Utilities in the United States produced around 4.18 quadrillion kilowatt-hours (kWh) of power last year, with renewable energy accounting for roughly 17% of that total. According to data that was just released by the U.S. Energy Information Administration, solar energy accounted for only 1.6% (or around 67 billion kWh) of the nation’s total electricity generation in 2016. The situation is not dissimilar in European nations; in 2017, over 17.5% of the European Union’s total energy consumption was derived from renewable sources. However, solar energy’s contribution is still quite small.
As more people learn about solar energy’s effectiveness in mitigating carbon dioxide and other harmful emissions, the financial benefits of establishing a solar farm grow, and not just in the United States. However, the commercialization of solar installations and the establishment of a solar farm face a number of real-world challenges, including falling oil and gas prices and technical difficulties in integrating solar with electric-power grids at lower costs.
Despite these difficulties, the potential rewards for solar farmers are enormous, though they must also overcome significant obstacles in order to begin harvesting solar energy.
Hurdles in Harvesting Solar Energy by Setting up a Solar Plant
Despite its lower overall cost, solar building has developed into a highly specialized industry. While the upfront costs of installing a solar farm are falling rapidly, the solar power industry is becoming less profitable due to factors such as a lack of qualified workers and the need to keep up with rapidly developing technologies in the name of a sustainable energy future.
However, the widespread use of solar energy to generate electricity is still hindered by obstacles like different site requirements, a proliferation of equipment suppliers, a dearth of plant performance assessment tools, and a lack of efficient tools. However, solar energy does have a few fundamental constraints that continue to be the primary roadblocks for solar farmers.
Poor dispatchability, dilution, and proximity to a solar farm are the three main problems with solar energy. Businesses in the solar industry will need to take the time to do things right when establishing a solar farm if they want to see improvements in performance and output in the years ahead.
1. Maintaining Reliability and Dispatchability of Solar-powered Electricity
While there has been progress toward using renewable energy sources, a world run solely on solar power is an ambitious goal. Constantly shifting daily and seasonal electrical demands and needs on the part of consumers, combined with the unpredictability of solar resources in different places, make it difficult to guarantee a constant and uninterrupted supply of energy.
To prevent power outages, it is crucial for solar farmers to ensure that solar-generated electricity meets the fluctuating needs of end users. Solar power is still less reliable than energy from fossil fuels since the dispatchability of electricity generated from solar energy is entirely dependent on how much sun shines during different seasons and geographical regions.
Since the amount of solar energy available varies throughout the day, solar power companies must invest in dispatchable power generators to either ramp up or reduce the electricity supply as needed. Therefore, a farmer must ensure, while setting up a solar farm, that it is supplemented with efficient solar generators and energy storage or batteries. However, with the sharp decline in battery prices, power companies should be able to overcome this challenge and ensure more reliable solar power supply by supplementing solar farms with battery-supplemented generators.
2. Dealing with the Problem of Diluteness and Intermittency of the Solar Energy Source
Only when the sun is directly overhead does an area of one square meter on Earth receive almost 1 kW of sunshine, and this varies greatly across different regions. The intermittent nature of sunlight reduces the efficiency of solar power generation, as solar cells can only convert around 15-20% of the solar energy that reaches earth into electricity. The intermittent nature of sunshine is just one of the issues that has been and will continue to be the Gordian knot for solar farmers.
Compared to the concentrated types of fossil fuels that can be used to generate electricity, the solar energy that can be collected is somewhat watered down. Besides the cost of land, the energy density of the fuel source has a direct effect on other considerations when establishing a solar farm. When population density is low, more space is needed to generate enough power to meet consumer needs. This translates into solar energy requiring more inputs than fossil fuels to produce the same amount of electricity.
In order to achieve the objective of a 100% renewable grid powered entirely by solar energy, vast tracts of land will be required for solar farms. Due to its extremely low energy density, solar power plants would need a lot of space to operate, which is a major obstacle for utilities when building a large-scale solar farm.
3. Infrastructural Challenges that Come with the Proximities of Solar Farms
Solar power firms must consider the infrastructure and transportation-related issues of the business with the intermittency, reliability, and land-related challenges connected with setting up a solar farm. Since solar farms require such vast areas to house their equipment, they are typically located in far-flung regions, far from the centers of population.
Transmission lines and other expensive infrastructures can be a major headache for solar power firms, whether they serve consumers in urban or rural locations. While it is possible for businesses or homeowners with access to sufficient land to install a small solar farm and generate their own electricity using solar power, increasing the closeness of their sources on an industrial or commercial scale presents a significant challenge when developing a large-scale solar farm.
To be successful in today’s economy, which relies heavily on the machinery and structures that consume vast quantities of electricity, solar farmers must adopt strategies to maximize land efficiency and take advantage of more productive ways to transport the electricity over great distances.