On Earth Day, 175 nations—including the United States—signed the Paris Climate Agreement. In this landmark agreement, some of the world’s biggest carbon emitters agreed to limit global warming to at least 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels, according to Chemistry World. This is an ambitious goal that will require most of the signing countries to improve and increase their sustainability efforts.
Though the climate agreement has been signed, it now needs to be ratified by each of the member nations. Some forecast that this process could be delayed for some countries, particularly for the U.S. in the midst of the presidential election, but fifteen nations had their ratifications ready immediately after signing according to the United Nations.
In order to reduce the rate of Earth’s rising temperatures, these nations will need to significantly reduce their output of carbon emissions. The EPA shows that in 2014, the U.S. alone emitted 5,600 million metric tons of carbon dioxide. Electricity accounts for a significant portion of this output—a whole 37 percent.
Clean energy sources like solar have an important role to play in reducing the rate of global temperature rise.
The solar modules themselves produce no carbon emissions as they harvest energy from the sun. There are some emissions produced from the manufacturing and transportation of solar materials, but recent estimates of emissions over the entire life cycle of a PV system are between 0.07 and 0.18 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour according to the Union of Concerned Scientists. To compare with nonrenewable sources, natural gas emits 0.6 to 2 pounds of carbon dioxide per kilowatt hour and coal emits between 1.4 and 3.6 pounds per kilowatt hour. Substituting cleaner electricity sources like solar energy can greatly reduce the amount of carbon dioxide being released into the air and warming our planet.
The sun is an inexhaustible resource and therefore always available. Even on a cloudy day, solar PV systems use the energy they’ve harvested and stored during sunny skies to power homes and businesses. Coal and natural gas, on the other hand, have a finite supply; one day we will run out of these nonrenewable energy sources. Implementing more renewable energy like solar is a positive investment in our future—one we can count on.
In addition to being in large supply, solar energy is more resilient than nonrenewable energy sources. Because of its distribution and modular design, solar PV systems are much less likely to suffer from large-scale outages due to severe weather events. PV modules and solar racking systems are specifically designed to withstand wind, hail, ice, snow, and many other weather elements. Should severe weather occur and damage part of a PV system in a certain location, power would not be cut off for the entire region. Because of the way solar PV systems are designed, they can usually continue to operate in the event that some of the equipment is damaged. Coal, natural gas, and nuclear power, on the other hand, require lots of water for cooling. Severe droughts and heat waves put this type of electricity generation at a significant risk.