The most common solar power myths…and why they’re not true
In Statkraft’s recently released Low Emissions Scenario for 2050, solar power promises to play a major role in electrifying the world. This is largely due to the rapid technological development, declining costs, and efficiency gains of solar. But for some, when they hear the word ‘solar’, they remain sceptical.
Too costly, not efficient enough, or it won’t work where I live, are among the arguments ‘against’ this green energy source.
To get to the bottom of this, we enlisted the help of Statkraft’s Solar Engineering Manager Paolo Pizzorni, who after 15 years in renewables (and hundreds of MW of solar power to his name) is more than ready to set the solar record straight.
These are the top 3 solar power myths, and why they simply aren’t true.
Myth 1: It takes more energy to produce a solar panel than the amount of energy that panel will produce in its lifetime.
Paolo: This statement was true maybe 20 years ago, but not today. This myth refers to the energy payback period, which is the amount of time it takes for a solar panel to produce enough energy to compensate for the energy used to manufacture the panel in the first place. Today, thanks to better and more efficiently produced solar technology, the energy payback time for solar modules is around two to five years. Since the lifetime of a typical solar power plant is 40 years, there is no issue repaying the energy debt within the first years of operation.
Myth 2: You cannot generate electricity from solar panels on cloudy or rainy days.
Paolo: So long as there’s daylight, you can convert solar radiation into electricity using solar cells. And during the night, when the sun is on the other side of the planet, you can’t. So, even if it’s cloudy or raining during the day, you can still capture the benefit of solar radiation, just to a lesser extent – around 10% of what you capture on a sunny day.
Myth 3: Solar panels convert the heat from the sun into electricity.
Paolo: It’s not heat that’s converted into electricity, but rather it’s the electromagnetic radiation that’s converted. Many think that the hotter it is, the more electricity is generated. But a solar panel reacts to heat much like your phone or computer – less efficiently. Solar generation is at its most optimal under sunny and cool conditions, like during springtime in Europe. That’s the season when we see our top production rates.
Solar is unstoppable, according to Statkraft’s Low Emissions Scenario
With these popular solar myths now busted, it’s easy to see why Statkraft’s Low Emissions Scenario predicts such a bright future for this renewable energy source. Already in 2022, solar was the main contributor to the record-breaking growth in renewables, with net additions of nearly 22 GW. This trend continues in 2023, and with it, we are seeing an increasing appetite for investment in solar.
“As we said in our report, power generation from photovoltaic solar panels is a very established technology that even after decades of use, it’s still seeing rapid technological development – both in terms of efficiency gains and cost reductions. This makes it a global frontrunner in our scenario, with expectations of massive growth to come,” says Paolo.