- Wind power has been rising as a major source of renewable energy in the U.S, contributing to nearly 10% of the country’s electricity, leading to improved air quality.
- A significant health benefit arises from the adoption of wind power. However, only a third of these benefits appear to be evident in low-income or ethnically diverse neighborhoods.
- Wind power has reduced reliance on fossil fuel-dependent power plants. However, the maximum health benefits of this reduction in pollution are not yet fully utilized.
- The study found that health advantages of renewable energy, such as wind power, greatly depend on its location and its ability to turn off some of the dirtiest power plants.
- There’s a need for policy implementation to ensure the benefits of renewable energy are not concentrated in a few areas. Instead, they should be evenly distributed amongst all sectors of society, specifically targeting communities previously impacted by high levels of pollution.
Recently, the adoption of wind power as a sustainable energy source has appealed to the interest of numerous individuals and industries leading to improved air quality in the United States, and in return, advancing the health of the population.
Despite the evident benefits, a significant concern arises from the investigation. Only a third of the huge potential health advantage appears to be noticeable in neighborhoods with low incomes or with a higher presence of minorities.
The Rise of Wind Power in the U.S
An author of the study observed a significant momentum in the adoption of wind power throughout the nation. Now, almost 10% of the country’s electricity is fuelled by wind energy, resulting in a decrease of greenhouse gases that would have been emitted by fossil fuel-dependent power plants.
In fact, wind energy has surpassed other sources to become the largest provider of renewable energy in the U.S. In 2000, virtually no electricity was produced from wind power, which rose to approximately 2% by 2010. The impact of wind energy became particularly noticeable around 2014.
Benefits and Limitations of Wind Power
According to the extensive study conducted, the proliferation of wind power resulted in reduced generation from specific fossil fuel plants, contributing to enhanced air quality. The estimated total value of these benefits rested at around $2 billion.
Generally, when wind power was available, power plants depending on coal and natural gas were scaled back. The plants that were switched off were likely chosen due to financial considerations, as some proved less expensive to shut down than others.
However, despite considerable health benefits yielded from the reduction of fine particle levels, these benefits are not yet optimized. It was revealed that these advantages could have been tripled if the additional wind energy was used to minimize the output of the most pollutant fossil-fuel-based power plants.
Disparities in Pollution Exposure
The researchers also drew attention to apparent discrepancies in pollution exposure among different communities. Only 29% of the decrease in air pollution due to wind power was enjoyed by racial and ethnic minorities, with only 32% benefiting low-income neighborhoods.
“More targeted policies are needed to reduce these disparities concurrently, for instance by directly aiming at sources that majorly impact certain marginalized communities.”
An expert noted that the research presented in this study demonstrates that the health advantages of renewable energy rely largely on its location and whether it manages to turn offline some of the dirtiest power plants. The study emphasizes the importance of distributing investments in renewable energy in a way that serves the children who have had to endure the harsh effects of pollution in the past, which can lead to significant health and economic gains throughout their lifetime.
More on Wind Power
Learn more about the impact of wind power on the environment at the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
This article has used information provided by an author of the study and by an expert in the field of health and environmental science.