The Advantages and Disadvantages of Solar Energy

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This paper is a review Werner Van Zyl’s article ”All roads to sustainable energy lead to the sun” published in 2017. While acknowledging the varied sources of energy, including petroleum and coal often referred to as “new energy” sources, Zyl takes the stance that it is time to reevaluate what constitutes “new” in relation to energy sources. His argument is premised on sustainability; in his words, “Fossil fuels have no place in any long-term sustainable energy solution for the planet. It needs to be replaced with renewable energy sources” (Zyl).

Proceeding from this premise, the writer makes the following proposition: embrace the sun; disown nuclear energy. This is well captured in the writer’s admonition urging us to “focus on the sun, nothing else gets the required numbers.” (Zyl). The article clearly demonstrates the advantages of solar as an energy source – its abundance, sustainability, and potential to facilitate access to energy by all.

A number of characteristics make this article appealing. First of all, the article is relevant and current since it addresses the going concern of exploitation of renewable sources of energy. Secondly, the article provides useful data to enable the readers make their own judgment.  

To support his argument and justify his pro-solar position, the author has provided relevant data and comparisons with existing alternatives. For instance, he demonstrates that with proper harnessing, solar energy is relatively inexhaustible and has huge potential - at 120,000 TW by the time it hits the surface of the earth. The other sources of energy pale in comparison with the sun with geothermal (12 TW) ranking the second highest, followed by nuclear (8 TW), biomass (5-7 TW) and wind (2-4 TW). In another instance, the writer uses data to augment his standpoint that “the solar energy irradiating the surface of the Earth is almost four orders of magnitude larger than the rate our civilisation can consume it” (Zyl). Other examples of use of data to illustrate given points abound in the article, and, in my view, the use of such data appeals to the reader in ways that writing in only prose would not.

In addition, the author has presented an expose relevant technologies that if employed will enhance access to energy. By elaborating on the black solar photovoltaic (PV) panels, the author has not only demonstrated his grasp of the content that he is writing about but he has also demonstrated that sustainable exploitation of solar energy is possible.  

However, the author has not given alternative forms of energy a deserving attention nor highlighted the challenges and limitations of solar energy. The greatest disadvantage of depending on solar energy is that it is dependent on the availability of sunlight. While solar energy can be collected during sunny days, cloudy and rainy days lower its efficiency significantly because only little energy can be harvested. The author ought to have elaborated on new technologies for storage of energy “for a rainy day” to borrow the cliché.

Furthermore, solar energy is costly in terms of installation. Although the author has demonstrated the advantages of off-grid solar in terms of reaching the rural populations, the initial cost of installing solar energy can be expensive. Therefore, contrary to what the article posits, solar energy can end up being a discriminative source if it can only be used by those who are wealthy enough to afford its installation. In addition, solar energy may not be able to run all the appliances used in the normal household unless a person invests in big storage batteries and solar panels.

In conclusion, Zyl’s paper has demonstrated the immense potential of solar energy as a source of clean and renewable energy. By making comparison with alternative renewable sources, the author has shown that solar is generally inexhaustible and that its magnitude is greater than the entire population of the earth can consume it. Despite some limitations, solar energy has the potential to power the entire earth and ensure that every household can access energy; after all, other sources of energy come with their challenges and limitations too. Thus, I do agree with the author: “Say yes to the sun” (Zyl).

Works Cited

Zyl, Werner Van. "All roads to sustainable energy lead to the sun." 18 May 2017. The Conversation. 13 November 2018.

August 14, 2023




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Energy Solar Energy

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