It is easy to see solar-powered products are becoming extremely popular around the world. People are aware there needs to be a change. The average person also knows that fossil fuels have quite a few bad qualities that go along with them. The big question is, will solar power be enough to replace fossil fuels fully?
Solar power does have many great aspects, just as fossil fuels have some bad aspects. However, it is unrealistic to think that fossil fuels will be completely replaced by solar power. Fossil fuels and solar power can work hand in hand though.
It may be a while before the world relies solely on solar power. There are great benefits to using solar power, but it also has some drawbacks. Read on to find out the good, bad, and ugly about solar power and fossil fuels. Knowing what makes fossil fuels and solar power work and what they are made of can give you a better understanding of why solar power can’t fully overtake fossil fuels.
What Exactly Are Fossil Fuels?
Fossil fuels are naturally occurring fuels such as:
- Crude oil – A solid that is layered in between the coal sediment rock deposits. It is heated to make a thick liquid
- Coal – Sediment rock deposits formed where dead animals and plants lay and piled on top of each other and decomposed
- Natural gas – Found in the pockets formed above oil deposits or in the layers of coal rock sediments that don’t have oil
These fuels were formed many years ago from decomposing plants and animals. They are found in the earth’s crust and burned for energy.
Fossil fuels are not man-made, so they can run out. Once they are gone, they are gone for good. The carbon footprint they leave in their wake, the cost to mine them, and the fact that they may not be around forever have ignited the demand for solar power around the world.
Different Types Of Solar Power
When you hear the term solar power, the average person thinks it’s one type of power. There are actually a few different types of solar power. They are made differently and may harness power using different methods. The most used types of solar power are:
Solar Cell Systems
These types are also referred to as photovoltaic solar energy. This is the most common type of solar power and is a simple concept. It simply takes sunlight and turns it right into electricity. As the solar cells absorb sunlight, a reaction occurs, and this reaction produces energy. Solar cells can even be used in thinner forms.
With that discovery, there are now shingles and roof tiles that are solar cells. People can have a full solar roof disguised as a simple roof, which is energy efficient and looks nice for those who don’t want a large panel on their roof.
Solar Hot Water
This is the second most common type of solar power. Solar hot water systems have two main parts to them:
- The solar collector. The solar collector will be aimed towards the sun and harnesses its power.
- The storage tank. The storage tank holds a heated liquid, typically water or antifreeze. The heat will build up in the solar collector then heats the water as it flows through the tubes.
Concentrated Solar Energy
These types are used on a larger scale. They are made up of thousands upon thousands of mirrors. These mirrors work together to concentrate the sun into one area. This area will be heated to extremely high temperatures. Once the heat reaches a certain temperature, it will help a steam turbine produce electricity. These are also usually used to power large grids.
You may have even passed by them in certain states or seen them in a movie. They are large and can’t be missed. They are more for large companies or even towns that want to only rely on solar power.
Can Solar Power Replace All Fossil Fuels?
The chances of this happening in your lifetime are fairly slim, unfortunately. While the world is leaning more towards a solar-powered future, there are still some benefits to using both. Fossil fuels will not always be around, and other than cutting back the demand for them, there is not much we can do about it. For now, using both to pick up where the other left off will have to do.
If people could try and be more accountable for lowering the number of fossil fuels they use, there could be a change in the world. It is slowly happening; people are becoming more aware of solar power. There is just always more to be done.
Thankfully, more products are being offered to the public that have a wide range of prices. The small steps of buying solar-powered devices can create a ripple effect. Over time, more people will be using the products.
Solar power can be a great power source for the future, but unfortunately, there are some negative aspects that have to be considered when using strictly solar power. After all, it too is man-made, and even though it seems like the far better option, you still need to consider the drawbacks. On the other side fossil fuels are found naturally and have some good qualities but, as most people know, also have many drawbacks.
