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How is solar electricity cleaner than traditional electricity?

Posted by Hanscom Federal Credit Union on Sep 1, 2017 7:54:35 AM

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We’ve all heard that solar energy is good for our planet, but how does it produce cleaner energy when compared to traditional electricity? 

“Traditional electricity is produced via the rotation of a generator within a power plant,” explained Abdu Elrefaiy of NRGTree. “The generator is built with an electromagnetic (a magnet produced by electricity) shaft that has insulated wire cylindrically coiled around the inside of it. When the electromagnetic shaft rotates, small electric currents are formed in each wire that, in turn, form a large current within the generator.” 

In order to get the generator to spin, a turbine is used. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA), 70% of electricity produced in the United States is powered by a steam turbine that uses biomass, coal, natural gas, geothermal energy, nuclear energy, or solar thermal energy to heat the water and produce the steam for the turbine. Of these, fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas are the most widely used. When the materials are burned, they create the heat necessary for the steam turbine and electricity generation. This entire process results in the release of a variety of emissions that have proven negative environmental and human health impacts. 

The CO2 produced from electricity accounts for about 40% of the total CO2 emissions in the United States, which is approximately 1,925 million metric tons of CO2 annually according to the EIA. 

In comparison, solar electricity is produced when particles of sunlight, called photons, are converted to electrons of direct current (DC) electricity. Solar panels are made up of many small, square-shaped panels of semiconductors – normally made from silicon-called solar cells. These solar cells are what take the sunlight and, through a myriad of chemical reactions, convert it to DC electricity. This current then flows into an inverter, which converts the DC into alternating current (AC) electricity and powers your home. 

The process of creating electricity from sunlight generates no air or water pollution. It also creates no greenhouse gases, and that is why it is a cleaner alternative to traditional electricity. 

If you are considering an investment in solar energy for your home, Hanscom Federal Credit Union has partnered with Own My Solar to help you find the best plan for your home at the best price. The interactive website allows you to create a plan for your home at no cost and then take that plan to qualified installers. Learn more about this program here.

Topics: solar energy

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