Coal, a dull black carbon fossil embedded in layers of rock, not only proves dangerous for miners to extract. You simply can’t clean the world’s air by burning something made almost entirely of carbon. Good thing solar panels are taking its place as an energy resource!
Maybe this fact grants part of the reason coal production is slowing down. Or perhaps coal’s dip in popularity is due to President Obama’s War on Coal, which he declared in 2008. More than likely, though, coal is waning because it’s just not the cheapest resource anymore.
According to Andy Koenigsberg, member of the Westborough Conservation Commission, natural gas competes with coal in the cost to produce it. Natural gas companies will drill into the ground, pumping water mixed with chemicals into shale rock at a high pressure.
This process of hydraulic fracturing then cracks the shale, causing it to release its natural gas. Although not exactly environmentally friendly, producing natural gas does indeed cost less than mining coal.
And coal is definitely waning. In 1997, coal met over half of the US energy needs. Now, it only provides around a third.
Still, chances are that many people don’t think about how earth friendly their A/C is. They don’t think about the coal miners whose lungs are blackened by their work, and they don’t notice the coal plants dumping its toxic muck into landfills.
Why would they need to? People’s homes are filled with light and hot, running water. They don’t have to know how it got there.
Solar Panels Take the Place of Carbon–Producing Coal
Thankfully, people do like the idea of a cleaner planet. Solar panels dressed many rooftops in 2015 and reached 1 million residential solar installations this year, providing the US with almost 30% of its energy needs! And homeowners can now install photovoltaic panels on their homes at a fraction of the cost compared to a decade ago. At these low prices, residential solar may eventually make up 40% of energy produced in the States!
In 2008, people paid around $4 for each watt of photovoltaics on their homes, one solar panel creating nearly 200 watts of energy. While people certainly raved about solar’s affordability then, it has dropped significantly since. Now, homeowners can install solar panels that generate 345 watts of energy at $0.50 per watt!
When you take into account the diminished energy bill and the extra cash flowing in from your excess energy, solar rates are right down there with natural gas in economy. Newer photovoltaics will generate far more electricity than a family could use in one day. Even the older systems can produce three quarters or more of a home’s energy needs.
Although solar has grown in popularity, many people still hesitate when they’re considering the switch. Can the sun really produce all the energy a house needs every day?
People all over the US still rely on the power grid, including those who installed solar on their homes. On top of all the hesitation, electric companies don’t appreciate the piggy–back ride they’re giving solar residents either. They didn’t make their grid for the constantly shifting energy loads from solar–powered homes.
Rise of Battery Storage and Expansion of Solar
Thus, battery storage is rising on the solar scene. According to the Department of Energy, the cost of off–grid battery storage has decreased by 75% since 2008! They forecast another 20-27% decrease in a couple of years as battery storage ascends in popularity.
Overall, the solar industry is expanding rapidly. People are hopping at the encouragement of the federal solar tax credit and some state incentives, and more American states are pushing solar energy above the unsustainable coal industry. In fact, Case Western Reserve University found that 75% of states have already adopted some form of renewable energy policy.
As more people install photovoltaic enery in their homes, the solar industry needs more employees to complete their work. Solar and wind energy companies provided jobs for about 300,000 people last year, a 20% spike from 2014.
If you tack on the several million who labor in energy efficiency, renewable energy provides jobs to almost ⅓ of the world’s population! Compare this number to the coal industry’s mere 174,000 workers, and it’s obvious that coal isn’t meeting consumers’ standards anymore.
The world wants and needs a cleaner, more sustainable energy source than black coal can give them. People didn’t like finding it stuffed inside their stockings at Christmastime, and they don’t like breathing its polluted smoke and bowing to its energy cost now. By installing solar panels on their homes, people are now shouting their support for renewable energy and a greener planet.
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