There’s a lot of confusion about what a solar cell is and what a solar panel is?

This makes total sense since the two words are used in the same sentences when most people talk about solar power 🙂

In this article, we’ll set the record straight. Explain what a solar cell is and its advantages and disadvantages of them.

What Are Solar Cells?

A solar cell is what does the actual converting of sunlight into electricity. They are also called photovoltaic (PV) cells.

The solar panel is made up of many solar cells wired together, and it’s what you see on people’s roofs. A PV system can have multiple panels and multiple arrays of panels.

Solar cells are made of semiconductor materials like silicon, cadmium telluride, and copper indium gallium selenide.

When sunlight hits the solar cell, it knocks electrons loose from their atoms.

If you can get these electrons to flow in a certain direction, you have an electric current. And voilà, you have solar power!

Great! Now we know what a solar cell is. But what are the advantages and disadvantages of solar cells?

Let’s take a look…

Related: Calculating Solar Cell Efficiency

Advantages of Solar Cells

  • Renewable Energy
  • Economy-friendly Energy.
  • Environmentally Friendly Energy.
  • Innovative Energy.
  • Long Term Energy.
  • Selling Energy.
  • Infinite Energy.

Renewable Energy

This one’s at the top of the list down to the fact that solar cells use renewable energy.

The most important advantage of solar cells is that they don’t release greenhouse gases when they produce electricity.

This is because the sun provides the necessary power, and solar panels don’t use fossil fuels such as coal or oil.

The photovoltaic process doesn’t produce any air pollution or water pollution either, so that’s a real bonus.

Economy-friendly Energy

What do I mean by “economy-friendly” energy?

I mean that the price of solar PV systems has dropped significantly in recent years, making them a much more affordable option for the average person.

In addition, installing solar panels can actually save you money in the long run by reducing your dependence on utility companies.

Solar energy creation is one of the fastest-growing industries in the world, which is good news for the economy as fossil fuel industries start their inevitable decline.

Environmentally Friendly Energy

As I briefly mentioned before, solar cells don’t produce any air pollution or water pollution. And since they use renewable energy, they are much friendlier to the environment than fossil fuels.

Related: What’s the Difference Between a Solar Cell and a Solar Panel?

Innovative Energy

Solar power is an innovative energy source because it is a relatively new technology. This means that there is a lot of room for improvement, and we can expect to see some amazing advances in the coming years.

Every day you will read a new headline of the latest breakthrough in solar energy technology.

Long Term Energy

Solar energy is a long-term investment because it can provide power for decades with minimal maintenance.

Once you have installed solar panels, you can enjoy the benefits of free electricity for many years to come.

Selling Energy

If you have a PV system on your roof, you may be able to sell excess electricity back to the grid. This is called “net metering” and it can provide you with a nice little income stream.

In the UK the energy sell back is done via the Smart Export Guarantee (SEG) which is a government-backed scheme.

Infinite Energy

The sun is an infinite source of energy, which means that solar power is a renewable resource that will never run out.

This is in contrast to fossil fuels, which are non-renewable and will one day be depleted.

Related: The Promises And Challenges Of Perovskite Solar Cells

Disadvantages of Solar Cells

  • High initial cost.
  • Intermittent energy source.
  • Solar cells cannot be used in absence of the light.
  • Low energy conversion rate
  • Uses a lot of space.
  • A small amount of pollution during the manufacturing process.
  • Not ideal if you plan on moving house.
  • Location of solar cells.

High initial cost

The initial cost to install solar panels which contain solar cells can be quite high.

However, the cost of solar PV systems has dropped significantly in recent years, making them a much more affordable option for the average person.

Intermittent energy source

Solar cells rely on sunlight to generate electricity, which means they are an intermittent energy source.

This means that solar panels will only produce electricity when the sun is shining, and not at night or on cloudy days.

Solar cells cannot be used in absence of the light

This is obviously a big disadvantage because solar panels will only generate electricity when the sun is shining.

This means that solar power is not a reliable energy source if you live in an area with long periods of darkness, such as in the winter.

Low energy conversion rate

Solar cells have a low energy conversion rate, which means that they only convert a small percentage of sunlight into electricity.

This is one of the biggest disadvantages of solar power.

Uses a lot of space

Solar panels that have solar cells need a lot of space to generate a significant amount of electricity.

This can be a big disadvantage if you live in an urban area with limited space or have a small roof area.

A small amount of pollution during the manufacturing process

Solar-grade silicon is manufactured through hazardous chemical reactions. These chemicals, depending on the solar panel maker and country of origin, might or may not be disposed of appropriately.

Location of solar cells

Solar cells within a solar panel need to be installed in an area that receives direct sunlight.

This can be a big disadvantage if you live in an urban area with lots of tall buildings or have a small roof area.

In Summary

To be fair, the advantages far outweigh the disadvantages, especially when you consider the long-term benefits of solar power.

The high initial cost is the biggest disadvantage, but this is offset by the fact that solar cells will last for decades and require minimal maintenance.

Solar power is also a renewable resource that will never run out, which is in contrast to fossil fuels.

You’ll be doing your bit for the planet and also reducing your carbon footprint by choosing solar power. So, the advantages really do outweigh the disadvantages!

About the Author

Passionate about helping households transition to sustainable energy with helpful information and resources.

{"email":"Email address invalid","url":"Website address invalid","required":"Required field missing"}