The benefits of solar are often tallied on a purely economic basis, which is starting to include offsetting the costs of climate change, but often neglects to include the “social costs” of other energy supplies such as fossil fuels. But if one takes into account solar’s health benefits, the cost of solar comes down even further.
Here are the annual benefits of the solar installed in the US to date:
If you can’t see the chart, that’s:
- Annual reduction of 17 million metric tons of CO2, which is, based on the central estimate of the social cost of carbon, “equivalent to an annual global benefit of $700 million.”
- Annual reductions of “10,000, 10,300, and 1,200 metric tons of SO2, NOx, and PM2.5, respectively … which provide annual domestic air quality benefits of $890 million.”
- Annual water “withdrawal and consumption savings of 294 billion gallons (0.8% of power sector total) and 7.6 billion gallons (0.5% or power sector total), respectively, with much of those savings located in drought-impacted California.”
It’s worth keeping in mind that the somewhat clinical phrase “domestic air quality benefits” is another way of describing fewer kids having asthma attacks, fewer adults missing workdays, and fewer people dying of respiratory and circulatory ailments.
It’s also worth keeping in mind that none of these social benefits are priced into the cost of solar; it is not compensated for its “positive externalities.”
Those numbers are only for existing solar installations. They increase drastically when one takes into account the projected growth of solar’s market share.