The US wind sector helped the US avoid $7.3 billion in health costs in 2015 by displacing an estimated 282,000 metric tonnes of health-harming pollutants.
This, according to the forthcoming US wind industry market report, set to be released by the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) on April 12. Specifically, US wind farms reduced carbon emissions in the country’s electric power sector by an estimated 132 million metric tonnes in 2015, as well as displacing an estimated 176,000 metric tonnes of smog-causing sulphur dioxide (SO2) and 106,000 metric tonnes of nitrogen oxides (NOX).
“Americans will be able to breathe easier and live longer thanks to clean energy produced by American wind power,” said Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “Clean air benefits from wind power totaled $7.3 billion last year, without even including the value of carbon savings, and the industry also attracts thousands of quality jobs and billions of dollars in private investment to the US economy. With wind power, states don’t have to make a trade-off between clean air and strong economic growth.”
“Unhealthy air is hazardous to our families and even can threaten life itself,” according to the American Lung Association’s Healthy Air Campaign. “Power plants directly emit a long list of harmful pollutants, and electric utilities also remain the nation’s largest industrial source of carbon dioxide, a significant contributor to global warming.”
Specifically, by increasing the electricity being generated by wind, the wind industry is decreasing the need for other, more harmful generation techniques, which has the added benefit of reducing health-damaging pollutants. Subsequently, the AWEA calculated, based on cost assumptions provided by a Harvard School of Public Health study, that the tonnes of SO2 and NOX pollution avoided in 2015 alone carried a public health monetary value of more than $5.4 billion and $1.8 billion respectively.
Overall, the estimated 132 million metric tonnes of CO2 displaced was the equivalent of removing 28 million cars from the roads, or more than six percent of all carbon dioxide emissions from the US electricity sector over the last year.
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