Saving Lives and Money: The Potential of Solar to Replace Coal
By swapping solar photovoltaics for coal, the US could prevent 51,999 premature deaths a year, potentially making as much as $2.5 million for each life saved.
In a new study published in Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2017.05.119), a team from Michigan Tech calculated the cost of combusting coal in terms of human lives along with the potential benefits of switching to solar.
Tens of thousands of Americans die prematurely each year from air pollution-related diseases associated with burning coal. By transitioning to solar photovoltaics (PV) in the US, up to 51,999 American lives would be saved at $1.1 million invested per life.
"Unlike other public health investments, you get more than lives saved," says Joshua Pearce (MSE/ECE). "In addition to saving lives, solar is producing electricity, which has economic value."
Using a sensitivity analysis on the value of electricity, which examines the different costs of electricity that varies by region throughout the country, saving a life by using solar power also showed potential to make money—sometimes as much as several million dollars per life, says Pearce. Read the full story.