Wind energy ready as a solution to climate challenge

Climate change poses a significant economic and public health threat.

In response, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has finalized a rule known as the Clean Power Plan to, for the first time ever, impose a limit on the amount carbon dioxide pollution than can be emitted by power plants in the U.S.

As a zero-emitting, widely-available, low-cost, and reliable generating resource, wind energy can and should play a major role in state and utility efforts to comply with the carbon dioxide reduction targets established by EPA.  Wind energy’s central role in reducing emissions and complying with the CPP has been documented by a variety of recent studies.

In fact, as detailed in AWEA’s Annual Market Report for the Year Ending 2015, wind energy is already contributing to reduced carbon dioxide pollution, while providing a variety of other environmental benefits as well:

  • U.S. wind farms reduced electric power sector carbon dioxide emissions by an estimated 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 six percent of all carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions from U.S. electricity generation last year.

Wind Energy Impact on Emissions

  • Wind energy also greatly reduces a variety of health-harming air pollutants, including smog-causing sulfur dioxide (SO2) and nitrogen oxides (NOx), which helps reduce 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.
  • In 2015, wind energy also reduced water consumption at existing power plants by approximately 73 billion gallons – the equivalent of roughly 226 gallons per person in the U.S. or conserving 553 billion bottles of water. 

Wind energy is the most cost-effective energy source to comply with the Clean Power Plan, according to the government’s Energy Information Administration, Wall Street investment firm Lazard, and other analysts.

What wind energy is providing today in terms of emissions reductions is just the beginning.  The U.S. Department of Energy’s Wind Vision report finds that securing 20% of our nation’s electricity from wind energy would reduce carbon dioxide emissions by 16% and securing 35% wind by 2050 would reduce emissions by 23%.