Solar energy is usable energy that is captured from the sun that can be used in a variety of different ways. It can be used immediately to power a home or it can be stored for later use.
Solar is an attractive renewable resource as the sun is one of the world’s most reliable and abundant sources of clean energy.
Solar energy has several benefits for the environment. The following sections below will explore the top benefits in more detail.
7 Benefits of Solar Energy to the Environment
Solar energy has many benefits for the environment, society and economy. Solar energy is a clean, non-polluting resource that helps to mitigate the effects of climate change.
As the popularity of being green increases, people are attracted to the idea of making environmentally conscious decisions and having energy independence.
1. Helps Mitigate Climate Change
Solar energy helps to mitigate and slow down climate change as it reduces CO2 emissions and releases fewer pollutants into the air.
The release of mitigation of CO2, methane and nitrous oxide through conventional energy production (e.g. coal, gas and oil) contributes to the enhanced greenhouse effect, which traps energy from the sun and warms the earth’s surface. This is a naturally occurring process, which helps to warm the planet to a liveable temperature.
However, human activities have increased greenhouse gases within the atmosphere and have caused the planet to warm faster than before.
The consequences of climate change are severe and include the melting of glaciers, rising sea levels and increased health impacts.
Solar energy benefits the environment because capturing and converting solar energy into electricity does not produce any pollutants or greenhouse gases.
2. Reduces Reliance on the Grid
Capturing solar energy and converting it into electricity reduces the reliance on the grid and cuts down energy use from the grid.
Solar power does not work at night, so solar energy users need to install batteries to store their energy to use at night or use energy from the grid. In most cases, energy from the grid is collected from non-renewable resources and fossil fuels.
Solar energy benefits the environment because it generates less demand for the grid and reduces the demand for fossil fuels, limits greenhouse gas emissions and shrinks your carbon footprint.
Once a solar panel system is installed, it will derive clean and pure energy from the sun, which helps to combat climate change and reduce society’s dependence on fossil fuels.
3. Lower Carbon Footprint
Carbon footprint refers to the total greenhouse gas emissions caused by an individual, event, organization or product that is expressed as carbon dioxide equivalents.
The carbon footprint for the average American is 16 tons, which is one of the highest rates in the world. Globally, the average is around 4 tons and to mitigate the negative impacts of climate change the average global footprint per year needs to be around 2 tons by 2050.
Installing solar energy is a great way to lower your carbon footprint as it is a natural and renewable resource. For every kilowatt of energy produced by solar energy, it lowers your home’s carbon footprint by over 3,000 pounds per year. That results in an average reduction of 15,000 pounds of carbon dioxide per year.
Solar energy benefits the environment as it reduces the global carbon footprint because it produces little to no emissions. Reducing our carbon footprint can save billions of dollars in climate change damages, such as flooding.
4. Reduces Reliance on Non-Renewable Resources
Solar energy is a renewable resource that is free to capture and endless. It is available anywhere on the planet earth, although some latitudes are better suited to harness solar energy.
Unlike conventional energy sources (e.g. coal, oil, and gas), energy from the sun is infinite and will never run out.
Solar energy reduces the dependence on non-renewable resources that create pollutants and deplete natural non-renewable resources that are finite.
Renewable energy technologies, such as solar energy, are beneficial for the environment because they do not require a lot of resources to produce energy.
Once solar panels are installed, the system does not require any energy, water or other resources to produce electricity.
By harnessing solar energy, the demand for fossil fuels and non-renewable resources also decreases, which helps to converse the planet’s natural resources.
5. Reduces Air Pollution
Electricity produced from fossil fuels (e.g. oil, gas, and coal) generates gases like carbon dioxide and methane. These gases create air pollution and smog, which are linked to several health conditions, including asthma, allergies, bronchitis, pneumonia headaches, anxiety, heart attack and cancer.
Solar energy also eliminates water pollution from power plants. During the cooling stages of energy production, power plants process water that often becomes contaminated with toxins such as mercury, lead and arsenic.
After production is complete, the contaminated water is released or disposed of, which means it eventually enters and contaminates waterways impacting ecosystems and marine wildlife.
Solar energy is beneficial to the environment for several reasons. As a clean energy source, it eliminates pollution, harmful emissions and toxics from energy production. It also reduces pollution because it decreases society’s reliance on fossil fuels for the production of electricity.
By decreasing pollution, solar energy can prevent billions in health and environmental damage. This will not only save lives but will also save ecosystems and conserve natural environments.
6. Conserves Water Usage
Water is a precious resource as only 3% of the earth’s surface is fresh water. Resource extraction and conventional electricity sources are labor-intensive, environmentally disruptive and require tens of thousands of liters of water every year. For example, coal-fired plants use over 15,500 gallons of water for each megawatt-hour of electricity they produce.
Unlike conventional electricity and energy sources, solar energy does not require water to get energy.
Solar energy is a key resource and long-term water-saving solution that can contribute to the conservation of the world’s water supply.
7. Withstand Environmental Factors
In today’s consumer-based society, products are rarely built to last and the constant purchasing and replacing of goods contributes to resource extraction and waste.
Solar energy benefits the environment because once the system is installed, it lasts a long up to 50 years and requires little to no maintenance.
Solar panels are specifically designed to withstand environmental factors. Conventional methods for electricity production require regular replacement and maintenance, which contributes to waste, pollution and resource extraction.
There are also several economic advantages to solar energy for both individuals (e.g. lower electricity bills) and the economy (e.g. less money spent on resource extraction).
Key Economic Benefits
- Creates jobs in manufacturing, installation and maintenance
- Diversifies energy supply
- Reduces dependence on fossil fuels
- Economic development
- Stabilize the economy by reducing uncertainty in future energy prices
Key Social Benefits
- Energy independence
- Reduces electricity bills between 14-54%
- Better health
- Opportunities for employment
- Homes with solar energy sell twice as fast
- Ensures sufficient supply of energy for future generations
History of Solar Energy and How it’s Used
The history and timeline of solar energy date back to the 7th century B.C. when magnifying glass and mirrors were used to produce fire. In the late 1700s and 1800s, researchers and scientists began experimenting to harness the sun’s energy for power.
While that was successful, the breakthrough in solar energy came with the invention of the solar panel, which uses photovoltaic technology to convert sunlight into thermal or electric energy. This quickly emerged as the most common method for capturing the sun’s rays to convert them into usable electricity.
Solar energy can also be used for thermal applications that heat indoor spaces or water (e.g. a pool).
Final Thoughts on the Benefits of Solar Energy
Solar energy is abundant and can be endlessly harnessed to meet the growing energy demands. Not only does solar energy have a wide range of environmental benefits, but it is also a great resource for generating clean and sustainable energy.
Using solar energy allows for economic and societal development in a sustainable way that meets the needs of the present without compromising the needs of future generations.
The key benefits of solar energy are that it decreases the dependence on fossil fuels, supports sustainable economic growth, creates job opportunities, and creates a healthier environment.
Given all the benefits that solar energy offers for society, the economy and the environment, there is no doubt it will be a leading energy source in the near future.
Related content: What are the Advantages & Disadvantages of Solar Energy?
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