- Transitioning from coal to solar power could save thousands of lives per year in the US due to reduced air pollution-related health issues, according to a study conducted by Michigan Tech researchers.
- The study calculates approximately 52,000 lives could be spared if the US moved from coal to solar photovoltaic (PV) power, at an investment of $1.1 million per life. This makes the shift to solar a beneficial financial move for the country.
- Aside from saving lives, the transition to solar power is financially lucrative, as electricity produced through this means generates profit according to contributing author, Joshua Pearce.
- Solar power has become a viable alternative to coal, thanks to reduced costs and advancements in supporting technologies such as natural gas plants, other renewable sources, and energy storage.
- Globally, about seven million people die annually due to air pollution. Transitioning from coal could significantly lower this number and improve air quality overall.
Researchers conducted a study showcasing the potential benefits of transitioning from coal to solar power – demonstrating that this change could save both lives and money in America.
The Urgency of Moving Away from Coal
Joshua Pearce, the contributing author of the study and an associate professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Technological University, argues for the urgent need to cease coal use in the US.
Annually, the premature death of tens of thousands of Americans is linked to air pollution-related health problems. This alarming figure encouraged the researchers at Michigan Tech to calculate the human implications of continuing to burn coal, along with the potential benefits of a shift towards solar power.
A Closer Look at the Numbers
Their study entailed an examination of regional electricity costs, as well as a tally of US deaths per kilowatt hour each year derived from both coal and solar power. The team utilized data from the U.S. Department of Energy to compute the probable return on investment of solar installations.
The findings revealed that if the US transitioned from coal to solar photovoltaic (PV) power, an approximate 52,000 lives would be spared at an investment of $1.1 million per life. Furthermore, by investing $1.5 trillion in the solar power sector to outphase coal, researchers concluded it would be a beneficial financial move for the country.
Additional Perks of Going Solar
“Switching from coal to solar not only saves lives but has economic value because electricity produced by solar power generates profit,” said Pearce. He holds a view that the lives saved through this transition are an additional perk to the financial gains that solar energy production brings.
Pearce also asserts that solar power is now a viable, upgraded alternative to coal, thanks to the radical reduction in costs and the emergence of supporting technologies, such as natural gas plants, other renewable sources, and energy storage. Now, he says, we cannot afford to resist solar power’s advancement in the same way that computer companies cannot oppose new tech designed to enhance and expedite their operations.
A Step Towards Cleaner Air
Pearce points out that globally, around seven million people die each year due to air pollution, so doing away with coal could significantly reduce this tally. This aligns with the assertions of the researchers, who believe that ruling out solar energy alternatives would be akin to tech companies resisting innovations that could make their products increasingly efficient and swift.
This insightful study was brought to public attention when it was published in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews.
For expanded details on solar power technology, the U.S. Department of Energy offers insightful resources here.