Solar Energy - Benefits
Solar energy is an ideal energy because it:
- is a pollution free, infinitely sustainable form of energy
- doesn't create any noise
- doesn't require fuel to operate
- doesn't produce greenhouse gases
- doesn't generate toxic or radioactive waste
- uses comparatively small amounts of water
- has a stable price
- provides new jobs to the economy
There are numerous benefits, like wind energy, to using solar energy, especially to the environment. Solar energy offers a pollution free, infinitely sustainable form of energy and a solution to supplement and reduce our reliance on traditional fossil-based power generation. A single fossil fuel power plant can emit as much as a million tons of carbon dioxide per year and uses great amounts of water (0.49 gallons [1.90 liters] per kilowatt hour). Comparatively, solar panels emit zero emissions and use very small amounts of water (0.029 gallons [0.11 liters per kilowatt hour]).
More so now than ever, we are able to see the link between a healthy environment and a sustainable, strong economy. Air pollution and global warming brought on by carbon emissions can affect the economy in many ways. Lung-related illnesses linked to degraded air quality costs the US more than $20 billion a year. Not only is there a monetary cost to treat these illnesses, but the economy is also impacted by a reduced available work force and overall productivity in society.
Wind and solar are less prone to large-scale failure because they are distributed and modular. Distributed systems are spread out over a large geographical area, so a severe weather event in one location will not cut off power to an entire region. Modular systems are composed of numerous individual wind turbines or solar arrays. Even if some of the equipment in the system is damaged, the rest can typically continue to operate.
For example, in 2012, Hurricane Sandy damaged fossil fuel-dominated electric generation and distribution systems in New York and New Jersey and left millions of people without power. In contrast, renewable energy projects in the Northeast weathered Hurricane Sandy with minimal damage or disruption.
The risk of disruptive events will also increase in the future as droughts, heat waves, more intense storms, and increasingly severe wildfires become more frequent due to global warming. Renewable energy sources are more resilient than coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants in the face of these sorts of extreme weather events.
For example, coal, natural gas, and nuclear power depend on large amounts of water for cooling, and limited water availability during a severe drought or heat wave puts electricity generation at risk. Wind and solar photovoltaic systems do not require water to generate electricity, and they can help mitigate risks associated with water scarcity.
Solar energy is also strongest when energy demand is at its highest which means that boost in production would coincide with boost in demand.