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4 myths about renewable energy—Busted!

In 2016, renewable energy was responsible for two-thirds of all new energy generation capacity globally, with solar PV leading the way.

Solar energy is now surpassing coal, nuclear, and natural gas for new capacity. Renewable energy technology and pricing have changed dramatically in the last decade, but there are still many myths about renewable energy that persist.

Myth 1: Renewable energy is too expensive

The cost of renewable energy has fallen dramatically in the last decade. It is the most economical option for new energy capacity in some areas when compared to natural gas, coal, and nuclear power.

Renewable energy is often criticized for being reliant on government subsidies to make it cost effective. There is a 30 percent renewable energy tax credit in the United States for example for wind, solar PV, and solar thermal and other subsidies and policies that promote renewables.

It is important to consider also that fossil fuel power generation is often subsidized.

The cost of renewable energy depends largely on the energy resource potential of a given site. For example, some regions do not have good wind energy resources, making it less cost-effective.

The ability to transmit power from the generation site to population centers is also essential as adding transmission capacity can dramatically increase renewable energy project costs and project development time spans.

The cost of the renewable energy equipment and installation is also an important factor. These expenses have fallen dramatically, which is largely responsible for the dramatic drop in the cost of renewable energy, especially for wind and solar energy.

The operating costs of renewable energy power generation are also often relatively modest because installations don’t require fuel, unlike fossil fuel-fired plants.

Myth 2: Solar systems don’t generate much power in colder climates

Although winter days are shorter than summer days, solar PV panel efficiency is higher when the panels are cooler. Unless you live in the North or South Pole or somewhere relatively close, solar systems can really crank out the power, even in the winter.

This is because solar electricity is generated from sunlight, not heat. When the panels are cooler, they generate more renewable electricity.

The solar panels also generate more power when they are at a steeper angle in the winter because the winter sun is lower in the sky.

If possible, seasonally adjust solar panels to get greater winter energy production. Homes with steeper roofs will also generate more electricity in the winter then homes with gently-sloped roofs.

Myth 3: Renewable energy equipment isn’t reliable

Although this myth may have been true years ago, renewable energy technology has matured significantly in recent decades. Wind turbine drive trains have advanced, making wind turbines more reliable than ever.

Data collection methods to analyze the wind resource of a potential wind farm allow investors to accurately determine actual power output, enabling wind farms to have a predictable rate of return.

Likewise, solar panel manufacturers have studied the electrical production of solar panels over time to better understand degradation rates as solar panels age. Most solar panel manufacturers guarantee 90% of the guaranteed electrical production for ten years and 80% for 25 years.

Solar inverter advancements and power optimizers reduce the impacts of shading on total solar system output. Such achievements make solar a more predictable investment because system output is more reliable and manufacturer warranties add greater protection.

Myth 4: Solar Systems Require a Lot of Maintenance

Although this myth is largely untrue, it is somewhat true for certain arrays. Solar systems without batteries and moving parts require very little maintenance because of solar panels, racking systems, and other components are highly durable.

Although they boost solar system output, tracking devices tend to be less reliable than stationary solar systems.

Likewise, the typical lifespan of a battery bank is between 5 and 15 years, considerably shorter than the design life of solar panels.