Solar energy has provided a viable way for eco-conscious homeowners to reduce their environmental footprint on the earth. By using solar power in your home, you can help the world reduce greenhouse gases, impact lower pollution, use less of the world’s finite resources and leave behind a better world and legacy for future generations. And you can do all of this on a daily basis without even needing to think about it.
Solar energy lowers emissions
The most touted environmental benefit of solar energy is the reduction in harmful emissions, and for good reason. One of the most pressing issues of our day is the high emission of greenhouse gases. These gases have been linked to global warming and climate change. Carbon dioxide, CO2, is the most common of these gases, although they also include nitrogen oxide, NOx, and sulfur dioxide, SO2. Solar power helps you lower these emissions without any drastic change of lifestyle.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency, electricity-generating power plants are the largest industrial source of air emissions in the United States. This is because the power plants need to burn either natural gas or coal in order to produce electricity. Solar panels generate electricity with no emissions at all. Today’s solar panels are completely self-contained units that convert sunlight directly into electricity through the photovoltaic effect. There is no need for harmful outside resources.
Of course, this doesn’t mean that solar energy is 100 percent emission free. There are some gases emitted during manufacturing. To help us look at the total impact of CO2 emissions from electricity production, the International Panel on Climate Change compiled the following data. This data includes not only the emissions from generating electricity but also from the manufacturing, installation, maintenance and dismantling of each method. Coal-based power plants emit 1.4 to 3.6 pounds of carbon dioxide equivalent per kilowatt-hour (CO2E/kWh).
This means that for every kWh of electricity, we are releasing up to 3.6 pounds of CO2 into the air. Power plants that run on natural gas emit 0.6 to 2 pounds of CO2E/kWh. Solar power, including the manufacturing of panels and everything else, emits only 0.07 to 0.2 pounds of CO2E/kWh.
One solar powered home will avoid the emission of about 170,000 to 200,000 pounds of CO2 over a 25-year lifespan. However, if the United States could get 25 percent of its electricity from solar power, we could lower CO2 emissions by 277 million metric tons annually. That is an impact that cannot be ignored.
Solar reduces pollution
In addition to air pollution, power plants pollute the Earth in other ways that can be negated by solar power. The burning of fossil fuels pollutes waterways, which carry the pollution to plants and animals. Also, many of the most devastating environmental disasters of our day have been the result of harvesting fossil fuels. There have been multiple oil spills in the world’s oceans and even coal ash spills in the mountains.
The Union of Concerned Scientists has linked air and water pollution not only to environmental deterioration but to potentially negative health effects. The use of solar power, on the other hand, can dramatically reduce pollution since fossil fuels are not required.
The daily pollution from power plants may seem small on its own, but the yearly toll causes a noticeable strain on the environment and our health. Thankfully, we can turn this around. One solar-powered home may not seem like it would make an impact, but together many homes can make a difference.
Solar uses a plentiful, renewable resource
Solar power utilizes an infinite resource: the sun. Power plants rely on natural gas and coal. These are resources they have to search for, drill for and use up. Once a load of coal is used, it is gone forever and it’s never clear how much is left in the earth. The sun, on the other hand, creates more sunlight than we could ever use. When using solar panels, you don’t need to worry about whether future generations will have the resources they need for electricity nor do you need to worry about how it will affect our quality of life on Earth.
Thousands of homeowners around the world have stepped forward to reduce greenhouse emissions, pollution and resource consumption. They are creating a better world for the future and serving as an example to the next generation.
RGS Energy, founded in 1978, has helped thousands of home and business owners make a positive impact on the environment by installing solar energy systems. To learn how solar could work for your home or business, visit RGSEnergy.com.