A long, long time ago, before home solar power was about saving money on your monthly electric bill, the main motivation for going solar was environmental. Before anyone was talking about “reducing their carbon footprint,” homeowners invested in solar energy systems with the goal of doing just that.
Today, as the effects of man-made global climate change are becoming more apparent – with weather patterns changing and sea levels rising, impacting the livelihoods of millions – the environmental benefits of renewable energy are taking center stage once again.
But just how does going solar help the environment and mitigate the impacts of global climate change?
According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), carbon dioxide (CO2) is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities (about 84% in the U.S. in 2010). Carbon dioxide exists naturally as part of the Earth’s carbon cycle, in which CO2 emitted from “sources” (like volcanoes and plant and animal decay) is consumed by “sinks” (like the ocean and photosynthesis from growing plants) in such a way that a balance is achieved. But it is the human-related CO2 emissions that are responsible for the vast increase in atmospheric CO2 that is destabilizing the carbon cycle and changing global climate conditions.
The single largest source of CO2 emissions in the United States is the combustion of fossil fuels to produce electricity, accounting for about 40% of U.S. CO2 emissions (and 33% of total U.S. greenhouse gas emissions) in 2009.
Almost every scientific and governmental source agrees that the most effective way to reduce CO2 emissions is to reduce fossil fuel combustion. Of course, we still need electricity…and solar power is the perfect solution. Solar panels create absolutely no waste or emissions while generating clean energy from a renewable fuel source that requires no sourcing, excavation, or transportation.
The average 4 kW home solar system offsets the following during its first 25 years:
- 199,679 lbs of CO2
- 2,316 trees planted
- 208,166 miles driven
So even if saving money is the reason you are considering home solar panel installation, you can feel good about contributing to reduced greenhouse gas emissions, minimizing climate change, and improving the health of our planet.
Learn about other renewable energy sources, and steps you can take at home to slow the rate of man-made global climate change: