I have been following a post on Wiki Answers for a while on the advantages and disadvantages to solar power and wanted to share the results. The discussion started a while ago and has had a lot of feedback. Here are the results.
Solar power is pollution free and causes no greenhouse gases to be emitted after installation
Reduced dependence on foreign oil and fossil fuels
Renewable clean power that is available every day of the year, even cloudy days produce some power
Return on investment unlike paying for utility bills
Virtually no maintenance as solar panels last over 30 years
Creates jobs by employing solar panel manufacturers, solar installers, etc. and in turn helps the economy
Excess power can be sold back to the power company if grid intertied
Ability to live grid free if all power generated provides enough for the home / building
Can be installed virtually anywhere; in a field to on a building
Use batteries to store extra power for use at night
Solar can be used to heat water, power homes and building, even power cars
Safer than traditional electric current
Efficiency is always improving so the same size solar that is available today will become more efficient tomorrow
Aesthetics are improving making the solar more versatile compared to older models; i.e. printing, flexible, solar shingles, etc.
No trenching is needed since the solar can be close to or at the place of installation
High initial costs for material and installation and long ROI (however, with the reduction in cost of solar over the last 10 years, solar is becoming more cost feasible every day)
Needs lots of space as efficiency is not 100% yet
No solar power at night so there is a need for a large battery bank
Some people think they are ugly (I am definitely not one of those!)
Devices that run on DC power directly are more expensive
Depending on geographical location the size of the solar panels vary for the same power generation
Cloudy days do not produce as much energy
Solar panels are not being massed produced due to lack of material and technology to lower the cost enough to be more affordable (this is starting to change)
Solar powered cars do not have the same speeds and power as typical gas powered cars (this too is starting to change)
Lower solar production in the winter months
There is more solar power that hits the earth every day then the current population can use in a year. Let’s keep working to harness this great power and put it to good use. With efficiencies evolving, pricing being reduced every day, and new technologies being experimented with, it will be interesting to see where we are in the solar industry in the next couple years. What do you think the future will look like?
Editor's Note: This post was originally published in January 2012 and has been completely revamped and updated for accuracy and comprehensiveness.