Our quality of life and economy depend on the availability of large amounts of energy, most of which comes from the combustion of fossil fuels. Fossil fuels include coal, natural gas, and a variety of liquid fuels, such as gasoline, diesel fuel, and heating oil, that are derived from petroleum. We use considerable amounts of gasoline and diesel fuel for transportation; we use heating oil and natural gas for heating our buildings, and we use electricity in a variety of ways, including manufacturing, heating and cooling, lighting, and in communications. A significant portion of electricity is generated by the combustion of fossil fuels, mostly natural gas and coal. Fossil fuels are not renewable, which means that at some point they will become depleted and increasingly costly. In addition, combustion of fossil fuels releases air pollutants, including ozone precursors such as nitrogen oxides (NOx) and volatile organic compounds (VOCs); acid rain precursors including NOx and sulfur dioxide (SO2); various toxics such as mercury; and carbon dioxide, a major greenhouse gas (GHG).
Unlike fossil fuel combustion, renewable energy sources provide energy services without depleting fossil fuel reserves and with much lower overall emissions resulting in positive environmental and public health benefits. Solar is one of many energy sources categorized as a renewable source because its fuel source is sunlight, which easily replenishes itself. It is an example of an alternative to the traditional forms of energy that is sustainable from a resource perspective. To get a sense of the broader energy perspective, the U.S. consumes 91% of its energy from nonrenewable sources and only 9% from renewable sources (see Figure 1).1
Promoting a diverse portfolio of new clean in state generation will lessen dependence on imported oil, protect the State’s environment, help grow the State’s economy, and lower energy costs. Solar energy is just one of the many ways to advance these goals.