How Solar Power Contributes in the Fight Against Climate Change: For Dummies

At our office we talk quite a bit about climate change. We talk about the impacts we feel every day, the obscene politics that surround it, and why it’s so imperative that we continue to build a renewable energy based economy. Being the best solar company possible means embracing the movement that surrounds us and translating our work into real impacts in the fight against climate change. What does that mean though? Although we take the logical thought process as a given, it’s worth the effort to explain exactly how putting solar panels on rooftops has a direct impact on our future climate. Here’s the simplest, deep dive we can manage.

Certain politicians practice disbelief in Climate Change (ehem), but there’s really no scientific contention over the fact that a) the planet’s experiencing a dramatic upward shift in average temperatures and b ) that the major driver of this planetary change is from CO2, Methane, and Water Vapor that humans pump into the atmosphere. These gases that we pump into the air, usually as a result of energy production, transportation, or agriculture, are incredibly good at storing heat in the atmosphere. We’ve pumped so many of them into the air, that it’s actually changing the natural ability of our planet to store heat. Hense, we get climate change. There’s very little debate on this. According to NASA “97 percent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree: Climate-warming trends over the past century are extremely likely due to human activities.”

In order to curb our emissions, we need to reign in a number of different industries that produce greenhouse gases as a matter of regular business.

EPA Emissions by Source

Electricity generation is a primary target in the fight against climate change because it accounts for a little less than a third of our national emissions. Most of our electric sources produce CO2 when they burn coal, oil or natural gas to feed our electric addictions. Although we could cut our emissions by using less power globally, it’s difficult to imagine a future in which we use less electricity than we currently do. We’re generally of the mindset that comprehensively reducing emissions means developing methods of producing the same amount of power from cleaner sources.

That’s where solar power comes in.

Solar panels produce electricity by harnessing the power of the sun. Although it takes some energy (and associated emissions) to make the panels themselves, a solar panel doesn’t produce any CO2 once installed. In just two years a solar panel will produce enough emission-free power that it completely offsets the CO2 emissions needed to make the panel. Every panel that we install counts as a net greenhouse gas reduction for our electric grid because it replaces the “dirty” energy that would otherwise be pushed out onto the grid. Over the 25 year lifetime of a solar panel- that’s a lot of offset emissions. Each system that we install is equivalent to taking several cars off of the road or planting several acres of national forest: every year. The best thing is that it accumulates. System by system.

Here in Brooklyn there are a number of power plants that produce greenhouse gases and other toxic emissions. If we can install enough solar power on our grid locally, we reduce the need for these facilities in our backyard. We make way for a future with fewer emissions-- and potentially fewer negative effects from climate change. We also work directly in making our neighborhoods cleaner for future generations. It’s a powerful vision.

We’ll continue to dive into the specifics of our mission here weekly. If you’re interested in further explanations stay tuned!