Solar Power Benefits
There are many benefits to using solar power. It is renewable energy, which means it can’t be used up. It will always be around. Sun and wind power are both renewable energies and will never run out. If there were no sun, there would be no life on earth. That being said, let’s look at the benefits when using solar power.
An anticipated cost savings of solar power is lower electric bills for residential and commercial customers who buy and use solar panels in their homes or businesses. Over time the savings could more than pay for even the best solar panel units out there. Some can bring their electrical bill to $0. This is a no brainer for many people if you can afford the upfront cost or are able to get a special loan just for solar panels.
Cost Has Lowered
A decade ago, it would have been awfully hard for the average person to afford solar panels for their home. In this present-day, solar power is within anyone’s reach. Whether it is a full solar home or a few panels, there are options at every price point.
Can Be Used For Many Products
There are many different products on the market that use solar power. They range from small to big products. You don’t need to have a home on only solar power. There are many affordable products to help you become more environmentally friendly, from
It Is Renewable
This is one of the most important aspects of solar power. It is renewable. The sun will always shine, so the fear of running out is not an issue. Even wind power will always be around. It allows the world to no longer be fully reliant on fossil fuels.
Cleaner Than Fossil Fuels
Solar power releases far fewer toxic emissions than fossil fuels, which release a significant amount of toxins into the atmosphere. You use fewer of the earth’s nonrenewable resources while putting off far less toxic chemicals into the air.
Solar panels do not put off carbon dioxide like fossil fuels, which is harmful to any living thing, from plants to humans. Burning coal also releases horrible toxins, such as sulfur dioxide. Depending on the area you live in, you may live near plants that produce certain fossil fuels. In some cases, these plants need to burn fossil fuels to create the by-product.
If you buy solar-powered products or even energy-efficient ones, you can get tax breaks and tax credits. It is called an ITC or investment tax credit. You could be able to deduct over 25% of the total cost of purchasing the panels and installing the system.
The credit used to be higher and has dropped 10% in the last five years. In the future, it is estimated to be as low as 10% that you would be able to deduct on your taxes. Always make sure to keep any and all receipts as there can also be loans to help with the purchase as mentioned above.
It doesn’t matter if you live in an area where power has yet to reach or if you are building a home on your land. It will cost a lot of money to run power to new locations or to set up power. Some places are not even able to be reached. Even if you want to live off the grid, you could use solar power, so you never need to rely on the electric company.
If you just need a simple power source at your camping site or maybe even a cabin, solar power is the way to go. Using solar power, you don’t need to worry about anything being left on when you are away/out of state. In a fossil-fuel environment, an air conditioner left on, or even a light, could still cost you money even though you are not there.
Converting to solar power also helps with the issue of turning the service on or off. Calling into the electric or gas company to have them come shut your utilities off and turn them on could end up costing you money for the appointment or become inconvenient if you have to be there in person.
Solar Power Disadvantages
Even though there are many great benefits to using solar power, there are unfortunately a few bad qualities to using it. Solar power is not technically 100% clean. To make and transport it, for instance, takes a good amount of fossil fuels.
Upfront Cost & Upkeep
The upfront cost to buy solar panels can be pricey. It all depends on how much solar power you want versus how much traditional electricity. If you want your home to be fully solar power, you will be looking at spending over ten thousand dollars, but it could be much higher.
Not to mention a larger warehouse or factory trying to buy enough panels to become fully solar power. It would be awfully expensive. The battery packs that store the energy to be consumed take up a decent amount of space and will eventually need to be replaced. Replacement batteries cost a good bit of money.
Manufacturing Solar Panels
Solar power products take a good bit of work to make them and transport them. Most of the factories that make them, ironically, do not run-on solar power. The large trucks that need to hall them to and from warehouses also run-on fossil fuels and make up a lot of pollution in the world.
They also contain very toxic chemicals while they are sealed safely inside. If they were to break or be disposed of improperly, they would wreak havoc on the environment and anything living in the vicinity.
