The Environmental Benefit of Solar Energy Solar energy creates clean, renewable energy from the sun and benefits the environment. Alternatives to fossil fuels reduce carbon footprint at home and abroad, reducing greenhouse gases. Solar energy is known to have a favorable impact on the environment. Solar panels generate energy without water or a negative impact on the ecosystem.
In fact, the U.S. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy believes that solar energy systems could help reduce water consumption in at least 36 states. This would help solve our water scarcity problem. We have already mentioned how the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy believes that a solar energy system can help us reduce water scarcity, but in that same report, the office also estimates that cleaner air could have a positive effect on human health.
In fact, they estimate that we could save more than 25,000 lives. Last but not least, there is the issue of climate change. Continuous release of pollutants and additional CO2 into the air costs our planet. It makes it increasingly difficult for the environment to clean the air.
As the carbon count continues to increase, so will our heat retention from the sun. These changing air conditions will continue to have an effect on different climates, causing some to warm, others to cool and weather patterns everywhere to become more sudden and volatile. Solar energy is one of the ways we can try to prevent the effects of climate change. By reducing our CO2 emissions and releasing fewer pollutants into the air, we can all do our part to slow down climate change.
This is a little less obvious, but it is certainly one of the biggest environmental advantages of solar energy. While all manufacturing processes require some water, including those used to make solar panels, the total amount of water needed to generate solar electricity is drastically less than that of more traditional electricity sources. Older technologies, such as nuclear, natural gas and coal installations, require large amounts of water to cool. With solar energy, there is almost no risk to local water resources, nor does its operation affect local supplies by competing with agriculture, drinking water systems and other vital water needs.
As a clean, emission-free energy source, often found on private property and built with considerable, non-paying private investment, rooftop solar energy provides valuable social benefits. Solar energy reduces global warming pollution and also reduces emissions of hazardous air pollutants, such as nitrogen oxides, mercury and particulate matter. Even a modest solar energy system can easily reduce that number by 80%, while many can even approach 100%. As with any type of power plant, large solar power plants can affect the environment at or near their locations.
To help develop smart public policies around solar energy, many utility commissions, utilities and other organizations have conducted or sponsored “value of solar energy” studies that attempt to quantify the monetary value of benefits delivered and the costs imposed, by adding solar energy to the power grid. Some solar thermal systems use potentially hazardous fluids to transfer heat, and leaks from these materials could be harmful to the environment. Policy makers should also seek to account for the broader social impacts of solar energy, including the “upstream impacts” of fossil fuel production and use, such as methane emissions from fracking and impacts of local economic development. Energy Information Administration, the average home with solar panels in Connecticut uses 8,288 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity per year.
The use of solar energy can have a positive and indirect effect on the environment when solar energy replaces or reduces the use of other energy sources that have greater effects on the environment. On the other hand, generating electricity from solar panels does not produce any greenhouse gas and, therefore, helps to slow down climate change. To see how much Sunrun solar panels have reduced the country's carbon footprint, just take a look at the numbers. Studies that include the benefits of solar energy beyond the grid generally find that its value exceeds the retail rate of electricity.
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