April 25, 2012

Environmental Benefits of Residential Solar

In addition to the immense economic benefits of residential solar, the environmental benefits of residential solar are unmatched by any other source of electricity. By installing a residential solar system, you can help eliminate local, regional, and global air pollution while also protecting our country’s water sources and beautiful landscapes.

Residential solar power yields absolutely no chemical emissions when it provides your home with electricity—unlike fossil fuels. Coal, oil, and natural gas, the primary fossil fuels, emit pollution at criminal rates that lead to health costs as well as environmental damages in our cities. CO2 emissions, particulate matter and other chemical compounds are released when burning coal, which has been our nation’s primary source of energy since the 1800s. These pollutants increase the amount of respiratory illnesses, especially asthma, and subsequently increase the costs of health care associated with these illnesses.

In addition, fossil fuel emissions result in exorbitant amounts of air pollution that leave cities covered in smog. This smog creates an additional cost to society beyond health care costs, because it damages transportation capabilities and subsequently, overall productivity. From an economist’s perspective, residential solar power helps to correct for this pollution externality caused by fossil fuels and the consequential market failure of fossil fuel energy. By installing a residential solar system, you can help eliminate the pollution of fossil fuels and protect your local cities.

Using fossil fuels to power homes causes global damage in addition to local pollution. Scientists around the world agree that CO2 is one of the primary causes of climate change, which will continue to have detrimental impacts on our earth’s weather patterns and thus harm our ability to cultivate food and survive. Superstorms like Hurricane Sandy and Katrina will become commonplace and we will not be able to handle their damages if we do not stop using fossil fuels and start using more clean energy. Residential solar systems do not emit any CO2 and thus can help prevent our planet from experiencing detrimental weather.

The average residential solar system in the United States prevents over 6,500 pounds of Carbon Dioxide from being emitted every single year. This equates to every residential solar system offsetting over 100,000 pounds of CO2 every 20 years. Installing a residential solar system is one of the simplest ways to do your part to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and help prevent the climate from reaching unlivable conditions.

Beyond air pollution and damaging our climate, fossil fuel extraction harms our landscapes and water supplies as well. Fossil fuels must be extracted from the earth either by mining, drilling, or hydraulic fracturing, which all leave our land ugly, degraded and more susceptible to flooding. These unnatural practices can also pollute local water sources because chemicals used in the processes of extracting fossil fuels seep into water supplies and contaminate them.

Conversely, residential solar power does not harm our landscapes or water supplies at all. Solar panels fit in seamlessly with our roofs, meaning that no additional land needs to be used to create power. Solar power also produces no harmful chemicals and thus leaves our water sources free from contamination.

Residential solar power is clearly better for the environment than fossil fuels, but it also compares favorably with other sources of energy. Nuclear power generates significant levels of nuclear waste while hydroelectric power damages local ecosystems. Even wind turbines pose some environmental damage by killing local birds. Solar power yields none of these problems, and is the only energy source that is completely free from environmental damages while guaranteeing clean power production.

The sun is an infinite resource that will continue to shine for as long as human beings exist on planet earth. No one knows for sure when fossil fuels will run out or what will happen when they do, but the sun is one source of energy that will always be reliable no matter what. The sun gives enough energy in sunlight every single day to power the entire world for a year. You can harness some of this energy via a residential solar system and take responsibility to help ensure a clean environment for future generations.


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