- Cadmium – A carcinogen (causes cancer), and leads inside the batteries can corrode over time, leaking into the earth
- Sulfuric acid
Solar products must always be disposed of properly. The batteries can even be recycled (not via your normal recycling bin, but sent back to a specially designated company to take care of solar batteries).
Panels Are Not Universal or Permanent
While this is not necessarily a bad aspect, it is something to consider when wondering if solar power can take over fossil fuels. If you ever plan on moving, you can’t take your solar panels with you in most cases. While it can help sell your home, you most likely won’t get back everything you put into the solar power system.
Sometimes this is not an issue for people. They don’t plan to move, or if they do, they make up the difference they lose on the solar panels, and it is not a deal-breaker.
They may not work everywhere. Solar power needs the sun. On cloudy days, rainy days, or if your panels get covered with snow or leaves, you can miss out on the sun charging your home. You can, however, buy and install large battery packs that will store all unused energy.
If you live in areas that may not have the best sun or in a deeply wooded area, you may not ever get a strong enough charge. Doing a little research, clearing out trees, and having battery storage can create a more reliable power source. You don’t want to wake up in a freezing home without lights or have your business without power and lose money.
Many people believe that solar power is 100% green. While solar power is far cleaner than fossil fuels, there are still some pollutions that solar power puts off. The production of solar energy can also create greenhouse gases, and the hazardous materials they’re made from can hurt the earth.
Greenhouse gas is a gas inside the atmosphere of the earth that traps heat. Sun can shine through to reach the ground, but heat can’t escape. This can create gases such as carbon dioxide and methane.
While the greenhouse effect does help the planet not to freeze, a build-up can create a horrible effect, warming the planet too much.
Source: Green Match – Solar Energy
Fossil Fuels Benefits
It may be surprising to hear, but there are actually benefits to using fossil fuels. There may not be as many as solar power, but there are still enough worth mentioning. Some of the benefits of using fossil fuels are:
Fossil fuels are so much less expensive than solar power. They are also easier to come by because they don’t need to be fully built and manufactured. Fossil fuel harvesting is a much quicker process. While the process can be dangerous to produce them, the result is a much less expensive power source.
When you are using gas, kerosene, oil, or coal as your fuel, you never need to worry about what the weather will be like each day. You will not need to worry if the trees are blocking the sun, if the snow has covered the panels, or if it has been dreary outside for days.
You will have a warm house, with power and your business location will not be without power to risk losing business.
Provides Many Jobs
There are so many jobs that have been created because of fossil fuels. From digging for the actual fossil fuels to the creation of the products that run on them. Let’s look at a few examples of jobs that could not be possible without fossil fuels:
- Coal Miners
- Gas station employees
- Oil & gas crew members
- Truck driversOil and gas chemists
- Car factory employeesPipefitters
- Train engineers and other crew members
Easy To Come By & Versatile
The average person may not have piles of coal in their basement to power their home. You may not know, but it can be used for many things in your everyday life. Chances are, there are many fossil-fueled items in the room where you are sitting.
You most likely have:
- A car fueled by gas
- A home that is powered by electricity and runs everything from a refrigerator all the way down to charging your phone.
- Gas stove and/or oven
- Gas/Electric furnace
- Gas/Electric hot water heater
- Gas/Electric lawnmower and other powered landscaping tools
- Kerosene heater
- Oil stove
- Propane-fueled grill
Produces Many By-Products
If you have ever used kerosene, different oils, plastic, and more, you have been a benefactor of products created as a result of fossil fuels.
Fossil fuels are also used to make lesser-known by-products such as pesticides and fertilizers.
Fossil fuels can be found in any town in the world. During a simple drive down the road, you can find yourself at a gas station that has gasoline, diesel, propane, and kerosene. Fossil fuels have kept the world going for a long time. That does not mean the world does not want a change for the better, though.
