U.S. wind farms have reduced carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions in the electric power sector by about 132 million metric tons in 2015, according to the American Wind Energy Association’s (AWEA) forthcoming annual U.S. wind industry market report. Those avoided emissions are equal to that from 28 million cars, or more than 6% of all CO2 emissions from U.S. electricity generation last year.
AWEA says choosing wind energy also reduces a variety of health-harming air pollutants, including smog-causing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), reducing rates of asthma and other respiratory issues. Electricity generated by wind in 2015 displaced an estimated 176,000 metric tons of SO2 and 106,000 metric tons of NOx – representing $7.3 billion in avoided health costs last year alone.
“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 U.S. economy,” says Tom Kiernan, CEO of AWEA. “With wind power, states don’t have to make a trade-off between clean air and strong economic growth.”
The tons of SO2 and NOx pollution avoided just in 2015 carry a public health monetary value of more than $5.4 billion and $1.8 billion, respectively, based on cost assumptions provided by a Harvard School of Public Health study. At the start of 2016, there were 9,400 MW of wind power capacity under construction, which is expected to reduce another 23 million metric tons of CO2 emissions each year when operational. This will cut overall power sector CO2 emissions by an additional 1%, says AWEA.
The 132 million metric tons in CO2 reductions in 2015 are equivalent to eliminating all power sector CO2 emissions in Kansas, Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado last year.
Total U.S. power sector emissions fell to their lowest annual level since 1995 last year, according to the Business Council for Sustainable Energy and Bloomberg New Energy Finance’s fourth annual Sustainable Energy in America Factbook. Even though America has greatly reduced electric-sector carbon pollution, electricity rates across the U.S. have remained 5.5% lower than the rates in 2009.
Data released today is an early look at AWEA’s 2015 U.S. Wind Industry Annual Market Report, set for release this year on April 12 in Denver.