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Saving lives and money: the potential of solar to replace coal

A study conducted by Michigan Technological University reveals that replacing coal with solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US could prevent 51,999 premature deaths annually. The research also shows that transitioning to solar power not only saves lives but can also be economically beneficial, potentially making up to $2.5 million for each life saved.

The health impacts of burning coal are responsible for tens of thousands of premature deaths in the US due to air pollution-related diseases. By switching to solar PV, up to 51,999 American lives could be saved, with an investment of $1.1 million per life.

The study highlights that the economic value of producing electricity from solar power adds to the benefits. The sensitivity analysis conducted by the researchers on the value of electricity in different regions of the country indicates that saving lives by transitioning to solar power can also result in making a profit, potentially several million dollars per life saved.

The researchers gathered data from various sources to calculate deaths per kilowatt hour per year for coal and solar. They also analyzed the geographic impact of coal-related deaths to better inform health policy.

To replace all coal production in the US with solar PV, it would require 755 gigawatts, a significant increase from the current 22.7 gigawatts of installed solar capacity in the US. The total cost of this solar transition would be $1.5 trillion, but the study suggests that this investment is financially viable.

The findings strongly advocate for the adoption of solar power as a replacement for coal to improve public health and to avoid the substantial costs associated with coal-related air pollution. The researchers believe that this study could be expanded globally to address air pollution’s impact on millions of lives worldwide.

Ultimately, the research emphasizes the multiple positive impacts of solar power and calls for ending coal use in the US for the sake of both human health and economic benefits.

Kathleen Jones
Kathleen Jones
Articles: 43

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