It has been well-established that solar power can have a significant positive impact on your wallet, quickly becoming the world’s most affordable energy source. But how does switching from fossil fuels to solar power help the environment?
The solar environmental benefits have been touted by scientist, lawmakers and regulators worldwide. Solar is currently being hailed as potentially our greatest weapon in the fight against global climate change. The following are some of the greatest environmental benefits to going solar.
Reduced Greenhouse Gas Emissions
The burning of coal has been identified as one of the primary sources of greenhouse gasses, the toxic byproduct behind climate change. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, 77 percent of all the greenhouse gasses produced in the U.S. are released when coal is burned to generate electricity — including the nearly 10,908 kilowatt hours (kWh) of electricity consumed residentially in a year.
“What has been the source of our prosperity now becomes the source of our ultimate destruction, if we don’t get off it,” said California Gov. Jerry Brown. Brown was referring to the fossil fuels like coal and crude oil that have for over a century powered nearly every aspect of American life. Yet recent science shows that the dangers of continuing to rely on fossil fuels are simply too much to ignore.
Solar — with its ability to generate clean, emission-free electricity from the light of the sun — has opened the door to brighter future, one where we can mitigate the ongoing risks of climate change. Currently, solar technology can generate over 80 percent of the energy required for space heating and water heating needs, with daily innovations and infrastructure investment pushing this number ever higher.
“We now have 20 gigawatts of installed solar capacity — enough to power four million U.S. homes, said Rhone Resch, the President and CEO of the Solar Energy Industries Association. “We’re helping to reduce harmful carbon emissions by 20 million metric tons a year.”
Cleaner, More Breathable Air
Climate change isn’t the only reason we should be reducing the amount of toxic emissions. While even the most concerned scientists say that the most dramatic effects of climate change may be years off, integrating solar into our everyday lives may have a more immediate effect on our physical health.
A recent study published in the American Journal of Public Health looked at rates of respiratory conditions and illnesses found in children living in affordable housing. The authors noted that the children — and to a lesser extent adults — living in “green” affordable housing, which featured solar technology as central to power generation, showed less incidences of respiratory illnesses and other health conditions.
While the limited scope of the study makes it hard to draw any conclusions, the authors speculated that the reduced exhaust present in the area may have a positive impact on respiratory health. Indeed, with increasing rates of asthma and allergies worldwide, we can likely use all the help we can get to create a cleaner, healthier world.
Finally, one of the most significant environmental benefits of going solar is sustainability. With fossil fuels, we are relying on what is essentially a finite resource — the fossilized remains of dead animals and plants. These remains take millions of years to convert into the fuels we can process and use to generate power. If we run out, we won’t have a millennia to spare to let them replenish.
The sun, on the other hand, is a vast, inexhaustible resource. It has been shining down on us for billions of years and is anticipated to shine for billions more. All that time, solar radiation is freely raining down on us, leaving us to capture it and convert it to energy. No mining, no drilling, no costly power plants needed.
By converting sunshine to clean, healthy energy we can use in our businesses and homes, solar power systems truly are the technology of the future.
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