Encouraging solar power expansion could result in roughly $400 billion of added environmental and public health benefits, according to a new study by the DOE’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL).
“A U.S. solar system in which solar plays a major role, supplying 14% of demand in 2030 and 27% in 2050, would result in enduring environmental and health benefits,” says Ryan Wiser of Berkeley Lab’s Energy Technologies Area. “The existing fleet of solar plants is already offering a down payment towards those benefits.”
By reducing greenhouse gas emissions and air pollution, the existing 20 GW of installed solar is already lowering annual greenhouse gas emissions by 17 million metric tons, saving the equivalent of $700 million per year in avoided damage by carbon emissions.
Relying on alternatives to coal-fired power plants also reduces conventional air pollutants commonly found in plant emissions, including sulfur, nitrogen and particulates. The health and environmental benefits of the pollution reductions alone are estimated at $890 million due to avoiding premature mortality and other negative health outcomes, Wiser explains.