Renewable energy has the power to change our lives forever — and we’re not just saying that because we’re a solar energy company! Whether it’s solar or any other green power source like wind, hydro or biomass, using renewable energy creates proven environmental, economic and even human health benefits.
In this article, we’ll share the top advantages of renewable energy and why you should consider making the switch.
Renewable Energy Overview
Renewable energy comes from naturally occurring and virtually inexhaustible sources such as the sun, wind, water, and plants. Any energy source deemed “renewable” cannot be used up or depleted, and it must be renewed frequently (within the average human lifespan) and naturally.
Additionally, renewable energy is not the same thing as clean or green energy. While many renewable sources of energy are considered clean energy, that term specifically refers to the environmental impact of a power source. This is why nuclear energy can be considered, in some circles, clean (but not green).
Green energy is actually a subset of renewables, representing the most environmentally beneficial resources. This includes:
Renewable energy sources not considered green include:
- Large-scale hydropower
- Energy from burning solid waste
1. Renewable Energy Generates No Emissions
Generating electricity from fossil fuels creates a lot of greenhouse gas emissions. In the United States, fossil fuel-generated electricity accounts for 27% of all greenhouse gas emissions.1 This includes not only carbon dioxide but also methane, nitrous oxide and fluorinated gases.
With renewables, the environmental benefits are clear: Electricity generated from renewable resources like solar panels and wind turbines generate no emissions and no air pollution.
Moreover, electricity created from renewable sources is on the rise. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, renewable energy will be the fastest-growing source of electricity generation in 2020. Approximately 23 gigawatts (GW) of wind energy and around 14 GW of solar energy will be added to the electricity grid. That includes electricity created at our very own Oberon solar farm in West Texas!
To put that into perspective, just one gigawatt is equivalent to the power of 1.3 million horses — or roughly 110 million LED lights.
2. Renewable Energy Lowers Your Carbon Footprint
We’re all more aware of how our actions impact on the environment. It’s more than just straws and sea turtles. From the clothes we buy and the food we eat to the electricity that powers family movie night, almost every choice we make affects the environment. We just might not be aware of it.
Those everyday decisions make up your carbon footprint, a metric used to calculate your environmental impact. As you might have guessed, using energy from renewable sources in your home lowers your carbon footprint by “offsetting” or replacing the need for fossil fuel emissions with zero-emissions energy sources like wind and solar.
Thus, rethinking your home’s energy source is a major way to reduce your carbon footprint. The energy industry verifies electricity as legitimately renewable through certificates of authenticity called renewable energy credits. Not only do we use these at Chariot to confirm that your electricity is 100% renewable, but we also create our own certificates because we own our photovoltaic solar farm. It’s really a win-win.
3. Renewable Energy Reduces Harmful Air Pollutants
When fossil fuels are burned to create electricity, they react with oxygen to form nitrogen oxide or NOx, a dangerous greenhouse gas. Not only can it gas create smog and acid rain, the gas chemically reacts to produce ground-level ozone, a harmful air pollutant. Stratospheric ozone — otherwise known as the ozone layer — protects us from harmful UV rays emitted by the sun. Ground-level or tropospheric ozone, however, can cause a variety of health problems, including:
- Throat irritation
- Airway inflammation
- Reduced lung function
- Damaged lung tissue
Ground-level ozone is created by combining heat, sunlight, and volatile organic compounds — specifically human-made chemicals used and produced in the manufacture of paints, pharmaceuticals, and refrigerants.
Renewable energy sources do not release nitrous oxides when generating electricity. So, not only does renewable energy not release greenhouse gases, but it also lowers your carbon footprint and helps offset the need for fossil fuel power that can contribute to excess air pollution in urban areas.
4. Renewable Energy Uses Less Water
Almost all energy sources need lots of water at some point to operate. Traditional electricity, such as coal, natural gas or nuclear energy, is generated by heating up water and creating steam to turn turbines. For coal and natural gas electricity generation, both require approximately 60,000 gallons of water per MWh of electricity.2
Wind and photovoltaic solar innately do not need water to generate electricity. Occasionally, solar panels need cleaning and washing, but that’s only 20 gallons per megawatt-hour (MWh) of electricity generated, according to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA).3 For comparison, a typical family uses about 20,000 gallons of water each year.
Additionally, while hydropower relies on water, electricity is created through the falling or flow of water from a river, dam, or stream, as opposed to the generation of steam through burning materials.
5. Renewable Energy Benefits the Economy
At the end of 2019, clean energy comprised more than 40% of America’s energy workers. That’s about 2.25% of America’s entire workforce.4 And in over 30 states, including Washington D.C., solar and wind energy jobs now outnumber coal and gas jobs, according to Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).5
Factors responsible for driving this growth include:
- Lower technology costs. As the price for creating clean energy technology drops, so does the price for electricity generated by them. This only furthers the demand for electricity generated from clean energy as well as increased investments in its technology.
- Supportive Policies. Government policies such as the solar investment tax credit reduce the cost of renewable energy resources even further. The solar tax credit has reduced the cost of installing solar PV panels by 30%. This is largely the reason why the solar industry has consistently experienced 50% annual growth for the past decade.
Thus, renewable energy not only creates jobs, but it also helps lower the price of electricity and keeps other energy companies on their toes.
Energy is Changing for Good
The energy industry is undergoing a sea change right before our very eyes. The benefits of renewable energy sources are clear, and Chariot’s doing everything we can to change the world for good — for you!
To learn more about not just renewables but all things energy, visit our Chariot University page.