11 Permanent Benefits of Solar Power Everyone Should Know About

(Includes rebuttals to arguments against each one)

Why The Sun Will One Day Surpass Them All As Our Dominant Source of Energy

1% Down. 99% to go.

As of 2015, solar energy now supplies more than 1% of the total energy used in the world. It’s only going to continue increasing.

In one sense, this has to happen. We can keep arguing about exact times, but the earth is only so big, and one day we will run out of oil and natural gas. Coal will last quite a bit longer, but the drawbacks of coal are obvious, and it’s only going to get harder to mine the deeper we have to go.

There are some clear disadvantages of solar power too, of course, such as intermittent sunlight (or the almost total lack of it for months at a time in places like Alaska), shade interference, cost of installation, and limited roof space in some locations – especially large, dense cities.

But improved technology, battery storage, and other innovations are making these disadvantages less of a factor. So with that –

Here are the top 11 benefits of solar power, with rebuttals to the most common arguments against them:

Solar Benefit #1. Happy Bank Accounts

The long-term cost savings of solar power are undeniable. Suppose your roof space makes it possible to install enough solar panels to cut your energy bill by 75%. How much money would you save after 10 years? 20 years? Do the math.  If you saved $75 per month, that would be $900 per year. In 10 years, that’s $9000. In 20 years? $18,000. With tax incentives for solar power, you can install most residential systems for less than that.

Argument Against: 

I won’t live in my home long enough to make up the costs.

Rebuttal: Well you might. Depends on a lot of factors. And even if you do move, you can move to a new house that has panels already installed. Make this one of your criteria when home- shopping. As more homes begin installing solar panels, this will become more common. Someone else will reap your investment, but you’ll reap from someone else too. Over time, this will become the norm.

Solar Benefit #2. Your Car is so Jealous: 

No emissions. Can’t say it any simpler. The most efficient car engine (including electric cars – you still have to plug them in!), the most efficient water heater, furnace, stove, any other appliance, cannot compete with a zero emissions solar panel. Simply put, they produce no air pollution.

Argument against:

They still have to mine the silicon or other materials to make the panels.

Rebuttal: True, but the amount of materials needed to do this is far, far less than what happens with coal mining. The European Nuclear Society says that 1 kilogram of coal produces just 8 kWh of energy. A typical home uses more than that in a single day. So you are mining a lot of coal just to give one house energy for a year. The small amounts of silicon (or other materials) needed to power your solar panels – which will last more than 40 years! – is infinitesimal in comparison.

Solar Benefit #3. Clean Water Assured: 

Coal has to be mined. Oil has to be drilled. Natural gas has to be retrieved from one of a variety of methods. All these processes have shown us (in graphic detail in some cases – like the Deepwater Horizon catastrophe in the Caribbean) how harmful these processes can be to water. Coal mining in particular decimates hillsides and pollutes creeks unless very careful precautions are taken. And even when they are, sometimes the very people tasked with ensuring safe mining practices – like the EPA – still manage to cause major damage. This story was about a gold mine, not coal, but the fact it was the EPA’s negligence that caused it tells us something about the long term risks to our water supply of any form of invasive mining practices.

Argument against: Same as above.

Rebuttal: You have to mine the silicon too.  Again, while true in theory, the amount of silicon needed for solar panels that last 40 years is almost nothing compared to the amounts of fossil fuels needed to do the same. Also, silicon is the 8th most abundant element on earth. For the amounts we need, it’s not going anywhere and will always be easy to find. It’s in sand!

Solar Benefit #4. The Sun Always Rises: 

We will never run out of sunlight. 1000 years from now, long after the oil is gone, the sun will still be here. And because panels produce energy for so long, we add new solar capacity at a far greater rate than old panels need to be replaced. It’s completely and perpetually renewable.

Argument against:

The sun doesn’t shine at night.

Rebuttal: True, but battery storage technology is quickly making that irrelevant. If you can store enough energy in the day for your use in the evening and through the night, then the nighttime doesn’t matter.The same is true of clouds. Plus, this argument is one of those “if it isn’t absolutely perfect, it’s a bad idea and we shouldn’t do it” kind of nonsense ideas. If one day we can provide 50%, 75%, 90% of our energy needs from solar, but in a few places with little sun and long nights we still need to find other sources – who cares?

Solar Benefit #5. Freedom from Other Nations: 

Energy independence is real. We import far less oil from the Mideast today than we did 15 years ago. Is anyone upset about that from either major political party?  If they are, they’re a lonely soul. The sooner we get completely free from the influence and dependence on any nation for their oil or other energy resources, the better. Solar can only help in this regard.  Plus, unlike nuclear (or fossil fuel) plants, you can’t “attack” a solar power plant, because it’s just a grid of panels on millions of homes and businesses. There is no singular power plant target we have to protect from terrorism.

Argument against:

We can’t replace all our energy needs with solar.

