How solar energy benefits the environment, your health and your wealth?
Written by Zeeshan Hyder
Updated March 13, 2020
8 minutes read
Everyone knows that using solar energy is good for the environment. However, many homeowners have no idea how big of a contribution to a greener world they are making.
According to the Pew Research Center, 92% of people who have already installed solar panels or plan to install them say saving money on utility bills is their primary motivator, but the environment comes in at a strong number two at 87% of those surveyed.
How is solar energy beneficial to the environment?
Burning fossil fuels releases toxic gasses into the atmosphere. This contributes to global warming. Solar panels produce electricity with zero emissions. Solar power reduces the "greenhouse gas effect" around the world by eliminating the need for the same power to be produced using fossil fuels.
Most electricity in the United States burning coal or natural gas. The downside to this is that it increases global warming. Global warming has many negative effects some of which we are already seeing such as the polar ice caps melting and increased intensity of storms caused by greater energy in the atmosphere.
Plus, using the energy from the sun doesn't involve drawing it out of the sun itself. The sun's energy is going to hit the earth anyway - so solar energy will last as long as the sun does. Fossil fuel resources are finite. As they become harder to extract, they are going to become more expensive.
What is global warming and how does it work?
Global warming is the warming of the earth caused by too much carbon dioxide and other harmful gasses in the atmosphere increasing its density. If you put a blanket over your body, it reduces how much of your body heat escapes causing you to become warmer. The concept is the same as the earth. The higher density of harmful gasses in the atmosphere reduces how much heat can escape from the earth.
How does widespread solar adoption improve my health?
Air pollutants from the burning of fossil fuels has been linked to a variety of respiratory problems, neurological damage, and heart attacks. Solar power reduces the need for these fuels in the first place. Every solar panel installed slightly reduces the amount of fossil fuels that need to be burned to generate electricity.
For a free estimate on the cost, savings and environmental benefits of installing solar on your home enter your zip code below.
How much climate change has happened already?
Here is a graph from the leading government meteorological agencies around the world showing that the globe has already warmed by around 33.08°F (0.6°C) since 1980.
It is no longer prediction — it is now recorded fact that the globe is warming.
Image source: NASA Climate 365
What all of this means for us is that at some point — greater action will be required on climate change than what is currently the case.
Given 39.2°F (4°C) is considered a global extinction event further action on climate change and a ban on the use of fossil fuels is coming. Power prices will go up as systems need to be reconfigured to balance energy demands with environmental impacts. The result? Your solar system will be even more valuable than it is now - your savvy investment will yield greater savings.
Research is still happening regarding the health issues associated with increased average temperatures and the other impacts of global warming. They could be far more wide-ranging as global warming starts to affect food production and air quality
How can solar panels reduce climate change?
Transportation accounts for 28% of greenhouse gas emission in the US. So a move to electric vehicles will be an important part of fighting climate change. The recent drop in Tesla prices with the release of the Tesla Model 3 has made electric vehicles more attractive to consumers. And other manufacturers are taking notice!
Over the coming years, there will be a whole host of new electric vehicles on the US market. The price of EV's will fall and, before long, you will be test driving one. However, electric vehicles on their own will do nothing to fight climate change if the electricity used to power them is still produced by burning fossil fuels. This where solar panels will come into their own. Electric vehicles use kilowatt hours of electricity, not gallons of gas, and the simple fact is that on a per kilowatt-hour basis solar is already much cheaper than grid power.
At a solar cost of $3.50 per watt, the levelized cost of solar power (cost of the system divided by total kWh's produced over the life of the system) is around 7 cents per kilowatt-hour.
Compare this to the average price of grid power in the US which is currently around 13 cents per kWh, and as high as 20 cents per kilowatt-hour in California and much of the Northeast! This price differential means it makes both economic and environmental sense to use solar energy to power both your house and your car. If you do this by installing solar panels and buying an electric car - you will be reducing the carbon footprint of your life by a whopping 74%!
There are two other trends that are changing the game when it comes to powering your home with solar panels. The first is the introduction of the Tesla solar roof. This innovative technology is a giant leap forward for people who want the benefits of solar without detracting from the aesthetics of their homes or commercial buildings.
These solar roof tiles are designed to look exactly like the non-active roof tiles except they will power your home! The downside is that currently, the Tesla solar roof cost is about triple the cost of regular Tesla solar panels. However, other companies are working on similar solar shingles, and competition always means technological advances and lower prices.
The other important trend that is tipping the decision for consumers to go solar is the fact that solar batteries are becoming more widely available and more affordable. Again this trend has been led by Tesla’s release of the Powerwall 2, the latest Tesla battery.
Savings on power bills, reducing the impact on the environment and contributing to improved health - all of these factors are attracting people to solar panels. And, as fossil fuels become scarcer and more challenging to mine, solar is a way to future-proof your lifestyle as soon as possible. If this is adding up for you - save even more while you can! The 26% federal solar tax credit can still pay for a significant part of your system. However, this solar tax credit has already come down from 30% last year to 26% in 2020, and will fall further next year.
Get started now - enter some details into the solar panels calculator and generating an online solar estimate tailored to your home.