Environmental benefits of solar
Last updated 6/9/2021
There are two primary reasons home and businesses are interested in solar energy: first, the financial benefit; and, second, the environmental benefit. In other pieces, we’ve covered the financial benefits of solar quite extensively. In this piece, we’ll focus on the environmental benefit of solar.
The environmental benefit of solar energy
The electricity produced by solar panels is clean, renewable and emission free.
Whereas most of the electricity generated in the US is produced by burning fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, generating electricity with solar power and other renewable resources–such as wind and hydropower–does not result in any emissions of carbon dioxide or local air pollutants.
And while extracting and using fossil fuels is expensive and harmful to the environment, solar energy is free and readily abundant – if we could capture all of the sun’s energy shining on the Earth for just one hour, we could power the entire world for one year!
By investing in solar energy, you can help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels in favor of one of the most abundant, consistent sources of energy we have available: our sun.
Solar energy decreases greenhouse gas emissions
Generating electricity with solar power instead of fossil fuels can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). Greenhouse gases, which are produced when fossil fuels are burned, lead to rising global temperatures and climate change. Climate change already contributes to serious environmental and public health issues throughout the country and world, from wildfires out West to increasingly frequent and severe major storms in the East.
By going solar, you can reduce the demand for fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and shrink your own carbon footprint. In fact, just one home installing a solar energy system has a measurable effect on the environment.
Take an example home in Connecticut, which isn’t particularly known for its sunny weather. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, the average home with solar panels in Connecticut uses 8,288 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year. For that home in not-so-sunny Connecticut, switching from fossil fuels to solar has the same emissions reduction effect as planting about 150 trees every single year for the lifetime of the solar panel system.
Choosing a clean source of electricity like solar panels can eliminate the same amount of carbon emissions that would result from burning over 5,000 pounds of coal each year.
Local air quality benefits of solar
One of the biggest benefits of solar energy is that it results in very few air pollutants. An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that widespread solar adoption can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which can cause health problems. NREL found that, among other health benefits, solar power results in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and lost workdays related to health issues.
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