Are solar panels truly impacting the US?
With energy costs on the rise and the health of the environment in decline, homeowners and businesses all across the U.S. are turning to solar energy.
That's right, rooftop solar panels are helping to save the environment and as well as helping to save people money.
RELATED TOPIC: Solar industry continues to surge in 2015
Solar energy movement in the United States
The cost to power homes and businesses is only going to increase in the coming years.
As a result, many homeowners and business owners just like you are turning to solar panels to not only reduce their energy costs, but also to reduce the environmental impact of energy consumption in the United States.
RELATED TOPIC: [INFOGRAPHIC] The explosive growth of residential solar
According to a recent report by the Solar Energy Industries Association, nearly 475,000 homes in the U.S. have solar panels installed on their rooftops. This number is projected to increase by 325,000 homes by the year 2020.
In addition, a growing number of businesses are also going the solar route when it comes to their energy needs.
According to the same study, nearly 1,200 corporations across the country have installed over 600 MW of solar capacity including Walmart and Macy's.
RELATED TOPIC: [INFOGRAPHIC] Solar energy facts
With numbers like these, you're probably wondering how solar panels can benefit your finances and the environment.
Cost benefits of solar energy
There are a number of different cost benefits that go along with installing solar panels on your home or business.
For starters, a solar panel system costs a little over three dollars a watt. This is significantly cheaper than traditional energy costs and can save you thousands of dollars a year on your energy costs.
RELATED TOPIC: Top 10 U.S. commercial solar contractors
In addition, solar panels are very low-maintenance.
The article What's bogging down your solar panels? mentions that annual washing and tree trimming is all it takes to ensure a solar system is running at maximum capacity. Minimal maintenance is always a benefit for both home and business owners.
The government is also offering homeowners and business owners solar investment tax credits, which help offset the costs of solar panel installation. These tax credits can help reduce your income taxes by 30 percent just for owning a solar-friendly property.
RELATED TOPIC: Electricity consumption up, but lower at per-household level
Environmental benefits of solar energy
Solar panels offer long-term environmental advantages that far exceed any of the cost benefits mentioned above.
For example, the solar panel systems that are already in place in the U.S. will help reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 180 tons over the next 30 years.
Likewise, solar energy is helping to reduce the hundreds of thousands of pounds of coal that's burned in traditional energy production. This is cutting airborne particulates and nitrous oxide in half, which is hugely beneficial to the ozone layer.
RELATED TOPIC: EIA: California sets another solar power record
Finally, because the sun shines everywhere, solar panels are helping to make the United States and other countries energy independent. This is decreasing oil and coal-based energy production across the planet.
If you're considering whether to install solar panels on your home or business, let the benefits of solar energy mentioned above help inform your decision.
About the Author: Adam Groff is a freelance writer and creator of content. He writes on a variety of topics including solar energy and the environment.
Click here to read the October 2015 edition of Energy Digital magazine!
Carbon dioxide removal revenues worth £2bn a year by 2030
Carbon dioxide removal revenues could reach £2bn a year by 2030 in the UK with costs per megatonne totalling up to £400 million, according to the National Infrastructure Commission.
Engineered greenhouse gas removals will become "a major new infrastructure sector" in the coming decades - although costs are uncertain given removal technologies are in their infancy - and revenues could match that of the UK’s water sector by 2050. The Commission’s analysis suggests engineered removals technologies need to have capacity to remove five to ten megatonnes of carbon dioxide no later than 2030, and between 40 and 100 megatonnes by 2050.
The Commission states technologies fit into two categories: extracting carbon dioxide directly out of the air; and bioenergy with carbon capture technology – processing biomass to recapture carbon dioxide absorbed as the fuel grew. In both cases, the captured CO2 is then stored permanently out of the atmosphere, typically under the seabed.
The report sets out how the engineered removal and storage of carbon dioxide offers the most realistic way to mitigate the final slice of emissions expected to remain by the 2040s from sources that don’t currently have a decarbonisation solution, like aviation and agriculture.
It stresses that the potential of these technologies is “not an excuse to delay necessary action elsewhere” and cannot replace efforts to reduce emissions from sectors like road transport or power, where removals would be a more expensive alternative.
The critical role these technologies will play in meeting climate targets means government must rapidly kick start the sector so that it becomes viable by the 2030s, according to the report, which was commissioned by government in November 2020.
Early movement by the UK to develop the expertise and capacity in greenhouse gas removal technologies could create a comparative advantage, with the prospect of other countries needing to procure the knowledge and skills the UK develops.
The Commission recommends that government should support the development of this new sector in the short term with policies that drive delivery of these technologies and create demand through obligations on polluting industries, which will over time enable a competitive market to develop. Robust independent regulation must also be put in place from the start to help build public and investor confidence.
While the burden of these costs could be shared by different parts of industries required to pay for removals or in part shared with government, the report acknowledges that, over the longer term, the aim should be to have polluting sectors pay for removals they need to reach carbon targets.
Polluting industries are likely to pass a proportion of the costs onto consumers. While those with bigger household expenditures will pay more than those on lower incomes, the report underlines that government will need to identify ways of protecting vulnerable consumers and to decide where in relevant industry supply chains the costs should fall.
Chair of the National Infrastructure Commission, Sir John Armitt, said taking steps to clean our air is something we’re going to have to get used to, just as we already manage our wastewater and household refuse.
"While engineered removals will not be everyone’s favourite device in the toolkit, they are there for the hardest jobs. And in the overall project of mitigating our impact on the planet for the sake of generations to come, we need every tool we can find," he said.
“But to get close to having the sector operating where and when we need it to, the government needs to get ahead of the game now. The adaptive approach to market building we recommend will create the best environment for emerging technologies to develop quickly and show their worth, avoiding the need for government to pick winners. We know from the dramatic fall in the cost of renewables that this approach works and we must apply the lessons learned to this novel, but necessary, technology.”
The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and International Energy Agency estimate a global capacity for engineered removals of 2,000 to 16,000 megatonnes of carbon dioxide each year by 2050 will be needed in order to meet global reduction targets.
Yesterday Summit Carbon Solutions received "a strategic investment" from John Deere to advance a major CCUS project (click here). The project will accelerate decarbonisation efforts across the agriculture industry by enabling the production of low carbon ethanol, resulting in the production of more sustainable food, feed, and fuel. Summit Carbon Solutions has partnered with 31 biorefineries across the Midwest United States to capture and permanently sequester their CO2 emissions.
Cory Reed, President, Agriculture & Turf Division of John Deere, said: "Carbon neutral ethanol would have a positive impact on the environment and bolster the long-term sustainability of the agriculture industry. The work Summit Carbon Solutions is doing will be critical in delivering on these goals."
McKinsey highlights a number of CCUS methods which can drive CO2 to net zero:
- Today’s leader: Enhanced oil recovery Among CO2 uses by industry, enhanced oil recovery leads the field. It accounts for around 90 percent of all CO2 usage today
- Cementing in CO2 for the ages New processes could lock up CO2 permanently in concrete, “storing” CO2 in buildings, sidewalks, or anywhere else concrete is used
- Carbon neutral fuel for jets Technically, CO2 could be used to create virtually any type of fuel. Through a chemical reaction, CO2 captured from industry can be combined with hydrogen to create synthetic gasoline, jet fuel, and diesel
- Capturing CO2 from ambient air - anywhere Direct air capture (DAC) could push CO2 emissions into negative territory in a big way
- The biomass-energy cycle: CO2 neutral or even negative Bioenergy with carbon capture and storage relies on nature to remove CO2 from the atmosphere for use elsewhere