Could These Be Solar’s 5 Biggest Threats?

Highlights :

  • In this contrary take on solar, Yash Singh discusses the many challenges and threats that still lie ahead for solar growth in the long term
  • 5 biggest threats to solar is a take on the challenges to solar that still remain
Could These Be Solar’s 5 Biggest Threats?

Solar has had a lot of time in the limelight, from being heralded as the energy source of the future to being the number 1 pick for home installation. However, a few other sources of energy have slipped under the radar and we’re here to talk about them for their potential to disrupt the rise of solar globally i.e threats to solar energy. From compatible weather to high energy demand, from jobs to existing infrastructure, a lot of factors are already challenging solar growth. Let’s see what the top 5 threats to solar potentially look like right now.

  1. Nuclear

One dimension to discussion among the threats to solar energy include nuclear energy. Nuclear has had a very rocky history, from bombs to reactor meltdowns. Needless to say, the public opinion on nuclear is somewhat between heavy regulation and completely shutting nuclear plants down. The Ipsos MORI poll found that nuclear had the lowest support of any established technology for generating electricity, with 38%. Coal was at 48% support while solar energy found favor with more than 90% of those surveyed. However, there seems to be a light at the end of the tunnel for nuclear, with the people slowly warming up to it. In January of 2023, Finland had managed to slash power costs by 75% due to the installation of a new plant. The US government has been making strides in debunking myths related to nuclear waste management and power generation. Nuclear plants produce a gigawatt of electricity on average, which is about double of what a coal plant would produce. This, along with waste that is easier to monitor and dispose of makes nuclear a viable candidate for our ever-increasing electricity requirements. Add to that the possibilities being promised from Small Modular Reactors(SMRs), and we could be just a breakthrough away from a significant surge in nuclear energy revival.

  1. The fossil fuel lobby

Fossil fuel corporations possess significant financial resources, affording them considerable influence. The influence of fossil fuel lobbyists has consistently impeded the rise of solar energy. Sanctions targeting China’s solar panel production and stringent monitoring of residential solar capacity installation are direct consequences of lobbying efforts by the fossil fuel industry. Additionally, Solar has also become an issue of political alliance in the USA for reasons that aren’t fully understandable at this stage to most. Fossil fuel firms, for all their lofty promises to clean up, retain a patchy record of actual investments into renewable energy, when compared to ongoing investments into oil and gas exploration, or simply paying dividends to their investors. Fossil fuel lobby thus proves a threats to solar energy penetration.

  1. Nature Itself

Severe weather conditions aren’t good for solar panels, which are fragile to begin with. Solar panels can crack, get caked in dust or become nigh unusable in areas with less-than-ideal weather. As global warming gets worse, once-in-a-lifetime weather events will start to become more and more common, an issue demonstrated every year with cyclones and wildfires. In the US, in March 2020, a tornado in Louisiana led to approximately USD30m in damages. Additionally, solar panels, even as they promise a life of 20 to even 30 years, still don’t match up with traditional power plants in coal and Hydro, that can comfortably last 50 years.

  1. Power needs

As the population increases more and we approach a hard limit on efficiency on some consumer products, soon enough solar just won’t be enough. In 2023, consumer panels reach efficiencies of about 23%, with 26% on the horizon in 2025, which might not be enough in the future. Solar might be dismissed as too expensive to get an ROI in the future, especially with other promising technologies such as nuclear gaining more popularity. Even if we take India for instance, Solar has not even filled the gap created by rise in power consumption, forget eating into the share of thermal power. That tells us just how big the challenge ahead is.

  1. Solar is still a new technology

Solar is still expensive, relatively speaking. While prices have come down, they’ve gone from exorbitant to slightly above reasonable, which is still more than the average person can afford. Especially when you consider it’s ability to serve needs on a stand alone basis. Not a lot of people have an income that can justify investing in solar along with the area to go with it. Solar is also a new technology, so a lot of people buying into it or thinking of buying into it tend to treat it as an experiment rather than an investment. Very few people use solar to go off the grid, which means that solar still isn’t seen as reliable enough for most people. Even in the most solar friendly conditions, solar still needs storage costs to come down significantly and become much more efficient to deliver the kind of energy that can sustain or maintain lifestyles people are used to, or aspire to. Remember, cooling needs are expected to be the biggest area of demand in a warming world, and current cooling methods remain energy intensive enough to make solar almost redundant.

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