By the Numbers: The Environmental Impact of Your Solar Panels

By the Numbers: The Environmental Impact of Your Solar Panels

Read Time: 3 Minutes

Many people consider installing solar panels on their home because of the positive impact it will have on the environment. But they may not even realize what exactly that impact is from a pure numbers perspective. They obviously know it helps, but how much does it really help? In this article, we’ll break down what your carbon footprint is, what adding a solar panel system can do for your carbon footprint, and what solar power can do in the fight against climate change.

What’s the Power Company Producing?

The first thing we’re going to look at is where the energy that powers the traditional grid is coming from. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, 4.01 trillion kilowatt hours (kWh) of electric power were produced by U.S. utility companies in 2020. Approximately 20% of that was from renewables, about another 20% came from nuclear power and around 60% was produced using fossil fuels. Of course, this mix varies from state to state and by power company, but for our purposes, we’ll assume these numbers across the board.

That means most of the power you use from the utility company is likely produced using fossil fuel sources. Try as you might to be energy efficient, you’re adding to the carbon surplus in our atmosphere by simply being connected to the grid. Unfortunately, having solar panels cannot take you completely off the grid. However, solar does have the potential to significantly reduce your reliance on the grid, therefore reducing your carbon output.

What’s my Impact on My Carbon Footprint?

The average U.S. household uses approximately 30 kWh of electricity a day. If we assume all that power comes from the grid, then about 60% of that, or 18 kWh, comes from fossil fueled sources. That adds up to an average of 6,570 kWh of power produced by fossil fuels for each house during an average year. According to the EPA, that amount of electricity from non-renewable sources releases 5.1 tons of carbon into the atmosphere. Therefore, the average home is adding about five tons of carbon to our atmosphere every year. Since there are about 2.5 people per household in the U.S., you can determine the average person is responsible for about 2 tons of carbon released into the atmosphere themselves in home electricity use alone.

What Can Solar Do? The Powerful Math Behind It

Solar energy is essentially carbon-free. While manufacturing solar panels and their components may have a negative impact on the environment (as all manufacturing processes do), the power they produce once they are completed does not. Therefore, the electricity they produce for your home reduces your carbon footprint. For example, the average solar panel system is roughly 6 kW.

Given an average of 4 hours of peak sunlight available in the U.S., that’s 24 kWh of potential electricity produced. Assuming you use all of it, send what you don’t use back to the grid, or store it in a battery for later use, you’re only using about 6 kWh of grid-tied electric power a day. Using our math from earlier, that means approximately 3.6 kWh/day would be produced from fossil fuels. That’s 1,314 kWh per year, equaling to about 1 ton of carbon into the atmosphere according to EPA estimates. So, an average solar panel system using our projections can reduce a home’s carbon footprint from 5 tons released into the atmosphere each year, down to 1. That’s an estimated 80% reduction in household carbon emissions from electric consumption.

Can you imagine how much closer we’d be to a carbon-free energy future if solar became a required part of a home’s construction like plumbing or insulation?

Solar technology is not at the point where it can replace a connection to the power grid. However, in an already stressed and outdated system, solar might just be the bridge to a smarter, more efficient energy future. Become a part of that future while potentially reducing your electric bills by giving POWERHOME SOLAR a call today. Our trained experts are ready to design a system to meet your energy goals!