You’ve likely heard that a huge solar energy benefit is that it’s cleaner than fossil fuel energy. Indeed, it’s one of the renewable sources of energy that helped reduce CO2 emissions in the US by 11% back in 2013. Back then, the nation saw a 640 million metric ton reduction in its carbon emissions.
Solar and other renewable energy sources accounted for at least 31% of that decrease.
A 2013 study also looked into the CO2 reducing effects of solar panels in homes in California. It found that these properties helped curbed an average of 696,544 metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Fast forward to 2020, and the US is now home to over two million solar panel installations. Experts say that these can offset over 96 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
Solar energy’s ability to cut CO2 emissions is only the tip of the iceberg, though. This, plus all its other benefits, can give rise to a long-term positive effect: less pollution.
Below we explain how exactly solar energy can do that, so be sure to read on.
It Starts With How “Clean” Solar Energy Is
The burning of fossil fuels creates pollutants like carbon monoxide and carbon dioxide. This practice also generates stuff like sulfur, nitrogen dioxide, and nitric oxide. Other contaminants, like volatile organic compounds and hydrocarbons, also get produced.
Solar energy does have a carbon footprint, but it’s the second-lowest of all sources of energy. It produces only 6gCO2e/kWh (grams of CO2 equivalent per kilowatt-hour). Nuclear and wind energy generate the least, with both having an output of only 4gCO2e/kWh.
By contrast, coal has a staggering footprint of 109gCO2e/kWh. Bioenergy (98g) and hydro energy (97g) also have significant emissions.
This means that solar (as well as nuclear and wind) produces the fewest air pollutants. So, by going solar, you can reduce your contribution to the growing problem of air pollution.
Fewer Air Pollutants Help Reduce Soil Pollution
The use of fossil fuels creates loads of nitrogen and sulfur oxides. These are gases that then mix with air, which, in turn, can result in acidic precipitation. This can then fall to and spread around the earth as acid rain, snow, fog, gas, or particulates.
Acid rain can cause land pollution by contaminating the soil. Soils can become very acidic, to the point that they can no longer sustain vegetation. Over time, the acidity of the earth can even kill plants and trees.
What’s more, acidic precipitation can even damage buildings, including your home. The acids in the rain can cause premature degradation in structural materials. Decaying materials can further cause soil pollution, as they can leach harmful compounds.
As such, by switching to solar energy, you can help minimize the frequency of acid rain. You get to benefit, too, as fewer cases of acidic precipitation mean less damage to your home and garden.
Reducing Instances of Acid Rain Helps Preserve Water Bodies Too
Winds can facilitate the spread of acidic precipitation over many hundreds of miles. This means that acid rain can also contaminate water bodies like oceans, rivers, and lakes. In fact, it has already damaged many lakes and streams throughout the US.
The thing is, a change in the pH level (acidity or alkalinity) of water harms or even kills marine life. It can result in a decrease in species population, or at the very least, affect the growth of a species. Moreover, most fish eggs can die if exposed to water with a pH level of 5.
Acid rain can also trigger the excessive growth of harmful algae, known as “algal blooms.” These can sometimes create toxins that are deadly to fish and other fauna. These dangerous elements can affect not water animals but even birds too.
As you can see, solar energy benefits not only humans but also water bodies and animals. Many of these benefits trace back to how solar power reduces harmful emissions. Fewer air pollutants can reduce acid rains, which can then help preserve water bodies.
Fewer Pollutants Mean Clearer Skies
Smog, or ground-level ozone, is a low-lying haze or “cloud” that affects visibility. More than that, however, is its ability to shorten the lifespan of both people and animals. Scientists say that it’s responsible for 4,700 and 19,000 deaths every year in the US alone.
The use of fossil fuels is again one of the primary reasons behind the development of smog. It’s not just the power plants, though; motor vehicles also contribute to its presence. Fires, be it accidental or intentional, also add to it, as they create many harmful byproducts.
As such, switching to solar gives you the chance to help clear the skies once again. Again, it’s thanks to the lower carbon footprint of solar power.
At the same time, having clearer skies also help you generate more solar energy. Keep in mind that smog is still a type of cloud, so it can block some of the sun’s light. Solar panels do generate power even during cloudy days, but of course, they produce more if the sky is clear.
Just be sure that you also conduct routine and proper maintenance of solar panels. There’s not a lot of upkeep involved, but you do want to get it looked at by a solar technician at least once a year. This way, you can make sure nothing blocks the panels, as this may impair their ability to catch the sunlight.
Reduced Pollution: The Long-Term Solar Energy Benefit On the Environment
All in all, a massive solar energy benefit is a long-term reduction in pollution. That includes air, soil, and water pollution.
That’s why as early as now, you should already consider switching to solar. The sooner you do, the sooner you can help conserve, preserve, and save the environment. Don’t forget that going solar will also help you achieve long-term savings on energy bills.
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