Solar power creates sunny outlook for everyone

Solar energy is earning its place in the sun.

Harnessing energy from the sun rather than limited, harmful fossil fuels, solar power is produced without releasing damaging emissions detrimental to the environment. It is environmentally friendly, renewable, abundant, sustainable, low maintenance, and ever-improving. For as long as the sun is alive, solar energy will be obtainable, and therefore, should be utilized.

Many major companies, including Amazon and Google, have taken an initiative to increase their usage of renewable solar energy, and these businesses’ suppliers have gone down the same path. According to USA Today, Apple reported last month that due to its 100% commitment to renewable energy, nearly two dozen suppliers—“manufacturers of batteries, keyboards, and lenses”— have made the same commitment.

But solar power doesn’t have to be limited to businesses, and it shouldn’t be.

A new bipartisan bill introduced by Rep. Jacky Rosen (D-Nev.) would repeal the injurious solar panel tariffs put in place by the Trump administration last year. Passing this bill would be a huge success for environmentalists everywhere, but would also make solar power more accessible to the public.

Using solar energy in homes and at universities is an easy way for Americans to assist in saving the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists wrote last year that “29 percent of global warming emissions come from our electricity sector,” many of the emissions released by fossil fuels.

Powering a home by the sun is not much more expensive than paying a regular electric bill, and just a few extra dollars could help protect the planet. The average electric bill in Iowa is $90, and Project Sunroof, a personalized solar savings estimator powered by Google Earth imagery, approximates that switching to solar panels would cost the average Iowan an extra $25 per month.

Universities can be benefactors of solar energy too. If Elizabeth Catlett Hall, the University of Iowa’s newest residence hall, was to go entirely solar, Project Sunroof estimates that an additional $11,000 would be spent over a 20-year solar lease with no upfront cost. In other words: if the university were to add the solar cost into room & board payments, students would only be paying roughly 52 extra cents per year, given the residence hall is filled to its capacity.

Using solar power in homes and at universities is certainly beneficial to the environment, but it would also be advantageous to the institutions and households themselves.

The U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory discovered that the average home’s sale price increases $17,000 if solar panels are included. A study conducted by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory found similar results, concluding that “homes with solar panels sell 20% faster and for 17% more money”.

For universities, investing in clean energy projects would be a strong pull for many prospective students. As a generation highly impacted by climate change, young people are interested in making a difference. In the 2017 Global Shapers’ Annual Survey, it was found that 48.8% of young people think climate change and the destruction of nature is the most critical issue, followed by large-scale conflicts/wars (38.9%) and inequality (30.8%).

Universities are extremely well equipped to lead the renewable energy movement (flat rooftops, high population, etc.). The University of Iowa specifically has already invested in solar energy projects on campus. Last month, The Daily Iowan reported that a 233-panel array was installed on the roof of the College of Engineering. By continuing to increase the amount of solar-powered buildings on campus the conversation around solar energy could be seriously redirected.

The Business Council for Sustainable Energy reports that renewable energy (solar power, wind power, etc.) has increased in the U.S. energy mix significantly, growing from 9% to 18% over the past ten years. With its benefits rapidly multiplying for all parties involved in its usage, it is solar energy’s time to shine.

Published by The Daily Iowan — 4/24/18

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