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Solar Power Homes

Geraldine Said:

why, in sunny Florida, are there not more homes with whole house solar power?

We Answered:

Solar power is very expensive. On a $250, 000 house you could expect to pay around $100, 000 to have sufficient solar power for basic use. That is a hell of a cost and makes solar power far, far more expensive than mains electricity.

And that will only ever serve basic needs. That would not enable the use of air conditioners or other devices that have large power drains. So all houses will still need to be connected to the power grid.

Then you need to factor in the battery shed. Solar only generates power for during sunny days. No power at night, no power when it rains. To overcome that a house need to have a huge battery supply to maintain power. That requires a minimum of a shed 1.5m x 3m x 3m. Obviously that is impossible in apartments but even in suburban houses it represents a lot of lost space and it is ugly. As a result solar power devalues a house. So in addition to the $100, 000 it costs to fit a house with solar you need to factor in an extra $20, 000 in lost property values. You are now looking at solar power costing half as much as the house itself.

The third big strike against solar power is maintenance. Solar panels need to be kept clean to function. That means that in most cities and many rural areas you need to climb on the roof and clean them at least once a month. That makes them impractical for the elderly, the ill, rental houses and so forth.

As for the environmental benefits, they are dubious.

Solar panels need a LOT of energy to manufacture. It's hard to calculate exactly but at the moment solar panels probably only save around 20% more fossil fuel than coal electricity. That isn't a huge advantage for something so expensive.

Added to that solar panels are produced by mining mineral sands. Sand mining is one of the more environmentally destructive mining processes because of the habitats it occurs in.

The third environmental strike is that solar panels contain toxic materials. They pose a real disposal problem because they can't simply be thrown out at a landfill, they need to be processed to remove the toxic chemicals and metals they contain.

And that is why few people use solar. It has no economic benefit and any environmental benefits are dubious at best. Solar technology will doubtless continue to improve over time and with increasing use, but right now they are a poor second choice to mains power.

Yvonne Said:

Do any of you use solar power in your homes. What do you do, personally, to take care of our environment. and?

We Answered:

I am an eco-freako who tries to reduce my energy consumption as much as possible.

However, my biggest contribution to the environment is that I do not have children who will be consumers of resources and producers of waste.

Discuss It!