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What is Solar Energy? Mythbusting & Misconceptions

Solar energy, solar panels, solar prices…how much do you really know about them? Chances are, if you’re reading this blog, you’ve got some interest in solar energy and may even be quite knowledgeable on the matter. 

You may, however, also be holding onto some false beliefs and misconceptions about solar power without even realising it.

As energy bills rise and governments strive to meet Net Zero goals, solar energy solutions are becoming more prominent and in-demand. 

However, here at Project Solar, we know that there are some perniciously persistent myths surrounding solar energy. For many people, those myths may even become an obstacle to making what would otherwise be an excellent solar investment for their homes.

To really get a grasp of what beliefs are driving your solar decision-making process, we regularly conduct surveys.

In 2021, we carried out a survey to uncover misconceptions about solar energy, and this year we decided to repeat the process to see how the results compared after an interesting couple of years for the energy market.

By dispelling myths, we hope to help you make a more informed decision about whether solar energy is the right choice for your home.

Ongoing misconceptions about solar energy

In our 2021 solar myths survey, we asked 1,000 UK participants to read six statements and decide whether they were true, false, or if the reader was unsure, they could select ‘not sure’ as an option.

The six statements were:

  1. Solar panels don’t produce energy at night. 
  2. You can’t get solar energy if it’s overcast.
  3. You can only store solar energy if you live in the desert.
  4. Solar energy can only be produced in the summer months.
  5. Solar energy can only be stored if it’s above 20 degrees.
  6. Solar energy is more expensive than fossil fuels.

For some context, let’s look at some of the overall results of the 2021 survey.

It revealed that 14% of participants believed that solar panels only work in sunny weather conditions. 11.10% of those surveyed thought solar energy could only be stored in temperatures above 20 degrees, while 7.5% believed the desert was the only place to do so! 

Finally, 13.8% believed that solar energy was more expensive than fossil fuels.

Why we carried out the new survey

Since the last survey, we have all felt the pinch as the effects of the cost-of-living crisis kicked in and energy bills have gone through the roof.

Domestic solar systems have emerged as a fantastic energy alternative for those who wish to gain greater independence from the National Grid, and can be a seriously solid financial investment.

In the years 2021 – 2023 domestic solar panel installations have doubled, and perhaps as a direct consequence of rising energy bills, are in their highest demand since 2015.

But does higher demand mean higher awareness of the facts? Or could solar myths be hindering more homeowners from taking the plunge?

To find out, we did a repeat of the 2021 survey, with the same number of participants, male and female, across the UK.

The format was the same, with true-or-false statements, and there were some interesting results.

The results of our survey

When the results came in, we analysed them and made some startling discoveries that reveal the ever-changing nature of beliefs about solar panels.

Let’s take a closer look.

  • Solar panels don’t produce energy at night

1 in 3 respondents thought that solar panels keep producing electricity at night-time. 

While solar batteries can efficiently store solar power for night usage, the light of the sun is necessary to generate solar energy in the first place.

Answers to this statement had similar results to the 2021 survey – highlighting just how stubborn solar misconceptions can be.

  • You can’t get solar energy if it’s overcast

When asked about the possibility of producing solar power on cloudy or ‘bad weather’ days, there was a rather significant change of opinion since 2021. Unfortunately, the change was for the worse.

Whereas in 2021, 13.17% of respondents aged 25-34 believed it’s not possible for solar panels to function on overcast days, that figure has shot up by 7.8% to almost 21%. 

Exactly why this misconception has gained popularity is uncertain, but the reality of the matter is that solar panels do still work on cloudy days, albeit at reduced output.

  • You can only store solar energy if you live in the desert

Thankfully, a two-thirds majority of survey participants correctly identified this statement as being untrue. However, there was a slight increase in the number of people who thought it was true –  3% more than in 2021, to be precise!

This statement is simply not true – solar power can be stored anywhere, with the help of solar batteries. In fact, domestic solar storage is part of what makes solar energy so efficient for home use. Solar electricity is generated during daylight hours, and is then stored away in batteries to be drawn upon during the nighttime or when the weather is poor.

  • Solar energy can only be produced in the summer months

Solar energy can be produced all year round, so you don’t need to live in tropical climates in order to get use out of solar panels.

However, we found that nearly 30% of respondents in the 16-24 age bracket believed that solar energy could only be produced in the summer! What’s perhaps even more alarming is that since 2021, 10% fewer respondents aged 45-54 understood that solar panels can produce energy all year round!

As you can see, there are false beliefs that fluctuate in popularity, but nevertheless remain present in the minds of consumers. 

  • Solar energy can only be stored if it’s above 20 degrees

Nearly 40% of respondents correctly identified this statement as being untrue.

Younger participants seemed more convinced of their opinions, while older generations were less sure – in fact, over half of all participants said they weren’t sure at all!

  • Solar energy is more expensive than fossil fuels

Whilst 43.3% of those surveyed believed that solar energy is cheaper than fossil fuels, almost the same number of people weren’t sure –  a similar outcome to the 2021 survey.

This is perhaps the most off-putting misconception that prevents people from taking their first steps into solar energy for their homes. The fact of the matter is, that by investing in solar energy, many homeowners can cut back on their energy bills. 

That’s because solar power isn’t dependent on energy coming in from the National Grid. 

Solar is renewable, which means that it is an infinite source of energy, and so long as the sun keeps shining (albeit through the clouds!), there will always be free solar energy available.

In contrast, energy from the National Grid is supplied by finite fossil fuels, and the market energy prices are controlled by energy giants influenced by the geopolitical circumstances of the day. 

By tapping into free renewable energy like solar, domestic users can gain some freedom from market prices by supplementing traditional energy with solar, and in many cases can even sell excess energy back to the grid!

Dispelling myths

This survey highlights the main myths surrounding solar panels, and gives an interesting glimpse into how much misinformation is prevalent in the conversation about solar energy.

It is truly striking to think about how influential these false beliefs could be when it comes to making potentially life-enhancing decisions.

Who knows how many of these respondents could be saving money on their energy bills, but decide not to go solar based on false assumptions and hearsay?

What is it that influences these beliefs? As ever, gossip and information distributed on the Internet without proper fact-checking goes a long way in explaining why these myths persist. 

Taking responsibility for informing yourself with reliable sources can help you to stay abreast of the latest updates and developments, and most importantly, to avoid being misled or deceived.

That’s why at Project Solar we like to keep our finger on the pulse with surveys and regular blogs about the issues that affect you and your decision-making.

To keep up-to-date with the latest in solar news and technology, follow our Project Solar blog.