One thing is obvious when researching solar power on the Internet.

One thing is obvious when researching solar power on the Internet. The Internet is awash with sites that debate the pros and cons of solar.

Sifting through those sites reveals that they all basically agree on what those advantages and disadvantages are.

Even though many of the sites are sponsored by solar companies who clearly have a financial stake in making solar look as good as possible, sites that are neutral or critical of some aspects of solar power agree that the pros outweigh the cons.

Most sites stress that there is  no  perfect energy source, whether it be fossil fuels or renewable energy sources. All have their own advantages and disadvantages.

Fossil fuels are abundant and relatively cheap. Of course, the major downside of  burning fossil fuels is the harm done to the environment by pollution from refining processes and the  emission of carbon into the atmosphere.

The advantages of solar power are many. Ac­cording to SolarReviews <www.solarreviews.com/ solar-energy/pros-and-cons-of-solar-energy> (keeping in mind that most if not all web sites list the same pros and cons), “For most American homeowners, the most significant attraction to solar power is that once the capital cost of installing it is paid off, the energy is free.”

Solar energy is renewable, meaning that the sun will be around for a long time and will continue to produce energy. Also, the generation of electricity  by solar panels is pollution free.

Solar power can be generated virtually anywhere on the planet, although areas closest to the equator are ideal.

The use of solar power reduces electricity costs and with few or no moving parts, there is  no noise or maintenance outside of occasionally cleaning the panels.

Rebates, tax credits, and other incentives are available to mitigate the  high initial costs.

With each passing year, technology improves and the efficiency of solar panels increases.

Leading the list of disadvantages is the current high cost of solar power. Without incentives and subsidies, many homeowners would not be able to afford solar.

It should be pointed out that all types of energy production in the U.S. receive subsidies or some form of tax breaks. The big industries of oil, coal, and natural gas all benefit from financial subsidies granted by the government.

So what is the current cost of installing solar? According to energysage (<news.energysage.com>) “As of early 2016, most U.S. homeowners are paying $3 to $4 per watt to install a solar panel system, and  the average price of solar in the U.S. is $3.70 per watt.”

For example, a 6 kilowatt system would cost $15,600 to install while a 10 kilowatt system would cost $26,000.  These prices include a 30 percent federal tax rebate, and some states, local governments, and utilities also offer rebates or tax incentives which can lower the cost even more.

Of course, the generation of electricity from solar power is dependant upon the weather. Elect­ricity is not generated at night or on cloudy days.

Storage of electricity for use when the sun goes down is also a problem for homeowners. Current battery technology is expensive and the number of batteries required for storing electricity  takes up a lot of room.

Some manufacturing processes associated with solar panels are associated with greenhouse gas emissions, some of which are many times more worse for the atmosphere than carbon dioxide.

Certain solar cells require exotic, rare, and expensive materials to manufacture.This drives up the cost of solar.

One alternative to rooftop solar panels are community solar farms like the one proposed to be built south of Montevideo.

Solar farms have unique advantages and disadvantages.

One advantage is that there may be no up front costs to subscribers to a solar farm (depending on the company). Construc­tion costs are borne entirely by the company building the farm, as is the cost to connect to the electrical grid. This means that savings on electric bills can be realized right away.

In addition, solar panels can be mounted and motorized  in such a way that they can track the position of the sun and move accordingly. This greatly increases the efficiency of the solar panels.

A disadvantage of solar farms is the amount of land required for a solar farm to be built.

Depend­ing on the size of the farm, hundreds of acres of land may be required for the construction of a single solar farm. Opponents of solar have pointed out that solar farms  take valuable farmland out of production.

Adjacent property owners may have concerns about how much of an effect a solar farm would have on their own property values.

One thing is certain, the debate over solar power will continue in the years to come. Advances in technology are sure to come, and the price of solar will continue to fall, making solar power even more attractive as a source of renewable energy.

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