One of the main reasons that people want to look at installing solar panels is to save money. However, for others, a big reason is that they believe it will have a positive impact on the environment, and the future generations of the planet.
It is true that solar panels have both financial and environmental benefits, and here are some significant ways that solar panels are having a positive impact on the environment.
Fossil Fuels still create most of our electricity supply
Did you know that approximately over 60 percent of the electricity generated in the United States comes from fossil fuels?
When burned, these traditional energy sources are used to produce electricity. However, they simultaneously produce substantial amounts of greenhouse gasses. These are gasses that get released into the atmosphere and trap heat within the earth’s atmosphere. The most prominent of these gasses is carbon dioxide.
As well as this, the way that fossil fuels are extracted from the earth can be devastating for the local environment. Practices such as strip mining, drilling, and fracking all have negative impacts on the local environment. For example:
- Strip mining leaves ecosystems more vulnerable to catastrophic flooding.
- Drilling can unearth toxic minerals and also contaminate fresh groundwater.
- Fracking for natural gas releases toxic chemicals and minerals into the surrounding area and can cause seismic events.
In addition to these extraction processes, searching for oil can have its own negative effects. Seismic techniques for searching for oil under the ocean floor can do serious harm to fish and marine life, not to mention when there are oil leaks, such as the Gulf Oil Spill in 2010.
In contrast, the benefits of solar panels do the reverse to the environment. They provide clean, efficient energy, using a resource that is not reducing the resources of the planet.
Here are three significant environmental benefits of solar panels:
Solar panel technology reduces air pollution
Generating electricity with solar panels produces no greenhouse gasses. The current solar capacity currently installed across the United States offsets as much as 16.8 million metric tons of carbon dioxide each year. This is a massive step towards mitigating the human impact of climate change.
Solar energy reduces water pollution
Most power plants today need a significant amount of water to produce steam to spin turbines and cool down the system afterward. The amount of water used in the process makes up almost half of all freshwater withdrawals in the United States, which adds up to billions of gallons every day.
This is one of the biggest, yet least talked about the environmental benefits of solar panels. Solar photovoltaic cells don’t need water to generate electricity. Solar energy creates no pollution of local water sources and does not strain domestic supplies through the competition with agriculture, drinking systems, and other vital water needs of each community.
Solar technology reduces the need for finite resources
The sun is the world’s most abundant energy source, creating an incredible 173,000 terawatts of solar energy every second. To put that into perspective, that is more than 10,000 times the world’s total combined energy use! Best of all, this resource is renewable, meaning it doesn’t deplete after one use.
In contrast, all fossil fuels are non-renewable, meaning once they are used, they can’t be reused a second time. While fossil fuels seem in abundance today, it’s a fact that they will deplete and eventually run out.
The financial and environmental cost of finding and extracting fossil fuels is proving very expensive. Solar energy is the opposite, the more we use it, the less it costs us. It actually begins to reward us for using it over time, through healing the environment and lowering energy costs.