning methods, solar energy is only half the efficiency. The area where you live may not get as much direct sun to produce a lot of electricity, lowering even more of the efficiency.

Solar efficiency needs to be improved before it really produces energy usefully.

People think solar panels are environmentally friendly because the sun powers them. This however, is not the case. In the manufacturing of solar panels, fossil fuels are used. The processes that build the solar panels produce air pollution and heavy metal emissions, and they consume fossil fuels. In addition, toxic materials and waste metals such as mercury and chromium bring disposal problems. Usage of solar energy is not as environmentally friendly as people think.

I think that solar panels should be improved before they are considered a valuable alternate energy source. Solar panels are a big investment for most normal size homes, at about $20,000. The panels have very low efficiency, especially compared to other sources of energy. In addition, solar panels aren't as environmentally friendly as people assume. In my opinion current solar panel technology is not the best source of alternate energy for worldwide use.

 
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