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  • Writer's pictureBrian Harbin

4 Challenges with Solar Panels & How to Overcome Them

There are a number of challenges facing solar panels including intermittency, storage, connectivity and maintenance issues. However there are ways to overcome many of the challenges facing solar panels.


Intermittency


One of the biggest advantages of fossil fuels is that they are able to be burned on demand to produce energy, whereas with solar power that energy can obviously only be generated via sunshine though people still need energy when the sun is not shining.


This causes challenges relating to storage and connectivity, but the good news this issue can be mitigated just with proper planning. Solar power may be intermittent but it is also largely predictable, with the biggest differences made to solar output being the result of seasonal changes and the day to night cycle. Unpredictable variations are usually rare and much smaller in comparison.


The result of this is that while intermittency is still a challenge for solar panels, planning power management and the solar power infrastructure around the aspects of solar power that are predictable is possible.


Storage


The intermittency of solar power means that huge amounts of electricity storage are required for it to work as needed, producing electricity during sunny periods for use during dark or cloudy periods.


This normally means batteries, but they come with enormous amounts of lithium and create their own issues given how much in demand that element is because of the rise of electric vehicles and which also has an association with a mining industry that has been slammed for being dangerous and polluting.


One way of dealing with this challenge is to use the battery of an electric vehicle to store the electricity that was generated by the solar panels, though other storage options are being proposed such as electrolyzed hydrogen. However, many of these new options are still in the research stage and not yet practical.


Connectivity


Solar panels are at their best when there is sunlight, with huge solar farms in sunny, sparsely populated areas like the southwestern deserts of the United States being particularly ideal in combination with enormous cabling infrastructure in order to ensure the transportation of the generated energy to the larger cities in the colder northeastern side of the country.


It would however be a vast undertaking to create such infrastructure, especially as it would also entail passing over land that is privately owned. The biggest challenge in the United States is indeed distribution. Among the workarounds to this challenge is supplementary power from different renewable energy sources such as wind.


Maintenance


Solar panels are very durable and generally require less maintenance than is the case with other energy sources, but in order to avoid a reduction in efficiency some minor maintenance is required.


One good tip is to ensure that solar panels are cleaned well twice a year to remove the dirt that over time will inevitably accumulate on them. Panels should be cleaned during the cooler part of the day.


Adopting renewable energy sources is vital to coping with climate change, and solar panels on roofs are seen as a good way to make renewable energy more easily deployable.





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