Solar energy is one of the most widely embraced technologies in the world due to its green and reliable power output. However, it does make one curious as to just how beneficial this technology is for the world. In this article, we will discuss some of the effects of solar energy in terms of the environment and the economy.
The Positive Effects of Solar Energy
It would be an understatement to say that there are numerous positive effects of solar energy on the environment. The very existence of solar power systems serves to remediate the damages caused by fossil fuels. Here are some ways in which solar systems help the environment:
Promote Water Conservation
Water is an immensely valuable natural resource, with many regions and communities in the world do not even an access to an adequate water supply. If people keep on using it at an unchecked and inefficient way, as they do now, it will be depleted sooner rather than later.
Conventional fossil fuel and nuclear power plants use water at an astonishing rate. In fact, nuclear power plants can use up to 1 billion gallons of water per day, while thermoelectric power plants can use even more than this. The water is used to turn the turbines and to cool down the reactors, turbines, generators, transmission systems, and for various other reasons. Regardless of what fuel the power plant operates on, billions of gallons of water are wasted each year.
Even worse, a large portion of the water used in power plants consists of fresh water, which could otherwise be used to provide clean water to the more than 2 million Americans living without access to safe and clean water.
In contrast, solar energy does not require even an ounce of water to generate electricity or to cool down the panels meaning that it does not burden the already strained water resources any further. The only time you’ll need water with solar panel systems is when you’re doing your periodic rinses of the panels in order to remove dirt, debris, and any other obstructing material. Additionally, this water is not contaminated with harmful chemicals and therefore can be easily purified and reused.
Reduce Greenhouse Gases and Carbon Emissions
The thermal power plants operate using fossil fuels such as coal, gas, and oil. Large amounts of fossil fuels are burned in order to generate heat which is used to convert water into steam which in turn rotates the turbines thereby generating electricity.
Conventional power plants have been improved throughout the many years of their existence, making them more capable and efficient. However, one drawback of these plants that no technology has been able to mitigate is the enormous amounts of carbon emissions that come from them.
When fossil fuels are burned to power these plants, the flue gasses released into the air (gases released on the burning of fuels) contain large amounts of carbon dioxide gas – a greenhouse gas. According to the Energy Information Administration (EIA), the US released around 1.55 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2020.
A greenhouse gas essentially traps heat released by the earth, as it cools down during the night, into the atmosphere, thereby keeping the atmosphere warm and habitable. However, excessive amounts of these gases in the air have begun heating up the planet beyond a sustainable point leading to unprecedentedly abnormal climate trends; this phenomenon is known as global warming. Even worse, carbon dioxide can persist in the atmosphere for 300 to 1000 years.
One of the most positive effects of solar energy is that it helps tackle global warming since it generates electricity completely emission-free. Promoting solar energy to the point that most of the residential and commercial energy needs can be fulfilled by it will help ease the burden off of the national grid leading to a lower operating time for conventional power plants and has reduced carbon emissions.
Relax the Strain on Non-Renewable Resources
Like most of earth’s natural resources, the majority of the world’s current power sources, such as oil, natural gas, and coal, are finite and will eventually run dry. The demand for these resources keeps increasing as the population continues to grow. The earth’s scarce resources of fossil fuels are being immensely burdened by this imbalance between their demand and supply.
In the face of rapidly dwindling fossil fuels reserves, exploring other means of energy sources such as solar energy appears to be the most suitable option to reduce humankind’s reliance on the current supply.
Solar energy is one of the most promising solutions for protecting the planet’s natural reserves and reducing their demand. Nature’s primary source of energy is the sun. It is estimated that 173,000 terawatts of solar energy continuously strike the surface of the earth; this is roughly 10,000 times greater than the global energy demand.
Improving the efficiency of our current solar systems to enable harnessing even a noticeable portion of this energy will completely liberate us from the dependence on fossil fuels.
Minimize Air Pollution
In addition to the environmentally destructive carbon dioxide, a variety of other toxic and poisonous gases are released during the combustion of fossil fuels. These harmful gases include methane, oxides of nitrogen, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, and unburnt hydrocarbons. The presence of these gases substantially lowers the air quality.
People’s health and well-being may be jeopardized by the presence of these gases in the atmosphere. Long-term exposure to these air pollutants has been linked to a variety of health concerns which include asthma attacks, Lung cancer, allergies, chronic bronchitis, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), pneumonia, and headaches are only a few of the conditions.
Additionally, the presence of acidic gases can lead to acidic rain, which can kill crops and aquatic life by acidifying their habitats. Moreover, acid rain will also damage monuments and structures made from marble and limestone.
Solar energy, on the other hand, operates completely emission-free and, therefore, does not contribute any pollutants into the atmosphere. In addition, transitioning to solar can help offset the current concentration of pollutants in the air by lowering the emission rate, which makes it easier for the planet’s natural cycle to regulate these pollutants and heal itself.
Allow Usage of Barren Land
A large portion of the earth’s land surface consists of barren, infertile land with a lot of sunlight. More than one-fifth of the world’s land is covered by desserts. Solar panels are an ideal prospect to cover up such arid and inhabitable land areas. The biggest advantage of this is that utilizing such lands for solar projects means that governments do not have to specially put aside land in the already developed urban areas for solar projects.
Even with a net efficiency of 2%, solar thermal systems covering only 10% of the world’s deserts — around 1.5% of the planet’s total surface area — can put out nearly 15 terawatts of power. This sum roughly corresponds to the predicted increase in global energy demand over the next half-century.
Help Protect and Restore Ecosystems
In order to make space for massive thermal and nuclear power plants, many riverside ecosystems were destroyed for instance by clearing away forests. The local flora and fauna, especially birds, have been deprived of their homes. The immense water pollution has damaged aquatic life by poisoning the waters fish and other aquatic creatures live in.
However, with the help of solar energy, ecosystems can begin to heal from their and thrive once more. This is largely because solar panel systems can be installed in remote and barren locations or atop buildings. This means that no ecosystem has to be harmed to make space for solar projects thereby helping to maintain the health of forests and other habitats.
Economic Impact of Solar Energy
The adoption of solar energy in the United States and in all other parts of the world was accompanied by an array of economic benefits for both the commercial and residential sectors. Below are some of the main ways solar energy has endowed economic benefits to the residents of the United States.
Economic Impact of Solar Energy in the Employment Sector
Now that we are done with the positive impacts of solar energy on the environment and for the people, it’s time we discuss the economic impact of solar energy. According to the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), solar PV accounted for nearly 4 million jobs in 2021. These jobs range from large-scale solar installations that feed power into the grid to small-scale off-grid projects.
Additionally, according to The Solar Foundation reports, 29 US states observed growth in solar jobs, with Alaska, Alabama, Illinois, Florida, Montana, Kansas, and Wyoming having a 20% job growth. Moreover, there are more than 260,000 people working in the solar industry and this number is projected to rise up to 286,000 by early 2023. To put this into perspective, the number of solar workers is nearly twice as the number of people employed in the entire coal industry.
Moreover, the US Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) predicts that the solar PV installation occupation will grow by approximately 105% by 2026. Keeping these number in mind, it can be clearly seen that the economic impact of solar energy has been quite in favor of the American job market.
Economic Impact of Solar Energy on Residential Commercial Property Owners
In addition to providing millions of Americans with employment, solar energy has provided economic benefits to innumerable commercial and residential property owners who have turned solar. The biggest economic benefit being that solar helps drastically cut down the hefty utility bills that property owners are used to receiving from their local energy supplier.
Going solar reduces your dependency on the grid as most of your energy requirements will be satisfied by your own system. This means that the amount of energy you draw from the grid will be much less than before you had solar. As such, your utility bills go down by a considerable amount. In fact, the savings on your utility bill are substantial enough to recover the installation cost of the system within just a few years.
The economic impact of solar energy becomes even more prominent when you factor in the annual increment in the energy cost which averages around 2% to 3%. What’s worse is that unforeseen events such as the COVID-19 pandemic or extreme weather conditions can lead to even higher and unexpected surges in the electricity cost.
This brings us to another major advantage of going solar which is that these annual increments and unanticipated surges in energy costs will affect you much less compared to someone who is entirely dependent on the grid to meet their energy requirement.
If the value of your property is a major concern for you, you’ll be glad to know that solar energy can also help you in this regard. Properties with solar panel systems have been observed to have a higher market value than the properties without it, despite the fact that they are located in the same neighborhood. This increase in market value can be as high as 4.1%.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What Are 5 Advantages of Solar Energy?
Following are the five main advantages of solar energy:
- Provides clean and renewable energy
- Increases property value
- Qualifies for tax breaks and incentives
- Reduced utility bills
What is the Long-Term Effect of Solar Energy?
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), 20 years of solar energy can cut down 320,000lbs of carbon emissions. This will help substantially mitigate climate change and the deteriorating health of the planet.
What is the Economic Impact of Solar Energy?
Investing in solar has led to enormous job opportunities, improved trade balance, more reliable energy access and many other benefits for residential and commercial property owners. More detail on the matter can be found above.
How Does Solar Energy Work?
Solar power systems work by converting the sun’s energy to electrical energy with the help of solar PV cells. Photons in the sunlight are used to ionize the solar cell atoms. The electrons from the atoms move through a circuit thereby generating current.
How Long Do Solar Panels Last?
The industry standard lifespan of solar panels ranges from 25 to 30 years. Solar panels will still function after this time has passed but their efficiency and output will be quite low.
A study concludes that solar energy accounted for a 43% increase in the country’s power capacity in 2020. This indicates that the world is embracing solar energy with open arms. This technology has not only provided the world with incredible economic benefits, but it also plays a vital role in tackling pollution and climate change. This is why homeowners, industry leaders and experts, and governments continue to promote solar technology.
The team at Firefly Solar are ready to answer your questions and give you a no-obligation price quote. Feel free to call us at 864-252-7858 or book a consultation online. And we’ll get in touch within 24 hours.