Using electricity generated from fossil fuels and driving cars are the two personal activities that have the most significant environmental impact. You can compare the amount of pollution generated by driving a car to that prevented by using solar electricity as another measure of the environmental benefits of solar. Generating electricity from fossil fuels also releases Sulpher Oxides (SOx) and Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) into the air. SOx and NOx are primary cuases of acid rain. Acid rain causes acidification of lakes and streams and contributes to damage of trees at high elevation and many sensitive forest soils. In addition, acid rain accelerates the decay of building materials and paints, including irreplaceable buildings, statues, and sculptures that are part of our nation’s cultural heritage. Prior to falling to the earth, SO2 and NOx gases and their particulate matter derivatives, sulfates and nitrates, contribute to visibility degradation and harm public health.
Generating electricity from fossil fuels also releases Sulfur Oxides and Nitrogen Oxides, primary causes of acid rain, into the air. Acid rain damages lakes, streams, trees and forest soils.
In addition to acid rain, Nitrogen Oxides (NOx) are a key contributor to the formation of ground level ozone, which is a major component of smog. Ozone irritates the eyes, damages the lungs, and aggravates respiratory problems. It is our most widespread and intractable urban air pollution problem. Using solar electricity reduces the amount of NOx released into the air from power plants.
Carbon dioxide, along with other ‘greenhouse gases’, is thought to have an effect on our changing climate. This could result in increased rainfall, violent storms, decreased snow and ice cover, and rising sea levels.
The amount of electricity your solar power system will produce over the next 30 yrs. Scientists generally agree that as a result of the combustion of fossil fuels and other human activities, atmospheric levels of carbon dioxide have increased by nearly 30% since the beginning of the industrial revolution. Carbon dioxide, along with other ‘greenhouse gases’, enhances the heat-trapping properties of the Earth’s atmosphere. Thus, increased levels of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are believed to be linked to an increase in global temperature. Global temperatures have risen by about 1 deg F since the late 19th century, and are expected to raise another 1-4.5 deg F in the next 50 years. Rising global temperature has resulted in increased rainfall and violent storms, decreased snow and ice cover, and rising sea levels. In the US, 82% of greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels to generate electricity and power cars. Your solar electric power system can dramatically reduce the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere.
Trees remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, and are one of two major CO2 ‘sinks’ (the other is oceans) that have helped to maintain the balance of CO2 in the atmosphere throughout the course of time. Many environmentalists advocate tree planting as a way to offset CO2 emissions into the atmosphere. Using solar electricity can be equated to planting trees in terms of atmospheric CO2 reductions.