The price of solar panels has fallen 99% since 1977–so why haven’t we all switched? Well, that’s a bit of a loaded question, since things like poverty, lobbyists, and bureaucracy exist. In general, the benefits of solar energy to the environment go unrealized.
Most of us know that “free solar energy is good”, but not the entire scope. The degree to which fossil fuels impact our planet goes beyond the burning of carbon. Let’s examine what can happen by switching to solar energy everywhere.
7 Benefits of Solar Energy to the Environment
How and where energy resources are sourced makes a huge difference in the environment. We didn’t arrive at this global climate emergency by accident. These seven benefits can turn this ship around.
1. Displaces Peak Energy
Energy usage reaches its highest point when the sun is at its brightest. The introduction of solar panels could offset this high demand and reduce the load on the energy grid. A lower energy demand means fewer power plants and less disruption of natural ecosystems.
Power plants require the clearing of land and make the surrounding environment unsafe for living creatures. Solar energy is clean and doesn’t require power plants to serve the public’s needs.
2. Help Combat Desertification
As I mentioned in the intro, solar panels are incredibly cheap now. That affordability could mean greater access for poorer countries in the South. In communities located in places that receive little water, solar energy can help.
Solar-powered electric pumps change the game for poor villagers. They can’t access water because they don’t have electricity to pump it. These places never obtain electricity because nobody is going to gift them power plants.
This obstacle is no longer a reality as fossil fuels are universally more expensive than renewables like solar. Once built, solar panels don’t require expensive maintenance or supply of dirty materials. Poor countries can introduce more vegetation, which acts as the Earth’s lungs that filter pollution in the atmosphere.
3. Reduces Foreign Dependency
America’s dependence on foreign oil is never going to change without switching to renewables. When I’m referring to foreign oil, I’m not talking strictly about nations like Saudi Arabia. Multi-national corporations that are invested in oil and gas’ future are some of the largest polluters on the planet.
The number one polluter is highlighted below, but solar energy strips their power and influence over the planet. It’s hard to properly regulate entities that you still rely on for powering your country, right?
4. Removes Conflict Over Oil
As I previously alluded to, the number one polluter in the world is (drumroll, please): the military. Without getting too political here, it’s in everyone’s best interest to eliminate one of the main drivers of world conflicts. Oil and gas is finite resource, which means fighting over what is left is inevitable as it becomes scarce.
We can reduce the amount of war, and justification of military budget, by gaining energy independence.
5. Economic Boon
The renewable energy industry is a massive opportunity for creating wealth. The economy would explode as solar panels replace a dying fossil fuel industry. There are countless jobs needed to research, produce, and implement solar energy.
This would also create an opportunity for the country to produce another major export to less advanced countries. There are no losers in a solar-powered economy, besides the fossil fuel industry.
6. Lowers C02 Emissions
This is probably the most talked-about benefit of switching to solar energy. It’s still worth elaborating because the planet is reaching an unfathomable 415 ppm. In 50 years, it is projected that we could hit 500 ppm, which translates to a 3C temperature rise.
Solar energy, along with other renewables is needed now. Renewable energy could help reduce emissions by 81 percent by 2050. If we can get gas-guzzling cars off the road at the same time, we’re talking a complete reversal of a climate catastrophe.
7. Encourages Frugality
You don’t need a full array of solar panels to make a big difference. Even if you live in a part of the country that receives little sun (hello, Southern Cali), it still matters. Solar energy changes the way our culture looks at energy consumption.
Right now, I don’t contemplate how much coal is being mined and burned when I flick a light switch. If I had solar power, I would pay closer attention. When you install solar panels, you get rewarded for saving energy.
The power that you don’t use that is gathered from the sun goes back into the grid and you’re paid the difference. There’s also the ability to live “off the grid” with solar energy that previously wasn’t possible. It will force you to look at your consumption habits, which we all need to do to protect the planet’s resources.
Power, Responsibility, and Independence
Seven benefits of solar energy to the environment and seven reasons to change. Personally, we should all try to do our part to help the environment. Whether it’s in small ways like switching to reusable bags or big energy transformations.
If you think going solar is outside your budget, think again. There’s a lot of free money out there on the table. You have a federal tax credit of 30% of the cost of solar panel systems. And, depending on what state you live in, you can get additional tax credits and discounts.
As mentioned before, if your energy consumption totals less than solar you harvest, the utility companies will pay you for whatever you produced. There’s nothing better than 1) never paying another electric bill and 2) receiving checks in the mail from them.
If you want to learn more about achieving energy independence and making big changes to your home, check out some of the past posts on this blog. There are plenty of DIY home solutions that can save you money and help the environment.