Saving lives and money: The potential of solar to replace coal
In a new study published in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews, a team from Michigan Technological University calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar.
Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life.
“Unlike other public health investments, you get more than lives saved,” says Joshua Pearce, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. “In addition to saving lives, solar is producing electricity, which has economic value.”
“Here, we have solid numbers on how many people die from air pollution and what fraction of that is due to coal-powered plants in each state.”
Power of Solar
To fully replace all the coal production in the US with solar PV, it would take 755 gigawatts — a significant increase compared to the 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the US currently. The total cost of installing that much solar power totals $1.5 trillion, but that investment is figured into Pearce and Prehoda’s calculations, and is a profitable investment.
As Pearce sums it up: “Solar has come down radically in cost, it’s technically viable, and coupled with natural gas plants, other renewable and storage, we have ways to produce all the electricity we need without coal, period.”
The World Health Organization reports that millions die each year from unhealthy environment, air pollution notably the largest contributor to non-communicable diseases like stroke, cancers, chronic respiratory illnesses and heart disease. Future work can expand this study globally.”There’s roughly seven million people who die globally from air pollution every year, so getting rid of coal could take a big chunk out of that number as well,”
For For More Details Click Here