Wind energy is together with solar energy the fastest developing renewable energy sector. In United States, almost 10% of nation’s electricity comes from the wind.
Using wind energy instead of fossil fuels has positive effects on our climate, air quality, and public health by displacing emissions of greenhouse gases and air pollutants associated with fossil fuel burning.
The latest MIT study finds that the “health benefits associated with wind power could more than quadruple if operators prioritized turning down output from the most polluting fossil-fuel-based power plants when energy from wind is available”.
This study found that in 2014, wind power that was associated with state-level policies improved air quality overall, resulting in $2 billion in health benefits across the country.
To do so, the researchers compared two historical datasets from the period between 2011 and 2017: an hour-by-hour record of energy output of wind turbines across the country, and a detailed record of emissions measurements from every fossil-fuel-based power plant in the U.S.
The researchers then used a sophisticated atmospheric chemistry model to simulate the wind patterns and chemical transport of emissions across the country, and determined where and at what concentrations the emissions generated fine particulates and ozone -two pollutants that are known to damage air quality and human health.