As much as I love solar energy, I am increasingly made aware of the fact solar power has its disadvantages.

To begin with there is the whole problem with sunshine.  If we could find a way to keep sunlight 24 hours a day, then we would have no problem harvesting all of the energy we need. However, even with the best solar systems, we have to install extra in order to compensate for nighttime and cloudy days when the sun is not available.

However, that is not the biggest problem.  The biggest challenge with solar energy is our technology.  We simply have not developed the technology to effectively harvest sunlight and convert it to an extremely usable form .

Solar panels are typically what people think of when you say “solar energy”, and they do have their advantages. You can put them up anywhere and power just about anything with them.  However, they are only 17% efficient, meaning that a goodly amount of energy is wasted every hour.  To think of it from the other way, 83% of the sunlight they receive is not used.

But creating a more effective solar panels is proving to be a daunting task.  They have come up with panels that test out with over 20% efficiencies in the lab, but their cost is still prohibitive.

And that is the other downside with solar panels.  Right now solar panels cost about $4-$6 per watt.  That means for a house which needs 3 kW of energy, you would need to spend around $12,000 for the panels alone.  And while they would begin to pay for themselves immediately, it would be nearly ten years before they have fully repaid themeselves.

The one hope for our solar future likely lies in the development of these major solar energy plants that are springing up in sunny areas such as California.  These power plants use the sun’s thermal energy instead of its photovoltaic properties and seem to be operating with higher efficiencies.

In fact, one power plant in Spain recently used a method which allowed it to store heat overnight and produce electricity for 24 hours! So we can see that they hold a lot of potential.

However, it is still not enough.  Consumers are not willing to pay more for electricity as long as there is cheap coal available to produce it.

So between the inefficient solar equipment, and their highs costs and the fact that solar power plants are still somewhat in the experimental stage,  solar energy lags its progress.