Over the years, electricity consumption has skyrocketed on a global scale. This is a very sensitive issue which has significant partisan interests, and which often pits those who argue that development is impossible without the use of the most polluting sources, such as coal and oil, and those who promote a radical change of direction towards the renewable energy sources.
Unfortunately, the ideological extremism obliterates the approach that is needed now: an open attitude that is able to consider energy production cycles in all aspects, in order to assess pros and cons and its degree of sustainability.
We are well aware that it is not possible to replace all fossil fuels with renewable sources at present, but apart from the personal considerations and statements of public figures, the climate change we are witnessing requires us to make serious reflections on our future and on what we can and must do.
Why use renewable sources?
Renewable energies have this definition because they produce energy by consuming resources that are naturally replenished, for example: sunlight, tides, wind and geothermal heat. The need to produce sustainable energy is not only linked to the amount of exhaustible resources needed, but also to the way in which they are used.
Both for oil and coal, energy is produced using a combustion process that generates carbon dioxide (and more). With renewable energy sources, however, there is never a combustion process.
What Europe is doing
It is an ambitious project that aims to achieve concrete results, without prioritising one technology over the other. In the last 10 years, however, the share of green energy produced by photovoltaic systems has increased considerably in relation to the lower price needed to produce it. According to the estimates of the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the price needed is now 82% less and this trend is also seen with Italian data. In the next few paragraphs, we will try to highlight both the positive and the negative aspects of photovoltaics.
How a photovoltaic system works
A photovoltaic system consists of a series of panels made of silicon, which is a semiconductor material capable of transforming solar radiation into electrical energy.
The amount of energy that panels can produce is directly proportional to the amount of light they can receive. This is why it is always preferable to install photovoltaic systems oriented to the south, to make the most of the position of the sun in order to get the most energy.
Which are the advantages of photovoltaics?
Although it is a widely used technology, one often wonders which are the real advantages of choosing solar as a renewable energy source.
Low maintenance costs
Once installed, a photovoltaic system (of standard size) needs routine maintenance of about 100 euros per year. The most important aspect not to be overlooked is the proper cleaning of the panels.
Properties acquire value
Whether it’s a house, a condo or just a plot of land, the presence of a photovoltaic system increases the value of the property and improves the energy efficiency class.
How to keep an eye on the value of your investment
Although costs have fallen significantly over the years, installing a photovoltaic system is always an investment that takes a few years to be able to get back from the expense made. Online there are tools available that allow to know the value of a photovoltaic system: these are very useful tools, especially when one needs to sell a photovoltaic plant.
Easy integration with other systems
A photovoltaic system can make a house completely autonomous from an energy point of view using batteries, or it can be used as a source of supplementary energy.
Possible disadvantages of photovoltaics
There are also some negative aspects of the photovoltaics that need to be considered. A suitable plant is required in order to make a significant impact on a house’s energy balance. Since this is an important investment to make, it is also good to know what are the possible issues. One of the main disadvantages is that the production depends on weather conditions. Knowing solar exposure is essential to make reliable predictions about the amount of energy that can be produced. Weather conditions, however, can be unpredictable, which is why when a photovoltaic system is designed the values are considered over an entire year. The goal is to improve the energy balance taking into account the peaks in production that will occur in the summer with the low production of power in the winter months.
Being aware of the use of renewable energy sources goes far beyond economic and energy savings. It is about creating a culture of eco-sustainability that influences and changes everyday life on a daily basis, starting with energy savings, which would be the first step in a smart reduction in consumption.
Similarly, a decrease in waste production would have a more significant impact than recycling alone, where further speculative logic is triggered by seeing waste as an economic resource. In order to ensure that eco-sustainability is not only a concept, but a real change of direction, it is necessary to revise not only the production logic but also the economic ones that determine its direction.