From Coal to Solar

Written by Tom Orr, ESLLC 2016-2017

We all know that fossil fuels are bad news. Some people choose to ignore it or deny it all together. However what if you could see the number of lives that are in danger every year from burning coal? A new study focused on how making the change from coal to solar could actually save lives. The pollution from burning coal results in tens of thousands of early deaths in America. Around 52,000 lives could be saved if we were to focus our efforts on reducing the negative impacts the energy industry has and by replacing old systems with new ones.

“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.”

By analyzing the value of electricity across multiple regions throughout the country the research team was able to discover how saving a life by promoting solar power could also save money, potentially several million dollars per life. In order to entirely replace all the coal production in the US with solar power, it would take around 755 gigawatts. Currently, there are only 22.7 gigawatts of solar installed in the US. The cost for all of this is $1.5 trillion which is expected to be 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 renewables, and storage, we have ways to produce all the electricity we need without coal, period.”


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