It makes perfect sense that solar power is better for the environment than fossil fuels and oil. But other than not running out, why is it better and by how much? Solar photovoltaic, known as PV, is becoming more mainstream and it’s benefits are numerous and significant.

Carol Olson, a researcher at the Energy Research Center of the Netherlands said, “PV electricity contributes 96 percent to 98 percent less greenhouse gases than electricity generated from 100 percent coal and 92 percent to 96 percent less greenhouse gases than the European electricity mix.”

Olson went on to detail the many other environmental advantages of PV. “Compared with electricity from coal, PV electricity over its lifetime uses 86 to 89 percent less water, occupies or transforms over 80 percent less land, presents approximately 95 percent lower toxicity to humans, contributes 92 to 97 percent less to acid rain, and 97 to 98 percent less to marine eutrophication,” she said. Eutrophication is the cause of algae blooms through the discharge of excess nutrients.

There are also many unexpected health and economic benefits from choosing solar power. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS), “Replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy has been found to reduce premature mortality and lost workdays, and it reduces overall healthcare costs. The aggregate national economic impact associated with these health impacts of fossil fuels is between $361.7 and $886.5 billion, or between 2.5 percent and 6 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).” Solar energy also creates no air pollution emissions and does not use water, so unlike fossil fuels it does not create water pollution. The UCS states, “Natural gas extraction by hydraulic fracturing (fracking) requires large amounts of water and all thermal power plants, including those powered by coal, gas, and oil, withdraw and consume water for cooling.”

Solar creates jobs, generates tax revenues and helps the economy grow by keeping energy prices steady. It requires many employees for the manufacture and installation of PV panels; however, many other new jobs are often created in fields like financial, legal, sales, and consulting services. Landowners generate income from leasing their land for PV panels and local governments collect property and income taxes and other payments from renewable energy project owners.

Solar and other renewable energy sources help keep prices steady and insulate consumers and businesses from spikes in prices. According to the UCS, “Utilities spend millions of dollars on financial instruments to hedge themselves from these fossil fuel price uncertainties. Since hedging costs are not necessary for electricity generated from renewable sources, long-term renewable energy investments can help utilities save money they would otherwise spend to protect their customers from the volatility of fossil fuel prices.” Solar also diversifies our energy supplies and lowers the demand and price for fossil fuels. This helps protect consumers when energy prices rise.

Solar energy is not just good because it clean, free and renewable, it also has economic impacts that can help keep our economy strong and growing.