Fossil Fuel Disadvantages
Most people know and are aware that there are disadvantages to using fossil fuels.
The simple fact about fossil fuels is they will not always be around. They can’t rebuild themselves, meaning once they are gone, they’re gone for good. While it is very debatable about how long they will last, one thing for sure is if the world does not become more fuel-efficient, you will find yourself in a bad position years from now.
Jobs Can Be Dangerous
It is no secret that obtaining fossil fuels is not an easy task. In fact, it can be incredibly dangerous.
Whether mining deep into the earth with the risk of the mine shaft collapsing and trapping or killing miners or working on an oil rig in the middle of a hurricane, oil and gas sites have major job risks. Typically a lot of pressure builds in the pipes that are used to extract fossil fuels. As a result, there have been many deaths over the years from:
- User-error accidents
- Machine failure
- The unfortunate bad luck of mother nature and the earth not cooperating
Hazardous & Flammable Material Needs to be Transported
If all fossil fuels were only transported by boats, maybe there would not be such a huge risk of damage and injury. Unfortunately, the main way to transport flammable substances is by train or tractor-trailer.
That means there is an increased number of chances for accidents to happen in residential areas and near your home. People cross tracks too late, cut off tractor-trailers, or the tractor-trailers have an accident on their own. Not only does it pose a risk of fire but also contamination to the ground around it. There are proper steps to take to contain the mess.
Solar Powered And Everyday Life
There are many different solar-powered products that you can use in your everyday life. There are new products created every day to ease the world into a solar-powered future. Some are said to be game-changers. Let’s look at some of the best solar power creations.
Tesla Solar Tiles – Residential & Commercial
You have heard of solar power and the large, sometimes unsightly panels lining roofs. What if you could have a traditional looking roof AND solar power. Tesla created full solar roofs. Yes, your whole roof could be made up of solar panels that look exactly like a normal roof.
They are stronger than normal tiles on the market and come with a 25-year warranty. They can even be used for larger-scale buildings such as businesses, warehouses. The size is endless, but unfortunately, not every roof can use its solar tiles. If you need a quote or want more information, click here.
Solar Air Conditioning & Heaters
In many places across the world other than electric, heat and air are the most important aspect of a home. Having a warm cozy home during the winter and a cool home during the summer is a necessity for many. While heat sometimes may not cost as much, air conditioners suck up a lot of electricity.
There are many options for both, but they will require batteries and panels. The savings can more than cover the cost of either unit over time.
Solar Power Cars
Full solar-powered cars are still a little way off from being available to everyone, but many different types of models are to be released over the next few years, from small two-seaters to a traditional sedan that will set you back $170,000.
Once more people start to manufacture a fully solar-powered vehicle, they will be available at better price points. Some are not fully reliant on solar power and will still need gas or an electric rechargeable battery.
The World Still Needs Fossil Fuels, For Now
In the future, the world will hopefully be able to function without as many fossil fuels, but we also may not have a choice. Research has shown that coal could run out in about 100 years. At the same time, oil and gas could only have 50 years or so. This is not known for certain, and fossil fuels could last longer. It is just uncertain.
There is also not any technology available to power trains, tractor-trailers, and cargo ships with pure solar power. Those are the three largest means of transportation when hauling supplies that people need to live and use daily. If and when they find a way to create enough affordable solar-powered cars to power tractor-trailers, trains, and planes, the possibilities are endless and could result and a healthier world for everyone.
The Sweet Spot – Solar Power And Fossil Fuels
For now, and in the foreseeable future, it looks like there will be a happy medium between solar power and fossil fuels where solar power can be used, the world is trying to do so, and fossil fuels could just pick up the slack. If people tried to use fewer fossil fuels in daily life and more solar power, the fossil fuels could last longer.
Until there is a way to power everything on this earth by the sun, we will still rely on both fossil and solar working together to power our lives.