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Switching from coal to solar can save lives


Solar power station top view

Credit:123RF

Electricity is a vital parts our lives. In fact we cannot imagine life without electricity anymore.

We need electricity for almost every aspect of our lives and the demand for electricity is growing every day.

Coal plays an important role in producing electricity with 41 percent of global electricity being generated by coal fired power plants.

But coal combustion leads to poor quality air which adversely effects human health causing problems with our respiratory, cardiovascular, nervous, urinary, and digestive systems and causes death.

As solar power has value, researchers determined that saving a life by offsetting coal with solar actually saved money as well, up to several million dollars per life in some cases.

However, the continued use of coal is no longer necessary with advances made in solar power generation or solar photovoltaic (PV) technology.

A new study from Michigan Technological University, calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the benefits of using solar instead.

In this study, conducted with the goal of informing better health policy, scientists gathered data from peer-reviewed journals and the Environmental Protection Agency to calculate US deaths per kilowatt per hour for both coal and solar.

The geospatial correlation for coal fired power plants and mortality was determined for every US state. Then, the current life cycle mortality rates due to coal combustion were calculated and current energy generation data was collated.

The researchers then collected current costs of solar installation from the Department of Energy and calculated the potential return on investment.

The researchers also analysed the geographic impact of death due to coal combustion which enabled them to know how many people die from air pollution in each US state and what percentage is due to coal powered plants.

The results showed that 51,999 American lives can be saved by transitioning to solar powered electricity generation.

It would take 755 gigawatts to full replace coal production in the US which is a significant increase from 22.7 gigawatts on solar already installed in the US. An investment of 1.5 trillion dollars is needed to do this, but the scientists say that this investment is profitable and is incorporated into their calculations.

Over the 25 year warranty on the PV modules the first cost per life saved is approximately $1.1 million.

As solar power has value and using sensitivity analysis which examines the cost of electricity – that varies by region throughout the country – researchers determined that saving a life by offsetting coal with solar actually saved money as well, up to several million dollars per life in some cases.

The researchers concluded that it is profitable to saves lives in the US by substituting coal with solar power, while receiving health and environmental benefits for the community.

With the costs of solar power going down and with advances in natural gas plants and other renewable energy sources, along with technological advances in viability and storage, there are no excuses to switch to natural environmentally friendly sources of electricity generation.

Source: Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews



 

Meena Azzollini

Meena is passionate about holistic wellbeing, alternative healing, health and personal power and uses words to craft engaging feature articles to convey her knowledge and passion. She is a freelance writer and content creator from Adelaide, Australia, who draws inspiration from family, travel and her love for books and reading.

A yoga practitioner and a strong believer in positive thinking, Meena is also a mum to a very active young boy. In her spare time, she loves to read and whip up delicious meals. She also loves the smell of freshly made coffee and can’t ever resist a cheesecake. And she gets tickled pink by anything funny!