Rebuttal: Most likely true. But this is irrelevant. When combined with other forms of renewable energy, including hydropower (and nuclear, if necessary once fossil fuels run dry), solar can be a major component of our energy needs. Again, it doesn’t have to be all or nothing for it to be a good idea. 50% of energy from solar? Even 10%? That’s a great deal for everyone.

Solar Benefit #6. Freedom for Yourself: 

Off-grid solar is distinct from grid-connected solar. But if you set up an off-grid solar system, you aren’t only free from dependence on other nations – you’re free from your power company. Once your system has recovered its costs, you have free energy.

Argument against:

This only works on the small scale, individual level. Cities with super tall apartment and condo complexes don’t have the roof space.

Rebuttal: Once again, irrelevant. Not everyone has to do it for it to be a good idea. For those who can get off the grid and live in true energy independence, this is a superb idea and major benefit.  Plus, you can install ground-mounted solar farms farther away from city centers, much like the Sacramento Kings used to fully power their new stadium with solar.

Solar Benefit #7. Animals Love Solar Power: 

Okay, they probably don’t care. But that’s the point. They don’t care because they never encounter them. Windmills kill birds. Dams kill fish. Even tidal energy systems cause some disruption to the ocean ecosystem. But flat motionless panels on your roof or stuck on a pole in the ground? You might redirect a few earthworms, but that’s about it. Solar panels cause no harm at all to any living creatures. No other energy source can make that claim.

Argument against: Okay, you got us on this one.

Solar Benefit #8. Long-Lasting, Stable Energy Production: 

Most panels these days, including Coastal Solar’s, have 20 or 25-year warranties. Why? Because they last a long time! Companies don’t give out warranties if they think most of their products will fail before that time is up.You can reasonably expect your panels to produce sufficient energy for more than 40 years before they might need to be replaced.

Argument against:

Long lasting, but not in bad weather or night time.

Rebuttal: As with number 4, this is less of an issue now because of improved battery storage. Also, new power optimizers are even making the loss of energy due to shading less detrimental. Whole arrays used to shut down completely if one part of one panel got shadowed. Optimizers have mostly eliminated this problem. The same is true with leaves, snow, or other debris that might fall on portions of your solar panel array.

Bonus: See how solar panels hold up in a hurricane.

Solar Benefit #9. Continuously Improving Technology: 

More efficient solar panels. Longer lasting. More options. It’s all happening, and it’s all leading to lower prices. Combined with the latest inverters, storage batteries, power optimizers, and other components, solar energy today produces far more power for less cost than it did even five years ago, let alone ten or twenty. You also have more options. There are two types of crystalline silicon panels (monocrystalline and polycrystalline) and several types of thin film, including the upcoming CIGS thin film panels, which generally beat silicon thin film in most key metrics. (Learn more about crystalline and thin film here).

Argument against:

Tech is improving in all sectors, not just solar. And it’s still way more expensive.

Rebuttal: Tech is improving everywhere, true. And that’s a great thing. But no other energy source can also claim the other 10 benefits on this list. Plus, improved tech doesn’t usually lead to lower prices in the coal industry, since most of their tech is focused on making it cleaner, not more efficient. As for price, we’ll save that for #10.

Solar Benefit #10. Solar Installation Costs Continue to Drop: 

When combined with various tax incentives, some buyers have recovered their solar power installation costs in less than five years. This is often easier with larger installations since the savings are magnified so much more. But it doesn’t have to take decades to recover costs. This trend has been fed by the improving technology and increasing production worldwide. And there are a number of ways you can pay for your solar power installation.

Argument against: 

It’s still way more expensive. And without the tax incentives, we wouldn’t be having this conversation.

Rebuttal: Well, it’s fair to ask: How many government subsidies does the coal industry get? Unless they get zero, then that argument has no weight. The government subsidizes all sorts of industries in various ways, and for various reasons. That’s a non-issue. The incentives are there, and therefore they matter.In light of an imminent future with very little oil, the government investing in solar today is just basic wisdom and planning ahead. Perhaps it’s one of the few things the government is doing well.

Solar Benefit #11. So Easy to Maintain!  

The last one is the best for the average user. Anything mechanical eventually breaks down. Most technology wears out quickly. Like laptops – how many have you owned – this decade?! But solar panels are steady, reliable, and require virtually no maintenance. Some periodic monitoring is good. You have to clean off dust and debris now and then. And if you have a battery, those need replacement sooner than the panels. But other than that, there isn’t a lot more to it. For the most part, once installed, they just sit there and work! Learn more about solar power maintenance.

Argument against:

The elderly and disabled can’t climb on their roofs to clean their panels.

Rebuttal: The same 12-year old kid who they happily pay to mow their lawns could also be compensated to go up and clean their panels twice a year. There’s no argument on this point.

So there you have it. 11 top benefits to solar power over every other form of energy, including the other major renewables. Is it perfect? Nothing ever is. But is solar power the single best solution to our energy needs for the next 200 years, especially when the oil wells finally run dry?Unless we find something better real soon, it is.

Want to learn more?  9 questions you need to answer before you switch to solar

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