What Are the Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy?
Most of us know that solar energy is good for the environment. But why is solar energy good for the environment? How does it improve the environment? Today, we’re explaining everything you need to know about the environmental benefits of solar energy.
Fewer CO2 Emissions
Solar energy significantly reduces carbon dioxide emissions. It will substantially lower your carbon footprint. According to data from SolarCity, installing solar panels will reduce your CO2 emissions by 95% compared to getting your energy from fossil fuel power plants.
Specifically, solar panels emit 24.2 grams of CO2 per kWh over their lifetime. To put that number in perspective, natural gas energy production emits 470 g of CO2/kWh, and coal production emits 979 g of CO2/kWh.
Countries of the world have made a commitment to reduce CO2 production by 80% by 2050. Installing solar panels around the world will gradually help us meet that target while reducing our dependence on fossil fuels.
Fossil Fuels Are a Finite Resource, While Solar Energy Is Not
Fossil fuels aren’t just terrible for the environment: they’re a finite resource. There’s only so much coal or oil in the world. Eventually, we’re going to reach a point where there are no more resources available.
Because fossil fuels are a finite resource, prices can be volatile. The limited availability of these resources creates a market that’s prone to ups and downs. We’ve seen the price of oil rise and fall sharply over the years, for example. Or, countries that have control of the majority of these finite resources can hold the rest of the world “hostage” by manipulating prices – like we’ve seen with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) multiple times over the decades.
Solar energy is the complete opposite: solar energy is available around the world in every single country. It’s an infinite resource that is never going to run out (until the sun collapses on itself several billion years from now, of course). The energy from the sun is hitting the surface of our planet every day. Most of that energy is absorbed into the land and water. By capturing a tiny fraction of that energy, we can create enough electricity to power our entire world.
They’re Quiet and Non-Disruptive to the Environment
The environmental benefits of solar energy involve more than just reduced greenhouse gases and renewable energy. Solar panels also have minimal disruption to the natural environment.
Solar panels aren’t noisy, for example, which is one of the problems with wind turbines. Solar panels quietly and passively create electricity. Unlike wind turbines, they don’t kill birds or mess with the echolocation systems of bats.
We can also compare solar panels to hydroelectric dams. Yes, hydroelectric power is a cheap and renewable source of energy. However, hydroelectric dams cause massive changes to the environment. A single dam can lead to permanent ecological impacts hundreds of miles upriver. It can drown entire forests and force native wildlife into new regions.
Yes, solar panels may require you to clear some canopy space in a forest, or find an open field. Aside from requiring a clear view of the sun, however, they are minimally disruptive to the environment.
Reduced Respiratory Problems and Heart Issues
The environmental benefits of solar energy don’t just help our planet and wildlife: they also help human populations as a whole.
According to an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), widespread solar energy adoption would significantly reduce the levels of nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which are linked to health problems.
Do you live in a polluted part of the world? You likely have a higher risk of respiratory problems, heart problems, and other health issues.
The NREL’s report found that, among other benefits, solar panel usage can lead to fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems, and lost workdays linked to health issues.
Jobs and Economic Benefits
The number of jobs in renewable energy in the United States already surpasses that of all non-renewable energy jobs combined. The future is in renewable energy. Countries that have embraced solar energy have enjoyed powerful economic benefits. Renewable energy leads to more jobs, a cleaner environment, and a wide range of secondary markets.
An analysis by an organization called the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS) found that renewable energy could produce 202,000 new jobs in the United States by 2025 – three times as many jobs as would be produced by fossil fuel production in that same time period.
Specifically, if the United States achieves a 25% renewable energy standard by 2025, the renewable energy industry would stimulate $263.4 billion in new capital investment, $13.5 billion in new landowner income, biomass production, and/or wind land lease payments, and $11.5 billion in new property tax revenue for local communities.
Stable Energy Prices
Here’s one final environmental impact of clean, solar energy: we can enjoy stable energy prices. Up above, we mentioned how organizations like OPEC can destabilize the world economy because they have enormous control over global energy production.
By investing in renewable sources like solar energy, countries can create energy independence. They can enjoy stable energy prices from a fixed source of electricity. We don’t have to be subject to price fluctuations in global energy markets, or changes in the price of natural resources.
With enough solar energy production, it’s impossible for another country to affect your economy. What’s a hostile country going to do – block out the sun?
What are the environmental benefits of solar energy? Solar energy is a renewable source of energy that’s proven to be efficient, affordable, and reliable. It’s also accessible all over the world. It emits virtually no greenhouse gas (GHG) compared to traditional energy sources. And, unlike hydroelectric power and wind power, it provides minimal disturbance to the surrounding environment.
For all of these reasons, solar energy is one of our best available sources of energy in terms of its environmental benefits.