Environmental, Economic, Secure & Stable – The Benefits of Solar Energy
May 26, 2016
It’s no accident that solar energy is fast becoming one of the world’s most popular renewable energy sources, and as the nation’s leading developer of small, utility-scale solar farms, we’re one of solar’s biggest fans. We believe that solar is vital to securing our nation’s energy future, and that the benefits of solar energy are as numerous as they are varied. The more people understand its power, the more we all benefit from its implementation. For your reading pleasure, we’ve put together this list of solar’s more salient points. We hope you enjoy.
Benefits of Solar Energy – Environmental
There are numerous reasons why solar is an environmental superstar – the first being that as long as there is a sun in our sky, there will be the potential for generating solar energy. Unlike coal or oil, solar is a renewable resource, which means there is a bounty we can count on forever. (As long as we don’t scorch the sky in some Wachowski-inspired sci-fi battle with artificial intelligence, of course.)
But being renewable isn’t solar’s only environmental superpower. It’s also a clean energy – which is important right now, because, according to the EPA’s most recent figures, electricity production is responsible for 30 percent of greenhouse gas emissions and represents the largest percentage share of pollution generation. This percentage beats out industry, transportation and agriculture (see the pie chart at epa.gov). Solar panels emit no hazardous byproduct into the air, ground or water.
Because solar is clean, it poses no threat to public health. Plus, solar energy generation requires no water. According to an article from the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), researchers estimate that “fossil-fuel-fired thermoelectric power plants consume more than 500 billion L of fresh water per day in the United States alone.” That amounts to 95 L per kilowatt hour. That’s a lot of water that could be saved by generating energy with solar technology instead – especially considering that the EPA reports only one percent of water on earth is suitable for drinking, washing and agriculture.
Benefits of Solar Energy – Economic
Economically speaking, solar is a big winner for a number of reasons. First of all, it’s a jobs creator. According to The Solar Foundation, the solar industry is “creating jobs nearly 20 times faster than [the] overall U.S. economy.” In 2014, that equated to 173,807 Americans gainfully employed thanks to solar.
Additionally, small utility-scale solar development, like the type Cypress Creek Renewables engages in, adds critical dollars to local U.S. economies. In New York, for example, Cypress Creek Renewables expects to invest approximately $6M in the construction and installation of the average 2 MW project. Based on estimates by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory’s (NREL) Jobs and Economic Development Impact (JEDI) model, the construction and installation period of each project will result in the creation of approximately 15 local jobs during the construction phase (provided qualified local labor is available) and over $3M of investment into the local economy. During the ongoing operational life of the farm, local investment is expected to exceed $33K annually.
After development, solar energy costs less to produce, and because solar farms can be located in the communities they service without adverse environmental impact, there is less transmission infrastructure to maintain, build and pay for. These savings are passed on to the end user in the form of lower or static energy costs, which means more dollars individuals can spend elsewhere in the greater economy.
Finally, Smart Grid News reports that another study conducted by the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory (LBNL) in partnership with the NREL is predicting solar to save “$400 billion in environmental and public health benefits throughout the United States by 2050.” In fact, their measurements indicate that the 20 GW of solar installed in 2014 is already saving $700 million per year in social costs by removing 17 million metric tons of greenhouse gases from the air. Social cost is the estimated long-term damage done by carbon emissions. These costs also include around $800 million dollars saved from avoided premature mortality and disease associated with the conventional pollutants that power plants expel, such as sulfur, nitrogen and particulates.
Benefits of Solar Energy – National Security
In the matter of national security, all of the above benefits apply. Exorbitant health care costs, fresh water use (especially in the drought-stricken western states), and consistently rising energy costs all weaken the social and economic state of the nation, which makes us vulnerable. But in addition to these points, solar also benefits national security by reducing our dependence on foreign oil. High oil prices hurt our general economy, while dependency puts us at the mercy of foreign interests that may not be friendly.
Like any good investor knows, diversity is the key to a stable portfolio, and the same is as true for energy as it is for finance. Aside from lessening dependence on foreign energy sources, solar is also helping us lessen our dependence on non-renewables, like coal or oil, which are finite resources. All of these points impact the ability of our nation to protect itself financially and physically from outside threats.
What Do You Like Best About Solar?
These are some of the benefits of solar energy that we like the most. Do you have a favorite we missed? Let us know about it in the comments below.
Cypress Creek Renewables is the nation’s largest developer of utility-scale solar developments.
Find out more about our process – visit the Cypress Creek How We Do It page next.