Study: Wind Energy in California has Few Benefits

Though the Obama administration has recently renewed its commitment to approve more wind facilities on public lands as part of the Climate Action Plan it released this week, a new study indicates that wind development in California has far fewer benefits than it does elsewhere in the United States.

The study, published by the National Academy of Sciences, looked at the relative benefits of renewable energy development in different parts of the United States. While federal subsdies of wind in other regions pay for themselves by displaciing dirtier power, according to the researchers, the benefits offered by wind in California only cover about half the cost of federal subsidiies.

The study “Regional variations in the health, environmental, and climate benefits of wind and solar generation,” published this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS), charts the relative value of wind and solar energy resources across the United States in relation to the environmental effects of power those resources might conceivably displace. For instance, if wind turbines reduced the need for coal-fired power in a certain region, the reduction in CO2 emissions from the unburned coal would be credited as a benefit to those wiind turbines.

The study also calculated the environmental and social benefit from other pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur, and particulate matter that accrue from switching to wind and solar power.

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