How will the U.S. achieve its climate change goals? Our customers’ solar rooftops are leading the way.

This week in New York, energy leaders and experts from around the world are gathering for Climate Week 2016 – an annual event highlighting how continued investment in clean energy innovation and technology can empower us to address global climate change.

We’ve written previously about how low-carbon energy sources like solar power are indispensable to combating climate change. Making electricity with solar panels, for example, entails about 95% less carbon pollution than fossil fuels such as coal and natural gas.

Furthermore, solar power is such a powerful climate solution because it can reach massive scale, thanks to its virtually infinite fuel supply (the sun) and widespread opportunities for adoption. Earlier this year, researchers at the National Renewable Energy Laboratory concluded that the U.S. could get nearly 40 percent of its electricity from rooftop solar panels alone.

Even if you’re aware of the enormous low-carbon advantage of solar power, you still may be sitting there saying: “Sure, but what impact can I have by putting solar panels on my roof? How do my solar panels fit into the big picture?”

We’re glad you asked.

Going solar is taking a big and measurable step in helping the United States achieve its established national goals for tackling climate change. To understand the scale of your impact as a solar panel owner or user, it can help to think in the context of those goals.

America’s principal policy for reducing electricity-related carbon pollution is the Clean Power Plan, which the Environmental Protection Agency announced in 2015 to lay “the foundation for the long-term strategy needed to tackle the threat of climate change.” The Plan requires a 32 percent reduction in carbon pollution from the power sector (relative to 2005 levels) by 2030.

Is going solar consistent with the pollution reduction goal established by the Clean Power Plan? The answer is a resounding yes. In fact, going solar helps the country achieve its climate change policies even faster. While the Clean Power Plan calls for a 32 percent reduction in carbon pollution within 15 years, the typical SolarCity customer enables a roughly 80 percent reduction in their electricity carbon footprint after just 1 year.

The collective impact of solar customers can add up quickly. In 2015 alone, the net amount of CO2 pollution avoided by systems deployed by SolarCity was equivalent to taking over 173,000 cars off the road for a full year, or taking 113,000 U.S. homes entirely off the electric grid for a full year. And that’s just the start of the environmental benefits, which also include avoiding huge amounts of local air pollution and water use.

(Did we mention that solar panels can also dramatically lower your energy bill?)

As the threat of climate change becomes increasingly real, shrinking our carbon footprint becomes more urgent by the day. Going solar is a simple yet incredibly impactful action that you can take to accelerate attainment of America’s climate policy goals — and you can get started as soon as today.

For more details (and all the nitty-gritty calculations) on how SolarCity customers are reducing carbon pollution, download our 2015 Impact Report.


Methodology Notes: 

Calculations correspond to a 6-kilowatt solar panel system producing 8,418 kWh of electricity in its first year. For detailed calculations and discussion, see SolarCity 2015 Impact Report and its Appendix A.

Calculations of avoided carbon pollution and are based on eGRID 2010 and current values generated by the EPA’s Greenhouse Gas Equivalency Calculator 

For the purposes of our 2015 Impact Report and this blog post, we have identified the carbon reductions and environmental benefits that originate from the systems we have installed. However, we cannot and do not necessarily claim legal ownership of those reductions or benefits. That ownership contractually resides with the party that owns the Renewable Energy Credit (REC) associated with a given unit of solar energy production — whether it is another organization, a customer, or in some cases, SolarCity. For more details, see “What Are Renewable Energy Certificates (RECs)?” on page 28 of our 2015 Impact Report.

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