Clean Coal vs. Solar: A Comparative Analysis in 2024

Sabrina Lopez
March 13, 2018
2 min read

[Originally published on March 13, 2018, | Updated on January 24, 2024 - 1 min read]

Clean Coal vs. Solar: A Comparative Analysis in 2024

The energy landscape is constantly evolving, and with the advent of 'clean coal' technology, it's important to reassess how it stacks up against solar energy in 2024.

What is Clean Coal?

Clean coal technology refers to methods that reduce carbon dioxide emissions from coal usage. This often involves carbon capture and storage (CCS) facilities, which capture CO2 emissions from coal combustion and store them underground. While these technologies have been developed to make coal burning less harmful to the environment, several critical aspects must be considered.

How Does Solar Energy Compare?


1. Cost-Effectiveness

Solar energy has become increasingly cost-effective over the years. Building a solar farm is significantly cheaper than retrofitting old coal plants with CCS technology or constructing new CCS plants. As of 2024, coal plants equipped with CCS are still considerably more expensive than renewable alternatives like solar photovoltaics and onshore wind power.

2. Environmental Impact

While CCS technology reduces CO2 emissions from coal plants, it does not address other harmful pollutants produced during coal combustion, such as mercury and nitrogen oxide. These pollutants pose significant environmental and health risks. Additionally, the risk of CO2 leakage from underground storage could contaminate aquifers, affecting water quality. In contrast, solar panels produce energy without releasing harmful chemicals, making them a much cleaner alternative.

3. Resource Sustainability

Coal is a finite resource, and its continued use, even with clean coal technology, aligns differently with sustainable energy goals. In contrast, solar energy harnesses an abundant and renewable resource—the sun. The shift to renewable energy sources like solar is crucial for long-term environmental sustainability.

4. Water Usage

Solar energy has the added benefit of conserving water. Clean coal facilities, including those with CCS, require significant water for cooling, which is more than traditional coal plants. On the other hand, solar panels do not require water for electricity generation, making them a more sustainable option for water conservation.

Conclusion: Solar Energy as the Preferred Choice

Considering the latest developments and analyses, solar energy remains more viable, sustainable, and environmentally friendly than clean coal technology. While clean coal aims to reduce the environmental impact of coal usage, it needs to address the broader environmental concerns and sustainability compared to solar power. The continuous advancements in solar technology and its decreasing costs further solidify its position as a key player in the future of clean and renewable energy.

For those interested in a deeper dive into clean coal technologies and their implications, the International Energy Agency's report provides comprehensive insights.