April 22 is Earth Day. That makes it a great time to
take stock of the many benefits renewable energy offers the natural world
Renewable energy is a viable alternative to fossil
fuels. It provides clean, reliable, low-cost electricity that leaves no carbon
footprint. Cleaner air and water, and decreased greenhouse gas emissions offer
a cleaner future for America.
One of the greatest environmental benefits renewable
energy delivers is pollution reduction. More than a third
of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions come from burning fossil fuels used in
electricity generation. According to the American Wind Energy Associations 2019
Annual Report, the Midwest and Mountain West regions of the country are the
most emissions-intensive regions resulting from the large share of electricity
generation from coal plants. The Plains
has seen the largest reduction in emission intensity from electricity
generation over the last 10 years thanks at least in part to the growth of wind
power capacity in the region. According to a recent report by the Business Council for Sustainable Energy,
America’s power sector had the largest drop in greenhouse gas emissions, with a
7.8 percent decrease last year from 2018. Overall emissions have fallen 4.1
percent from a decade ago, and 12 percent below 2005 levels. In the last 10
years, emissions declined nearly 25 percent.
Wind energy is now the number one renewable energy
source, providing 7 percent of the nation’s electricity needs. Last year, wind
energy avoided 198
million metric tons of carbon dioxide. That’s the equivalent
of taking 42 million cars off the road. This is beneficial for the environment,
as well as our well-being.
Solar energy has been on the rise in recent years as
well, now providing an astounding 77 gigawatts (GW) of carbon-free electricity.
According to the Solar Energy Industries Association (SEIA,) solar energy saves
as much carbon as 1.5 billion trees. More than 14.5 million homes derive their
electricity from solar, which has offset more than 88 million metric
of carbon dioxide emissions. As the demand grows and installation and operation
costs continue to decline, solar will bring even more clean energy to
Renewable energy resources, like wind and solar, also
reduce sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxide and fine particulate matter, which can
cause health problems. According to the Center for Disease Control and
Prevention, about 25
million people suffer from asthma. About 7.5 percent of
the national average include our nation’s children. In 2019, wind energy
metric tons of pollutant emissions that trigger
But that’s not all! Renewable energy also reduces
water consumption. Fossil fuel power plants rely on water for generation and
cooling, making the U.S. power sector the highest water consumer. Thankfully,
wind turbines don’t need water to keep them spinning. Because of this, wind
power saved 103
billion gallons of water in 2019 alone. That’s the
equivalent of approximately 312 gallons for each person in the country, or 776
billion bottles of water saved. Solar
projects also use significantly
water than traditional power plants thanks to water use management programs.
The United States has been undergoing a transition to
clean energy, and the last decade has shown substantial growth in the amount of
renewables powering our economy. In the last 10 years, renewable energy
capacity has doubled currently accounting for 18
percent of the nation’s electricity. Wind currently keeps the
lights on in 32
million homes, and solar generates enough electricity
to power another 14.5 million.
Wind energy costs have declined 70
percent in the last decade,
and solar energy costs have fallen 88
percent since 2009. Technology improvements and low
installation and operation costs will open more doors (and homes) to renewable
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Spring is a season of
renewal. Trees and flowers come to life, the days grow brighter and warmer, and
many of us begin to think about growth and change – what we can do to improve
the world in which we live. The renewable energy industry has come a long way,
bringing with it an abundance of environmental benefits that have greatly
impacted our lives. And there’s more to look forward to.
Solar capacity is projected to hit 100
GW by 2021. There are 44
of wind power in the pipeline for 2020, which would power an additional 15
million homes and put a stop to harmful pollutants.
As the demand for clean energy grows, the future looks
bright and the air smells clean.
This blog post originally appeared in Morning Consult.