For year’s homeowners have used traditional energy sources to power their homes. Electricity produced using non-renewable resources has been the most traditional energy used for households. Solar power, a renewable energy source, is becoming increasingly more popular when it comes to powering your average home.
Therefore, it would be beneficial to know the differences between solar power and electricity as a homeowner or potential homeowner.
Power plants generate electricity using a generator spun by a turbine that uses non-renewable resources, coal, or natural gases. Solar panels produce solar energy by harnessing the sun’s rays, a renewable resource, turning it into electrical power using the panel’s photovoltaic cells.
We now know the primary differences between electricity and solar power, but several other differences are essential in the solar power vs. electricity discussion. These vary from their production processes to the resources used in their production, costings, and overall pros and cons, including environmental impacts.
What are Differences in Production Between Solar Power and Electricity?
Purchasing traditional electricity from your local utility company has been the most popular way to get your household powered. Multiple options exist for a homeowner to choose from when it comes to powering their homes, but solar power is the most popular renewable energy choice. The following will briefly describe electricity and solar power production and how you can use them in your household.
How Is Electricity Produced?
A rotating generator generates traditional electricity in a powerplant. Inside the generator is an electromagnetic shaft; inside the shaft are insulated wires. Small electric currents form in the wires when the shaft rotates, resulting in large currents forming within the generator.
A turbine spins the generator, and this turbine requires enough heat to create the steam that helps power it. Most steam turbines use natural gases and coal, which, when burned, produce the heat that helps spin the turbine and generate electricity.
From there, the electrical charge makes its way through high-voltage transmission lines to substations. From there, it gets sent to smaller power lines. It then travels through these smaller or distribution lines in your neighborhood into small transformer boxes that sit on the ground or get mounted to the poles before connecting to your home.
How Is Solar Power Produced?
To harness the sun’s rays and turn these rays into electricity, you need solar panels. You can either place these panels mounted on the ground or the roof. The more connected solar cells, which make up a solar panel, the more electricity you can produce.
The electricity generation out of solar power occurs when light strikes the photovoltaic or solar cells, releasing electrons that generate electric current and thus convert sunlight into electricity.
The solar panels produce something called direct current, or DC. To convert DC power to alternating current or AC electricity, the panels must first be connected to an inverter, which will change the current from DC to AC electricity.
Once the inverter has produced the AC electricity, you can use it in your homes or store it in a deep-cycle battery. Storing solar power in batteries allows you to utilize the power even when the sun is not shining. Deep-cycle batteries can survive for long periods of repeated discharging to almost their total capacity.
Solar Power Vs. Electricity: What Resources Do they Use?
- Solar power is considered a renewable resource. It comes from a source that does not run out and gives off enough energy every day to power everything on earth electrically. Solar power uses the sun’s rays to produce energy and convert it into electricity which you can use in your home.
- Traditional electricity uses coal and natural gases in its manufacturing process. These resources are non-renewable as their supply is limited to the amount we can extract or mine from the earth. Coal and natural gases take many thousands of years to form from the buried remains of ancient animals and sea plants that lived many millions of years ago.
How Affordable is Solar Power Vs. Electricity?
Most people assume that the costs for renewable energy powers sources such as solar power are much higher than the traditional coal or natural gas produced electricity. This belief is no longer the truth if you look at the whole manufacturing process.
Traditional electricity requires power plants to produce it. These need maintenance and large staff working almost around the clock to ensure that the plant runs at its optimum capacity. Coal mining is costly and degrades the planet.
Traditional electricity is cost-effective on the home level because it has a low average monthly cost. Although you will need to pay your utility bill every month for the foreseeable future, you will be subject to price hikes whenever the need arises.
On the other hand, the belief is that solar power is much more expensive because of the initial cost of installations. In the long run, solar power is way more cost-effective. Once you have gone through the installation process and its initial costs, your solar panels require little to no maintenance other than an excellent clean every year or two.
Since 2014 the price of installing a solar power system in your home has dropped by nearly 70%. In most states, solar power is now economically competitive with conventional energy sources, which creates an environment for solar energy markets to rapidly mature. Solar panels have a typical life expectancy of 25 – 30 years. You might need to replace your storage batteries every few years, depending on the quality.
Solar Power Vs. Electricity: What Are The Pros And Cons?
1. Pros and Cons of Traditional Electricity
Traditional electricity powered by coal has the following pros and cons:
- Coal is inexpensive and abundant
- There is a ‘clean coal’ technology that can remove harmful materials before they reach the environment
- There are environmental impacts
- There is the potential that it can pollute the soil, air, and water bodies
- Burning coal emits CO2, toxic heavy metals, SO2, cadmium, mercury, and arsenic
- Making ‘clean coal’ involves costs
- Coal I not finite and will eventually run out
- Coals bi-products include SO2, arsenic, mercury, and selenium
Traditional electricity powered by natural gases has the following pros and cons:
- It is the cleanest of all the fossil fuels
- Emits less CO2 than coal, around 45% less
- It has lower levels of pollutants when burned
- It has no waste
- It is a non-renewable energy source
- When burnt, it emits carbon dioxide
- It contains around 80 – 95% methane which is a potent greenhouse gas
- Significant environmental risks because of ‘fracking’
2. Solar Power Pros and Cons
Solar power has the following pros and cons:
- It is a renewable energy resource
- It is abundant and sustainable
- You can access it worldwide
- It makes no noise during production
- It is low maintenance
- It has a high upfront cost
- Sunlight is intermittent
- Solar panel production emits potent greenhouse gases, including nitrogen trifluoride, hexafluoroethane, and sulfur hexafluoride
- Some solar panels require expensive components
- It can require ample space for installation
Conclusion solar power and traditional electricity production processes are very different. These power sources have pros and cons in their installation, resources, costings, and environmental impacts.