The Advantages of Solar Power
The 89,000 TW of sunlight reaching the Earth's surface is plentiful – almost 6,000 times more than the 15 TW equivalent of average power consumed by humans. Additionally, solar electric generation has the highest power density (global mean of 170 W/m²) among renewable energies.
Solar power is pollution-free during use. Production end-wastes and emissions are manageable using existing pollution controls. End-of-use recycling technologies are under development and policies are being produced that encourage recycling from producers.
PV installations can operate for many years with little maintenance or intervention after their initial set-up, so after the initial capital cost of building any solar power plant, operating costs are extremely low compared to existing power technologies.
Solar electric generation is economically superior where grid connection or fuel transport is difficult, costly or impossible. Long-standing examples include satellites, island communities, remote locations and ocean vessels.
When grid-connected, solar electric generation replaces some or all of the highest-cost electricity used during times of peak demand (in most climatic regions). This can reduce grid loading, and can eliminate the need for local battery power to provide for use in times of darkness. These features are enabled by net metering. Time-of-use net metering can be highly favorable, but requires newer electronic metering, which may still be impractical for some users.
Compared to fossil and nuclear energy sources, very little research money has been invested in the development of solar cells, so there is considerable room for improvement. Nevertheless, experimental high efficiency solar cells already have efficiencies of over 40% in case of concentrating photovoltaic cells and efficiencies are rapidly rising while mass-production costs are rapidly falling.