Around 17.6 million individuals in the United States are exposed to harmful air pollution daily due to the fossil fuel industry. Solar energy is progressively expanding as more people integrate it into daily life, reducing the demand for fossil fuels.
Solar-powered energy represents a clean and sustainable substitute for conventional energy sources, offering a viable route toward reducing carbon footprints and emissions of carbon dioxide.
In this blog which compares solar energy and fossil fuels, we’ll answer the following questions:
- Is solar energy better than fossil fuels?
- Why should we replace fossil fuels with solar energy?
- What are the pros and cons of renewable energy and fossil fuels?
- Is solar energy better or worse for the environment?
- Can solar power replace fossil fuels?
- Is solar now cheaper than fossil fuels?
Is Solar Energy Better than Fossil Fuels?
In short, yes. When you compare solar energy to fossil fuel, solar has proven to be much more viable and environmentally friendly in comparison. Solar energy is emissions-free, and renewable energy storage can provide power when sunlight isn’t available. All solar energy needs to be powered is natural sunlight which comes in an unlimited supply making it more appealing in sustainability.
While fossil fuels tend to be more efficient overall, they release harmful pollutants into the environment and come in a limited supply, making them unsustainable and nonrenewable. Burning fossil fuels for energy accounted for 73% of total U.S. GHG emissions and 92% of total U.S. anthropogenic CO2 emissions, which cause harm to human and animal health.
Why Should We Replace Fossil Fuels with Solar Energy?
Unlike solar energy, fossil fuels aren’t renewable and can be exhausted over time. Fossil fuel is mined and cannot be reused, but solar energy continues to last long-term as there’s access to the sun’s rays. The more complex methods of obtaining fossil fuels make them less unattainable and more expensive, requiring large operations and costly tools.
Likewise, fossil fuels release harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere, raising temperatures and affecting global warming. Solar energy is renewable and clean, minimizing the release of toxic chemicals or pollutants into the atmosphere while in use and causing little environmental impact.
What are the Pros and Cons of Renewable Energy and Fossil Fuels?
- Better for the environment, decreases the carbon footprint
- Renewable energy
- Unlimited supply
- Reduced electricity bill
- High initial costs
- Not as efficient as fossil fuel energy
- Requires space for installation
- Relies on sun exposure
- Fossil fuels such as coal, petroleum, and natural gas offer greater efficiency
- Wastes energy during its conversion (e.g., a car engine converts 20% of gasoline into energy while the remaining 80% is wasted as heat energy)
- Doesn’t rely on weather conditions
- Releases harmful pollutants into the atmosphere
- Limited supply, non-renewable, and unsustainable
- Dangerous drilling process
- Expensive to obtain
Is Solar Energy Better or Worse for the Environment?
Solar energy is overall better for the environment. The Department of Energy shares, “Solar energy has an important role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating climate change.” It converts sunlight into energy without releasing toxic pollutants into the atmosphere and decreases carbon footprint. Using solar energy to replace other energy resources reduces the negative environmental impact, such as air pollution and greenhouse gases.
Solar systems require space but can be placed on existing structures’ roofs and other flat surfaces. This reduces the need for land when installing solar panels and minimizes disturbing natural habitats. Along with being a more eco-friendly alternative to other forms of energy, solar panels also create less noise pollution than their counterparts, such as wind turbines and fossil fuel power plants.
Can Solar Power Replace Fossil Fuels?
Solar power cannot entirely replace fossil fuels, at least not alone. Coupled with other natural sources such as wind turbines, there’s a possibility that we could stop fossil fuels altogether and rely on solar and wind-generated energy.
As of 2023, solar investments continue to overtake oil production, cutting dependence on oil, coal, and natural gas, which release harmful carbon emissions into the atmosphere. Another critical thing to note is that while renewable energy never runs out, fossil fuels have a finite amount in the earth’s crust and won’t last forever.
Is Solar Now Cheaper Than Fossil Fuels?
Data from the past two decades suggests solar and wind will lead in generating power. Renewable energy sources are the less expensive option over constructing new fossil-fuel plants. The same article shares that “switching to clean, renewable power and away from fossil fuels could save trillions of dollars by 2050.” Likewise, the utility costs of solar facilities are cheaper than running fossil-fueled plants.
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