It’s no secret that the air in Utah can get pretty nasty, especially during the winter months. In fact, Salt Lake City ranks 8th in the nation for cities that experience the most days with short-term particle pollution, and Logan is number 11 on the same list. Unfortunately, despite some progress made toward reducing pollution, recent reports from the American Lung Association show a disturbing trend toward worse air quality overall.
While there might not be a lot that people can do about the natural geography that creates conditions for weather inversions that trap cold air and pollution in Utah’s valleys, there are things people can do to improve air quality overall.
When measuring air quality, the specific thing that Utah’s Department of Environmental Quality’s Division of Air Quality (DAQ) measures is PM2.5; PM stands for “particulate matter” and 2.5 refers to the size of molecules. PM2.5 includes any microscopic particles with a diameter less than 2.5 micrometers. Because of their small size, these particles get into the lungs and worsen or trigger chronic conditions such as bronchitis, respiratory issues, asthma, and heart attack. According to the DAQ, about 40% of all PM2.5 comes from home heating emissions, small business emissions, and wood burning.
Many people understand that air quality is poor and feel helpless to do anything about it, but every step someone takes toward lowering their own personal emissions will add up. One big step you can take is installing solar panels to generate clean energy to power your home.
If just one out of every 14 households in Utah converted to solar panels, it would remove the equivalent of a medium-sized power plant that burns fossil fuels for electricity, adding around 500 MW of solar capacity. Since 2014, solar energy panels installed on Utah homes have already removed more than that (around 800 MW of utility-scale solar capacity), but there’s still thousands of homes that use traditional fossil fuel electricity.
The state of Utah even offers incentives like the Renewable Energy Systems Tax Credit that can help offset some of the costs of installing solar panels. Businesses can do their part by installing renewable energy sources with solar panels to further reduce emissions in the state, and take advantage of the Alternative Energy Development Incentive.
Along with other conservation measures like switching to an electric vehicle, turning your thermostat down in winter and up in summer, combining trips and carpooling whenever possible, and using energy-efficient appliances, solar energy is a big step you can take toward cleaner air to breathe.
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