When you think about solar panels, what environmental benefits cross your mind? The obvious environmental benefit is that the energy is “clean,” but what exactly does this entail? The use of solar panels generates a number of environmental benefits such as a reduction in greenhouse gas emissions, reduction in air pollutant emissions, and reduction in water use.
The U.S. Department of Energy (USDOE) has quantified the environmental benefits of solar panels through the development of the SunShot Initiative, which is the goal of making solar electricity cost-competitive with conventionally generated electricity. To reach this target, USDOE solar electricity is targeted to comprise 14 percent of the annual U.S. electricity demand by 2030. As illustrated in the figure below, the environmental benefits provided by the surplus in solar energy are numerous!
But what does this mean for human health?
A reduction in Greenhouse Gasses (GHGs), sulfur, nitrogen oxides, particulate matter and water use provides numerous benefits to human health, and creates a healthier world for generations to come.
Each year, according to the Scientific American, there are over 5.13 million lost workdays from health burdens caused by particulate pollution from fossil fueled power plants alone. This doesn’t count the number of children that are affected by asthma, pneumonia, and other particulate pollution caused illnesses.
The benefits of simply increasing solar electricity demand up to 14 percent by 2030 assist in the mitigation of climate change as well. Just imagine the benefits if we went beyond a mere 14 percent of solar electricity demand. Imagine the human health and environmental benefits if we went to 40 percent, or 50 percent. With innovation, investment and support, it is possible to become a sustainable world.
By: Natalie McClaine
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