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Keeping fossil fuel emissions from adding to the buildup in our atmosphere is vital. But can one household’s energy choices really make a difference?
It can. An understanding of one home’s impact is moving people to make the change to solar power now.
What’s more, no resident does this alone. Today, entire cities and even states are shifting to renewable power. Our collective impact offers an even more compelling reason to let your home soak up those rays.
Solar Power in Action: Zero Greenhouse Gas Emissions
Household greenhouse emissions vary. Yet when you opt into solar energy, your protective impact on our atmosphere is real and measurable. If you’d like to see a figure that accounts for your local variables, use this map to calculate your household emissions.
Now, say your total yearly household emissions add up to the national average, about 9 and a half metric tons. Then, say you decide to run your household electricity on solar power. After you switch over, everything running on your home electric account will create zero new global warming emissions. Even if you still use natural gas for heating, your electricity shift can spare the atmosphere more than 6 metric tons of CO2 equivalent yearly.
Supporting the U.S. Clean Power Plan
When you make the shift to solar energy in your home, you make a respectable impact in tackling the global problem of greenhouse gas emissions.
Your role as a residential user of solar energy really shines in a national policy context. Let’s take a look.
The Environmental Protection Agency introduced the Clean Power Plan in 2015. This is the key U.S. policy for lowering electricity-related carbon pollution.
The plan is the very foundation for our country’s strategy to reduce the threat posed by climate change around the world. To follow the plan, together we must, by 2030, attain a 32% decrease in carbon emissions through our use of electricity, relative to the 2005 baseline.
Does your personal shift to solar power help the United States meet this emissions reduction goal? It does.
Good News From the Cities
By 2016, renewable sources accounted for approximately 15% of electricity generation. How is this happening?
Georgetown, Texas, for one, is among the pioneering U.S. cities now totally powered by renewables. Georgetown, with 50,000 residents, is 30 miles from Austin.
Bigger cities, including Pittsburgh and Atlanta, have resolved to become 100% renewable too.
Research done at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory credits the renewable power industry for about 200,000 jobs, so the social benefits are far-reaching.
State Policies Make Good
Whole states are now well into the shift. In addition to addressing climate concerns, solar power offers a varied and attractive set of benefits. Some of the gains are monetary.
Recently the Department of Energy, along with the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, reported on policies requiring a certain amount of a state’s overall energy to come from wind and solar energy. Their report states that these state policies, called “renewable standards,” added up to savings of $1.2 billion, through lowered wholesale energy prices.
Another report, issued by DBL Investors, shows us that the 10 states leading the shift to renewable power achieved lower electricity price hikes than did the 10 states where adoption is slowest.
Meeting New Home Buyers’ Expectations
New technologies increasingly save individual customers money directly. Moreover, homes featuring solar panels and other energy-efficient features are likely to sell more quickly than homes that have not installed them.
This is because public opinion on solar energy is strong, just as the environmental benefits are. Pew Research found that strong majorities of all political parties and ideologies support more renewables, such as solar power.
It has become clear that switching to renewable energy prepares homeowners for the real estate market to come.
Breathtaking News From Scientists
New research published in the journal Nature only strengthens our sense of the impact we’re making together with individuals. It shows that solar power increasingly responds very well to both climate and air-pollution problems.
When solar and wind power are taken together, the health benefits are really astonishing. We are talking here about $29 billion to $112 billion a year in healthcare savings, mainly on account of the thousands of premature deaths averted by improvements in our air quality.
As for the climate damage costs, there too, research shows, we are looking at savings in the billions.
Our whole population is making a shift to a low-carbon grid. At The Solar Digest, we are proud to advance the clean energy sector’s growth. We’re pleased to be in the position to tell you that powering a nation on renewables is achievable. Together, we’re getting it done!
The Lesser Evil in the Details
Several aspects or approaches to using solar power can put dents in some of the gains, and it’s important to understand the environmental costs of any renewable source, to be clear on the importance of reducing consumption in the first place.
Gases are released in various phases of getting your solar power set up and ready to go. These include the transport of materials that go into the panels, the transportation involved in bringing the panels to your home and getting the solar panel installation team out to you, and any routine maintenance needed. Down the road, other factors can include the decommissioning and dismantling of the solar panels.
Manufacturing the photovoltaic cells involves the use of heavy metals: lead, cadmium telluride, mercury.
Nevertheless, a community that has relied on conventional power plants burning fossils fuels and moves into solar power instead will cut air pollution around 90%. And recall too that oil and coal contain heavy metals. When direct emissions are compared from cadmium telluride cell manufacturing to dependence on coal power, the toxic gases emitted from solar power generation is 90 to 300 times lower, according to environmental researcher Dr. Vasilis Fthenakis.
The Union of Concerned Scientists, citing the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, offers estimates for emissions associated with the entire solar energy life cycle. These range from .08 to .2 lbs. of CO2 equivalent for each kilowatt-hour.
This amount is substantially lower than rates of total life cycle emission for natural gas, which starts at around .6 and can go up to CO2 equivalent per kWh. And it is far less than that of coal’s heavy 1.4 to 3.6 lbs.
The shift to renewable energy is the key to our future. The Solar Digest is here to help you play your own high-impact role.
Union of Concerned Scientists:
Environmental Science and Technology:
Department of Energy:
U.S. Energy Information Administration:
Center for Sustainable Systems, University of Michigan, citing U.S. EPA (2016) Inventory of U.S. Greenhouse Gas Emissions and Sinks: 1990 – 2014: http://css.umich.edu/factsheets/carbon-footprint-factsheet For the original EPA document, see: https://www.epa.gov/ghgemissions/inventory-us-greenhouse-gas-emissions-and-sinks-1990-2014
Pew Research Center, Public Opinion on Renewables and Other Energy Sources: