How clean is solar energy?Views: 48
Solar power is a clean way to generate electricity. While natural gas, coal and oil are still the dominant sources of power generation in the U.S., solar companies have been investing heavily in equipment that makes it easier—and cheaper—to install rooftop solar panels.
Cleaner than natural gas
It’s a common misconception that solar energy is not clean, but a study by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) shows that while natural gas is cleaner than coal, it is far less environmentally friendly than solar power.
Natural gas is a fossil fuel that emits greenhouse gases as it burns, including carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane — both of which are major contributors to climate change. In fact, natural gas could account for up to half of all CO2 emissions from electricity generation by 2030 if no action is taken. In contrast with fossil fuels like coal and natural gas, solar panels do not produce any harmful emissions during operation. That’s because they use sunlight directly rather than burning something to make energy—so there’s nothing left behind when the process ends except some water vapor.*
Cleaner than coal
For all its benefits, solar energy is not perfectly clean. It still generates greenhouse gases and air pollution—but solar power is cleaner than coal, a fossil fuel that’s the dirtiest of them all.
Solar photovoltaic (PV) panels produce no greenhouse gases or other pollutants during operation. PV systems use no water or fuel and require only occasional cleaning. However, most of the manufacturing processes involved in making PV equipment result in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2), which contributes to global warming. On average, these emissions can be offset within three years by the amount of electricity generated by each system (EIA 2016c).
Cleaner than oil
When it comes to fossil fuels, natural gas is the cleanest. But solar energy is cleaner than oil in every way.
Oil is the most polluting of all the fossil fuels. It’s used to power cars and trucks, planes and ships—all of which release exhaust into the air that contains carbon dioxide pollution that causes global warming and climate change. Oil is also used to make plastic (which takes thousands of years to break down) as well as gasoline and diesel fuel for those vehicles that run on combustion engines (that’s most of them). In addition, some parts of oil exploration can be very damaging to ecosystems—for example when drilling for oil releases methane into the atmosphere from decaying organic matter underneath Earth’s surface
The most common types of solar power
The most common forms of solar energy are solar photovoltaic (PV), which uses the sun’s rays to generate electricity; solar thermal, which heats water and provides hot water for a building; solar heating, which uses sunlight to heat buildings; and solar cooling, which can also be used to cool buildings. There is also a form of renewable energy that uses wind as its source—wind turbines are devices that generate electricity when they are placed in an area with strong winds.
The cost of solar continues to decline
One of the big benefits of solar energy is its cost. As with any technology, solar costs have been dropping for decades as more research and development gets put into making them better. Since 2008, the cost of installing a solar system in the United States has fallen by more than 80%. In some cases, it’s cheaper than electricity from the grid!
This is especially true if you’re interested in installing your own system. While you’ll still have to pay an upfront installation fee (or “capital costs”), it won’t take long for your investment to be paid off through lower monthly bills and tax credits or rebates (more on these later).
Solar power doesn’t have to be expensive
The costs of solar power are falling fast. The more it’s used, the cheaper it gets. So while installing solar panels on your home is still an investment and not a freebie (unless you win the lottery), the price is falling fast enough that some people do see a return on their investment in as little as five years.
The government also offers incentives for using renewable energy sources like solar power: tax rebates, loans and grants for research into new materials, and other such things. If you’re interested in getting involved with these programs but don’t know where to start, ask your local county or city officials how they can help you get involved!
Solar is a clean alternative to fossil fuels.
While solar power is not completely pollution-free, it’s one of the cleanest sources of energy available.
Solar power is a renewable energy source, meaning that it can be generated without depleting any resources (like fossil fuels). And in contrast to nuclear power, which has been linked to radioactive waste and “disastrous radioactive accidents,” solar generates no harmful byproducts.
If you’re considering solar power for your home, we hope this article has been helpful. You can learn more about the benefits of going solar by our website.