Another Voice: We must turn to solar power to solve our energy problems

The global energy crisis that is unfolding as threats to energy security arise bolsters the need for our nation’s energy independence. The price tag of using oil and gas is ridiculously high. Wildfires, floods and rising sea levels are the result of massive amounts of carbon dioxide and methane gas emissions. Humans have evolved to require energy to function. Global ecosystems have been directly affected by our energy demands. Humans must change course quickly.

The problem isn’t the availability of energy. Renewables offer the most powerful source available: solar power. Peer-reviewed scientific analyses are available showing that solar photovoltaics (PV) are capable of meeting 100% of global primary energy demand more than 12 times over.

The problem is political willpower. While debates flood airwaves, the public becomes polarized. Meanwhile, the solution is right above us if we accept the science and insist we use clean energy sources before it’s too late.

“U.S. taxpayers spend tens of billions of dollars a year subsidizing new fossil fuel exploration, production, and consumption, which directly affects how much oil, natural gas, and coal gets produced – and how much clean energy doesn’t,” states an article from nonprofit Generation180. The International Monetary Fund reports that fossil subsidies worldwide amount to $5.9 trillion/year. Currently, three years’ worth of fossil subsidies would buy enough photovoltaic systems to generate 100% of the entire planet’s electrical requirements. PV costs have decreased fivefold in 10 years. It now costs less to build and generate power from new wind and solar facilities than from a new natural gas facility.

PV facilities can be deployed on farmland, in addition to many spaces, without modifying surfaces’ function (think roofs, landfills or power line rights of ways). Placing solar panels on a small fraction of farmland is part of the solution, generating steady income for farmers while preventing agrochemicals, linked to non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, from entering the ecosystems. Solar facilities improve the land beneath the panels by allowing the soils to regenerate, while creating safe ecosystems for food-producing pollinators.

Fossil fuel pollution continues to harm a sickly earth. The air, water and soil are contaminated with waste from fossil fuels, placing those most vulnerable at risk. We must come together and build grass-roots efforts to fix the damage by insisting on using the most abundant, cost-effective energy source above earth, solar energy. It will never be depleted, and these efforts will outlast generations.

Marion Trieste is founder and president of United Solar Energy Supporters, Inc. Richard Perez, Ph.D., is research professor in the Atmospheric Sciences Research Center, University at Albany