Usually when analyzing the cost/benefit of a solar project we just look at the cost of the project and how much money it will save us over time. However, this analysis does not really cover the holistic value of a solar project. A new study from America Environment Research lays out many benefits of a solar project which mostly fall into two categories, benefits to the grid and benefits to society as a whole. For example, the more power that is being produced on the grid by solar panels means the less fossil fuels that need to be burnt at the power plant. This is especially valuable in the summer when air conditioning is being used a lot more and at the same time solar systems are getting a lot more sun. A Carnegie Mellon study found that distributed solar resources saved California utilities over $650 million from 2013 to 2015 by reducing demand on the grid at peak hours. Rooftop solar can also improve grid reliability and resilience, which is especially important in the face of natural disasters such as floods and hurricanes.
In terms of societal impact each time a homeowner puts a solar system on their roof there is a decrease in global warming emissions. The carbon emissions of our current energy system cost the U.S. billions of dollars in economic and social damages each year, so emission-free solar energy presents a huge savings opportunity. Solar energy also reduces emissions of dangerous air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, mercury, and particulate matter that harm public health. All in all it’s a no brainer that homeowners and utility companies need to switch to solar and other renewable energies asap it’s just a large long term investment that some have cold feet getting into due to not fully understanding the upside.