HOUGHTON – By swapping solar photovoltaics for coal, the United States could prevent 51,999 premature deaths a year, potentially making as much as $2.5 million for each life saved, so says a study by Michigan Technological University.
The study – Renewable & Sustainable Energy Reviews (DOI: 10.1016/j.rser.2017.05.119) – was conducted by a team from MTU that 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, a professor of materials science and electrical engineering at Michigan Tech. “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.
“Everybody wants to avoid wasting money. Just based off the pure value of electricity of the sensitivities we looked at, it’s profitable to save American lives by eliminating coal with solar,” he said.
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