Why Solar Energy is Green, Red, and Blue

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Why Solar Energy is Green, Red, and Blue

Red and blue. The first thing that might come to mind when pondering these two primary colors would be the two main political parties of the United States. On one side of the equation there are the Republicans (red), and on the other, the Democrats (blue). It doesn’t take a political scientist to observe the rifts and differences between these two major groups. In much the same way that it doesn’t take an actual environmental scientist to understand that solar energy is a better alternative to fossil fuels. What do red and blue, and by extension the Democrats and Republicans, have in common? When they come together, we get green.
Solar power is apolitical and colorblind. It offers a wide range of benefits, and unlike many more political issues argued over, something for both Red and Blue, regardless of party lines or disagreements or any other division. While a future in which both parties work together to fully embrace solar would be ideal, there are tangible benefits for each side available immediately.
Blue issues are often based partially in environmental and energy concerns. Solar has both of those covered. First, let’s talk power plants. With an ever increasing demand upon the power infrastructure in the U.S., more and more plants are being built all the time to keep up. Solar conversion directly addresses this issue. With more solar plants, there is less need for power plants. According to “Energy, Economic, and Environmental Benefits of the Solar America Initiative,” a study published by ECONorthwest, through the process of adding more solar to the grid“the need for constructing new natural gas peaking plants will be reduced.”
Clean energy is another bracket that lines up with the Blue side of the coin. Smokestacks spewing black exhaust into the sky has long been commonplace, but solar has the potential turn that around. Solar systems work by deriving clean, pure energy from the sun. Installing solar panels helps combat greenhouse gas emissions and reduces our collective dependence on fossil fuel. Promoting solar energy works twofold: by the more obvious method of reducing emissions and harmful environmental byproducts, but also by eliminating the need for ecologically harmful methods of mining and harvesting the current fossil fuels.
Something that isn’t discussed enough is how solar reduces water pollution. All manufacturing processes require some water, but solar photovoltaic cells don’t need water to generate electricity. This is one of the most significant environmental benefits offered by solar energy. More traditional power plants including biomass and geothermal, including natural gas and coal-fired facilities, need huge amounts of water for cooling purposes. Solar doesn’t pollute local water sources, because it doesn’t need water to work.
Let’s talk Red. Issues tending toward this end of the political spectrum commonly deal with the economy and business sectors. First and foremost, solar energy saves money. An average American household that installs solar panels and systems can drastically reduce power and other utility payments. The average savings ranges from $20,000 to $60,000 over the course of two decades. And it isn’t only homeowners and private citizens who see a benefit. Walmart, a company renowned for cutting costs as often and efficiently as possible, is currently the largest commercial solar power user in the U.S. By 2020, Walmart’s continuing investment in solar could save them up to $1 billion a year in energy costs.
More people choosing solar means more installation requirements which means more jobs. Employment in the solar field grew more than 20% between 2013 and 2014. According to the SEIA, growth in solar jobs is increasing at a rate 10 times faster than other job sectors. Missouri has added 3,700 jobs at an average of $18 an hour in the solar field since 2005.
Value is an additional benefit of solar, as the initial investments rapidly grow in worth. In 2011, the value of solar installations was about $8.6 billion, and rose to $13.7 billion in 2013. But this extends to more than commercial ventures like solar farms. Home prices in California have been studied by economists and have shown that the economic impact of solar panels push the value of homes up. Homeowners choosing solar could expect to recoup about 97% of upfront costs of solar installations when the home was sold. And that doesn’t include the lower utility payments.
Beyond party-specific benefits, solar offers two additional points that benefit everyone, blue or red. We’ve already discussed the environmental potential of solar over fossil fuels. But the implications of that difference are tied directly into one of the leading causes of death in the U.S.: heart disease. Solar power has many health benefits. An analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found that widespread solar adoption would significantly reduce nitrous oxides, sulfur dioxide, and particulate matter emissions, all of which can cause health problems. NREL found that, among other health benefits, solar power results in fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory and cardiovascular problems.
Finally, solar energy stands to help the U.S. in a very significant way: by pushing toward a future America that is much less dependent upon foreign energy sources. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, “In 2015, U.S. net imports (imports minus exports) of petroleum from foreign countries were equal to about 24% of U.S. petroleum consumption, the lowest since 1970.” While the dependence has fallen in recent years, consider this: in 2014, Americans consumed about 375 million gallons of gasoline per day, or about 47% of total domestic petroleum consumption.

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