Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

By Dan Keen

Environmental Benefits of Solar Energy

Facts about energy usage show that solar power is a renewable, efficient, eco-friendly alternative to other power systems.

By Dan Keen

OverviewWe use vast amounts of energy to heat and cool our homes and businesses, and to provide electricity, on which our society has become dependent. Much of this energy in the past has come from the combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal, oil and natural gas. We have become aware that these resources are not endless, and that burning them to produce energy releases gases and airborne particles. “Green energy” is a movement toward producing energy from renewable sources, such as solar, that do not have a negative effect on our environment.Solar Reduces Air PollutionWhen fossil fuels are burned, particulate matter is released into the air, regardless of efforts to reduce these emissions. The result can affect the environment in the form of smog, and in certain cities, this can pose serious health problems for residents. Also, carbon monoxide is created when fuel combustion is incomplete. This gas is a health hazard, even in low doses. Energy produced by solar systems does not contribute to air pollution.No Effect on ClimateGreenhouse gases, notably CO2 (carbon dioxide), are produced when fossil fuels are burned. Many scientists now believe these gases may be affecting our climate. CO2 can create a “greenhouse effect” in the atmosphere, causing global warming. This may lead to an increase in hurricanes, flooding and other weather conditions that can result in injuries, deaths and loss of property. No combustion takes place in solar energy systems.No Effect on the LandscapeSome coal is obtained by “strip mining,” where a large surface area of ground is stripped of vegetation. Flooding can be made worse by this process, especially when it is done on mountains, which has caused great loss of property in some areas.Unlimited ResourceCoal, natural gas and oil are limited resources, which we are using up at an incredible rate. Developing countries are now adding to the demand for these fuels. Also, oil is used in many ways other than producing energy, such as in the manufacturing of plastic products, thus using oil reserves even faster. Solar energy from the sun is unlimited.Nuclear WasteNuclear energy is one alternative to burning fossil fuels, and some consider it to be a “green energy” source, along with solar. However, nuclear waste is produced as a by-product, which is dangerous and must be safely stored somewhere for very long periods of time. The benefit of generating energy using solar technologies is that no waste products are produced.Solar Reduces the Need for More Fossil Fuel Power PlantsAs the demand for electricity increases, more power plants will need to be built, which can have a negative environmental impact. As more energy is produced by solar systems, the need for more fossil fuel power plants will be reduced.Solar Reduces Battery NeedsGetting electricity to some remote areas is difficult. Batteries are often used to power remote equipment used for environment and security monitoring, and to power communication devices, including “help” call boxes along stretches of highways. Solar photovoltaic cells can easily provide power to these remote devices, eliminating the need for batteries. Batteries also pose an environmental disposal problem, since chemicals from them can leach into the soil and water, causing contamination.ResourcesreferenceBenefits of SolarreferenceU.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Clean EnergyresourceFossil Fuels or Solar Future? We Must Choose Carefully.

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REFERENCE/RESOURCE: U.S. Environmental Protection Agency: Clean Energy

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