By Aparna Mele
Harnessing the powerful energy of the sun has numerous advantages. The electricity produced by solar panels is clean, renewable and emission free. Generating electricity with solar power instead of fossil fuels can dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions, particularly carbon dioxide (CO2). As the carbon count continues to increase, so will our retention of heat from the sun. These changing air conditions will continue to have an effect on different climates, causing some to warm, others to cool, and causing weather patterns everywhere to become more sudden and volatile. Greenhouse gases, which are produced when fossil fuels like coal and natural gas are burned, lead to rising global temperatures and climate change. Climate change already contributes to serious environmental and public health issues throughout the country and world, from wildfires out West to increasingly frequent and severe major storms in the East.
One of the biggest benefits of solar energy is that it decreases air pollution and improves overall air quality. An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) found that widespread solar adoption can significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which can cause health and specifically respiratory problems.
If your energy source doesn’t use fossil fuels to power itself, it probably uses water as its resource. Hydropower and nuclear energy both use a lot of water to produce electricity and dams are also built to control water flow and electricity production, which have a significant impact on local ecosystems. Solar panels create energy without water nor a negative impact on the ecosystem. In fact, the US Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy notes that solar energy systems could help drop water consumption in at least 36 states and reduce water scarcity.
As a bonus, solar panel systems help you save money by reducing your monthly electricity bills and helps you avoid rising energy costs. Beyond being green and more energy independent, the average American solar purchaser sees a return on their investment of 20 percent or more, with most solar panel systems paying for themselves multiple times over the course of their decades-long lifetime. At the end of the day, solar is one of the best investments you can make.
Extracting and using fossil fuels and nonrenewable energy sources is expensive and harmful to the environment, but solar energy is free and readily abundant. If we could capture all of the sun’s energy shining on the Earth for just one hour, we could power the entire world for one year! By going solar, you can reduce the demand for fossil fuels, limit greenhouse gas emissions, and shrink your own carbon footprint.