April 10, 2020
If you’ve ever wanted to save money on utility bills, help the environment or improve your health, it’s likely you’ve considered investing in solar panels for your home. In 2016, the Pew Research Center (PRC) found that 4% of homeowners had solar panels, but 40% were seriously considering adding them. Since 2016, those numbers have been steadily rising.
One of the main reasons people invest in solar energy for their home is to benefit the environment. In fact, according to the PRC, 87% of homeowners who have solar panels or who are considering solar panels reported that helping the environment contributed to their decision.
So, what kind of impact would going solar have? Would just one home make a difference?
The United States EPA Gas Equivalencies Calculator translates abstract measurements of energy or fossil fuels to equivalent, understandable terms. According to the calculator, the average American home going solar for one year would be like:
Most of the nation’s energy comes from fossil fuels like oil, coal and natural gas. Extracting energy from these fossil fuels results in damaging greenhouse gas emissions like carbon dioxide. The more fossil fuels burned, the bigger one’s carbon footprint. This can result in extreme weather and temperature changes, rising sea levels, pollution and the destabilization of ecosystems.
Because our trusty sun proves its constancy decade in and decade out, solar energy remains the cleanest and most renewable energy source available for our planet.
The more a household works to decrease their carbon footprint, the air pollutants they contribute to decreases. The air pollution caused by burning fossil fuels has adverse side effects on your respiratory and heart health. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), increased solar power will yield fewer cases of chronic bronchitis, respiratory/cardiovascular problems and lost workdays due to health problems.
However, these pollutants have been decreasing. According to The Utopian Life, the currently-installed solar panels already have lowered annual greenhouse gas emissions by 17 million metric tons. Researchers from Science Daily put it this way:
“Overall, the health and environmental benefits of this pollution reduction are worth an estimated $890 million from avoiding premature mortality and a range of other negative health outcomes.”
Although increasing, solar energy only accounts for a small amount of the energy harvested to power our world. The sun provides enough energy in one minute to supply one year of earth’s energy needs. We aren’t capable of harvesting all of that energy yet, but the little bit we can do will help create a healthier earth with healthier people.