The Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

Many people choose to go solar because of its financial advantages, but an increasing number of homeowners see solar energy as a solution to many environmental concerns. Combining both the financial advantages and all the environmental benefits of solar energy make the choice simply a matter of common sense.

What are the environmental benefits of solar energy?

 

1. Solar is a Renewable Energy Source

Fossil Fuels such as coal, oil, or natural gas are finite resources, meaning there is a limited amount at our disposal. The sun, however, rises and sets every day as it always has, meaning its light is a renewable resource, giving us an abundant and endless source of energy. Every day the energy that radiates from the sun far exceeds the amount that is used or needed on a global scale: the sunlight that hits the earth in an hour and a half is enough to power the entire world for a full year!  The energy is there, abundant and free; it is only a matter of harnessing it.

2. Solar is a Clean Energy Source

Burning fossil fuels releases emissions into the air, and this includes pollutants that can cause health problems or CO2 which contributes to global warming. You will never find a smoke stack or exhaust pipe on a solar installation: sun hits silicon, and that silicon immediately creates electricity contained in wires. This means solar is a clean source of energy, with zero emissions and zero pollution, and this is the most significant of the environmental benefits of solar energy.
The average American home requires 12,000kWh of electricity annually. Replacing these carbon emissions with the clean energy of solar is equivalent to planting 230 trees, or not driving 22,000 miles! After 25 years, that’s more than 5,000 trees and 550,000 miles! Learn more about calculations for your own carbon emissions.

3. Solar Reduces the Impact on our Water Resources

A factor typically overlooked, water is an extremely valuable resource used in energy production. The water-cooling systems in thermoelectric power plants, as well as in the drilling, extracting, refining, and transportation processes associated with fossil fuels, account for more than 40% of the nation’s freshwater withdrawals. Though it can’t be seen, the average American’s daily electric use requires 39 gallons of water per day! This significant water use can result in contaminating water resources or adding to scarcity in times of drought or increased demand.

To produce electricity daily, residential solar panels use absolutely no water. Even after considering the use of water in the manufacturing, maintenance and recycling processes, water use is significantly decreased when compared to traditional hydroelectric and thermoelectric sources of power. A recent government report showed that switching to solar in America would decrease water demand in 36 states enough to hydrate 1.3 million homes.

4. Solar Reduces the Impact on our Land Resources

The extraction of fossil fuels, through mining, drilling, fracking, and more, can have negative effects on the environment. Toxic gasses, minerals, and materials can be released, contaminating the surrounding ground, water, or air. Accidents such as oil spills or gas explosions have proven to be catastrophic.

In contrast, solar panels are made with silicon, the second most abundant element in our earth’s crust. It is plentiful and relatively easy to access, and although it too has its own mining and refining process, comparatively speaking these techniques are much cleaner, safer, and sustainable than that of fossil fuels.  Learn more about how solar panels are made.

5. Solar Alleviates Public Health Concerns

One of the most important environmental benefits of solar energy is its public health benefit as a clean source of power. Many health concerns are caused by pollution and poor air quality. Though most Americans may not be conscious of the problem in their daily lives, the medical community affirms that many respiratory and cardiovascular complications, including asthma and cancer for example, are caused by harmful pollutants in the air we breathe. A recent study showed that switching to solar power could save the United States $167 billion in health damages and prevent 25,000-59,000 premature deaths. The personal importance of reducing pollution by using sources of clean energy cannot be overstated!

6. Solar is Known for its Durability and Longevity

The equipment and materials needed to create energy using traditional methods can be costly to create, maintain, and change when new sources or techniques are found. The average residential solar system is warrantied for 25 years and has an expected life span of twice that. Because of their simplicity (no moving parts!), solar panels are durable and known for their reliability and longevity. In addition, many responsible solar manufacturers, including SunPower with their Cradle to Cradle Certification, are ready to recycle equipment at the end of their life span and reuse the silicon giving it a second life. All of this significantly saves money and resources, dealing with materials in responsible and sustainable ways.

7. Solar Gets Energy Straight from the Source

Think about it: all the energy sources we use on Earth ultimately come from the sun. Fossil Fuels were created by ancient decayed plants and swamps that originally got their energy from the sun through photosynthesis. Water turbines are fed by rivers, getting their water from rainclouds holding the water that the sun previously evaporated. Windmills spin in the wind that the sun creates by heating up parts of the atmosphere unevenly, or through the earth’s rotation around the sun. Even we as humans get our daily energy from plants or animals that ate plants, which contain their energy, again, all thanks to the sun. So why look elsewhere? It’s about time we get our energy straight from the ultimate source our earth has been given, and start enjoying the environmental benefits of solar energy.

Traditional energy sources are non-renewable, pollutant, and more costly. Solar energy is renewable, clean, and less costly. 

Which will you choose? Individual homeowners can make a choice that saves them money AND benefits our world.

Contact Evoke Solar today about supplying your own energy needs with the clean and renewable power from the sun.

 

Learn more from these additional resources:

The Environmental and Public Health Benefits of Achieving High Penetrations of Solar Energy in the United States, NREL, May 2016

Energy, Economic, and Environmental Benefits of the Solar America Initiative, NREL, August 2007

Benefits of Renewable Energy Use, Union of Concerned Scientists, December 2017

Rooftop Solar Panels: Benefits, Costs, and Smart Policies, Union of Concerned Scientists, December 2015

 

Copyright Evoke Solar, page first published January 2019. 

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