The Reality of Solar Energy

by Naomi Kirk-Muir

This article will cover the pros and cons of solar energy compared to coal, oil or natural gas power. It will also cover the infrastructure required to implement it in the UK.

Benefits of solar power

Coal  power plants pollute the atmosphere, whilst alternative energy sources like  solar panels do not emit greenhouse gases and therefore do not contribute to the climate crisis [1] [2]. Solar energy is the most abundant energy in the world but only a fraction of it can be harvested [3]. However, harvesting the small percentage of the power that we can would provide enough energy for all people on earth [2]. Developing the solar industry also provides jobs, and the shift to renewable energy cuts down the amount of money spent on importing oil [4]. Moreover, industries based on solar energy are more sustainable than oil as the sun’s energy is infinite whereas oil reserves will eventually run out.  [4].

Drawbacks of solar power

There are few issues with solar energy, but possible drawbacks are: solar farms take up a lot of land; around forty kilometers squared would be required to produce one gigawatt in the UK; however this isn’t as much land as is taken up by the coal industry [4]. This can be counteracted by putting solar panels on rooftops, but it isn’t economical to connect with the power grid without government subsidies [4]. To add to that, temperate countries like the UK use more energy when the sun is low, and less energy when the sun is high, creating a potential lack of power at some times and an excess at others [4].

The current state of solar power

The government is currently investing in renewable energies, like solar energy [5]. Energy and Climate Change Minister Greg Hands said, “Driving forward energy storage technologies will be vital in our transition towards cheap, clean and secure renewable energy” [5]. This shows that the UK Government is transitioning the country to use renewable energy, and not fossil fuels. The price of solar energy is competitive with the prices of coal, gas and oil, so it is not going to raise the cost of electricity drastically [4]. It is completely possible for the UK to eventually switch to renewable energy in the next few decades, and part of it will be solar energy [5].


This all shows that solar power is a great alternative to fossil fuels and is viable in the UK, either on its own or alongside other renewable energy sources, like wind power. More investment into this technology from the government may happen in the future [5], which will help reduce the amount of greenhouse gasses in the atmosphere, and hopefully help with the climate crisis.

[1] Peter R. Gent et. al., 2011, The Community Climate System Model Version 4, Journal of Climate, DOI: 10.1175/2011JCLI4083.1
[2] Aixue Hu et. al., 2015, Impact of solar panels on global climate, Nature Climate Change, DOI:
[3] K.W. Olsen et. al., 2010, An examination of urban heat island characteristics in a global climate model, Royal Meteorological Society, DOI: 10.1002/joc.2201
[4] Trevor M. Letcher, Vasilis M. Fthenakis, 2018, A Comprehensive Guide to Solar Energy Systems: With Special Focus on Photovoltaic Systems, Academic Press, ISBN:0128114800, 9780128114803
[5] Government boost for new renewable energy storage technologies, Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy,, accessed on 26/07/2022

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