Solar energy is often misunderstood as it has been overrated and under delivered. Why it does and/or does not work is more complicated than of, simply put, capturing sunlight. Sunlight must be available wherein, in reality, it is actually quite limited. And beyond the limits on availability, conditions must be right. Well, that sounds a little squirrely. Most people think the problems can be overcome by technology. So, let’s look a little closer at the basics which can and do present a barrier to progress.
Heat is bad for solar panels, good for solar thermal units. Sunlight is more intense and days are longer at the equator than they at the North Pole. Higher altitudes have thinner air, therefore greater access to solar energy. Forestation and ocean mist reduce or completely block access to solar energy. High winds and dust will, not can, but will, damage surface coatings on solar panels and reflective mirrors on solar thermal units. Solar thermal units that require heat also require access to large amounts of precious water resources. This is only the tip of the ice burg to why scientific advances can and/or will make very little difference in man’s capacity to harness sunlight.