Solar energy is widely accepted as the primary answer to generating renewable power for buildings. It’s relatively cheap, simple to install and requires almost zero maintenance. It isn’t ideal for every situation though.

As with everything, there are advantages and disadvantages to solar energy. It won’t be suitable for every home or every situation. If you’re considering solar energy for your home or business, it might help to look past the marketing and get straight to the facts.

That’s what this article is all about.

We are going to outline the main pros and cons of solar energy. All so you can make an informed decision about your energy future.

Pros of solar energy

Cons of solar energy

Renewable clean energy source

Requires south facing roof

Saves money on energy bills

Can be impacted by British weather

Almost zero maintenance

Not all roof configurations are suitable

Energy independence

Uses a lot of roof space

Can improve property value

Can put buyers off

Excellent return on investment

High up front cost

Proven and reliable

Resource intensive production

Let’s take a brief look at each of the pros and cons of solar energy.

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Pro – Renewable clean energy source

The ability to generate clean energy without impacting the environment is a primary reason people are moving to solar. The sun is an unlimited source of energy and once the solar panels have been manufactured and installed, they deliver clean, renewable energy at no cost to the environment.

Considering the alternatives are nuclear power, gas or coal-powered power stations, solar panels make perfect sense no matter how you look at them.

Pro – Saves money on energy bills

You likely know all too well that the cost of energy only goes in one direction, up. As the government changes the upper threshold of our energy bills every six months, those prices will keep increasing.

The average household will spend over £1,000 on gas and electricity per year. Solar power can address at least half of that. Electricity is gradually becoming more expensive and the opportunity to be able to generate your own in perpetuity with no cost after installation is too good to ignore.

Pro – Almost zero maintenance

Solar power systems have no moving parts, few mechanical elements and very little to go wrong. Therefore, they need almost zero maintenance. As long as you use good quality panels and components and quality installers, you should be able to fit and forget your solar system.

As long as the rain can keep panels clean and everything remains in good condition, a solar power system could be generating energy for up to 25 years before anything needs replacing.

Pro – Energy independence

The world is a tumultuous place with a lot going on. While we may prefer not to involve ourselves in geopolitics, the energy market doesn’t have that luxury. We are also tied to electricity companies that have their own agendas and their own shareholders to satisfy.

Install a solar power system and you can say goodbye to all that, at least for your electricity. Whatever happens to the grid, whether it keeps up with demand or not, whoever takes over electricity production, it won’t matter as you will be fully independent of all that.

Pro – Can improve property value

Having a fully operational solar energy system installed can add value to your property. Much will depend on the area, property type and potential buyers, but you can add value by offering energy independence alongside the other features your property offers.

As society shifts towards renewables, having a home with everything already installed is a significant benefit. A benefit you may be able to charge a little more for.

Even if your property isn’t worth more, it should be more attractive to buyers interested in green energy.

Pro – Excellent return on investment

Solar power systems do require an investment but it will repay that over time. Any government incentives can help pay for the system and lower or zero electricity bills will do the rest.

The price of electricity is climbing so those returns will become more attractive as time goes by.

Pro – Proven and reliable

Solar energy is a proven system and reliable. There are no moving parts, solar panels are becoming increasingly efficient and the technology is very much a known quantity. It’s a technology that is steadily developing and not standing still either.

Solar panels are becoming more efficient, production is becoming cheaper and more efficient and supporting technologies are also steadily improving.

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Con – Requires south facing roof

You can install solar energy systems on angled roofs but you need to be south facing to get the best out of it. Depending on your property, that may mean having solar panels on the front, side or rear of your roof, which won’t suit everyone.

You can overcome indirect sunlight by adding more panels but this adds to the cost and the roof space requirement.

Con – Can be impacted by British weather

We all know that the British weather isn’t the best. While solar panels can generate energy without direct sunlight, they aren’t as efficient. They can struggle with overcast days and won’t generate much energy at all on dark and rainy days.

This can be overcome by over specifying your solar panels but that comes at a cost.

Con – Not all roof configurations are suitable

Some older properties or those that have been renovated or extended may not have large areas of flat roof suitable for solar panels. Some older roofs may need strengthening from the inside to help carry the extra weight.

There are alternatives to roof mounting solar panels such as ground mounts but this requires garden space. That may not be the ideal solution either.

Con – Uses a lot of roof space

If your roof is small, multifaceted or has architectural features, it may not lend itself to solar panels. Depending on your energy requirements, you may need in excess of 15m2 of free roof space for sufficient solar panels and that may not be possible.

Again, there are alternatives such as ground mounting but that isn’t always feasible either.

Con – Can put buyers off

While many buyers view solar panels positively, not everyone does. Some view them as an eyesore and won’t buy a house with them on. That’s especially true if they are mounted on the front of the house in full view of the neighbours.

Many buyers will look past the visuals to the practicality and it’s these buyers you will need to attract. Be prepared for some to not be able to look past the panels though.

Con – High upfront cost

There are many incentives around to help with the cost of a solar panel system but it still requires an investment. Exactly how much depends on the size of the installation, the roof type and the type of system you want.

Incentives come and go so you need to time it right in order to get help covering that cost. Even with those incentives, you still need to be prepared to invest.

Con – Resource intensive production

Solar panels may be green when they are generating free energy but producing them still generates pollution and requires significant resources. Photovoltaic systems can be very resource intensive to produce and generate some toxic byproducts.

That said, once they are manufactured, they offset their production cost many times over.

As you can see, there are pros and cons to solar energy as there are with any technology.

We consider, on balance that solar panels give much more than they cost. They may cost resources to manufacture but save far more by not requiring grid electricity which often uses fossil fuels or nuclear power to generate electricity. Until the grid itself goes completely green, we think the pros of solar power systems far outweigh any costs!

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