Why does wind power not live up to its pollution prevention potential?

New research shows that wind power doesn’t clean up as much pollution as it could, especially in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods. The US wind energy boom has already led to billions of dollars in health benefits. But most of that hasn’t trickled down to the communities historically burdened with the most air pollution, finds a study published today in the journal. Advances in science. Fortunately, this could change if new wind energy projects are implemented more strategically.

During the last two Over the decades, wind power has grown from less than half of the US electricity mix in 2002 to almost 10 percent today. Increasing amounts until 2014 Wind power has significantly improved air quality and resulted in health benefits in the United States, according to a new study. But only 32 percent of these benefits reached low-income communities. And just 29 percent reached racial and ethnic minorities.

Meanwhile, the Biden administration has set a goal of ensuring that 40 percent of the benefits of clean energy reach “disadvantaged communities that are isolated, underserved and burdened with pollution.”

Wind power doesn’t clean up as much pollution as it could, especially in communities of color and low-income neighborhoods.

In this study, the “health benefits” are actually a matter of life and death. They essentially put a dollar amount on the deaths prevented by cleaning the air. In that case, they estimated that by 2014, wind power had generated $2 billion in health benefits thanks to renewable electricity standards set by dozens of states. Although the United States has improved air quality since the Clean Air Act of 1970, there is still much progress to be made. More than 137 million Americans, nearly 40 percent of the population, live in areas with failing air pollution ratings from the American Lung Association.

Moreover, the health risks that come with breathing that dirty air are unevenly distributed. People of color are 3.6 times more likely to live in countries with several failing grades of air pollution. Low-income communities in the US also consistently experience more particulate pollution than wealthier neighborhoods.

A new study published today and funded in part by the Environmental Protection Agency focuses on particulate matter and ground-level ozone from electricity generation in the United States between 2011 and 2017. During this time, the new wind farms managed to minimize the differences in air quality. some places. But the rise of wind power has led to even greater pollution differences elsewhere. For example, this may be the case if investments in renewable energy are concentrated in areas with more white, affluent residents and relatively good air quality.

Research shows that to squeeze the biggest health benefits, wind farms need to intentionally replace coal and gas-fired power plants. To clean up the most polluted areas, especially those with more residents of color and low-income households, these communities should be the focus of new renewable energy projects.

In order to squeeze out the greatest health benefits, wind farms must deliberately replace coal and gas-fired power plants.

Minghao Qiu, a postdoctoral researcher at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, says, “If we can tweak the system a little bit… let wind power displace more polluting or damaging plants, it could actually lead to even greater health benefits of air quality.” at Stanford, who led this study.

Qiu and his colleagues found that if planners opted to replace the most damaging fossil fuel power plants with wind farms, the $2 billion in health benefits from wind power in 2014 would more than quadruple to $8.4 billion. But more targeted action will be needed to ensure that these benefits reach the people who need them most.

That’s something to keep in mind as the Biden administration tries to meet its clean energy goals. “One message that our work really underscores is that to actually achieve the environmental justice goals set forth by the current administration, in some ways, more effort is required,” says Qiu. The Verge.

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