Report shows huge benefits of pursuing wind energy

Clean energy saves lives and money in the long run, reduces water demand from power sector

Staff Report

FRISCO — Boosting the role of wind power in the country’s energy portfolio would have significant economic, environmental and health benefits, the Department of Energy found in a new report that outlines the  path needed to achieve 10 percent wind by 2020, 20 percent by 2030, and 35 by 2050.

Currently, wind power generates about 4.5 percent of the country’s energy. Reaching the 2050 goal would reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emissions by 14 percent, saving $400 billion in avoided global damages, the report found.

The attendant reduction in sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide and particulate pollution would prevent 21,700 premature deaths and save as much as $108 billion in avoided mortality, illness, and economic damages from air pollution.

The shift away from fossil fuels would also reduce water consumption and water withdrawals by the energy sector by 23 percent and 15 percent, respectively, and reduce cumulative greenhouse gas emission by 14 percent (12.3 gigatonnes CO2- equivalents), saving $400 billion in avoided global damages.

“Every year, wind becomes cost competitive in more states, and this wind vision report shows that all 50 states could have utility-scale energy by 2050,” said White House Deputy Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change Dan Utech.

In 2013, an estimated total of more than 50,000 American jobs were supported by wind investments. The report projects that wind could support more than 600,000 jobs by 2050 in industries such as construction, engineering, transportation, manufacturing, operations, maintenance, and supporting services.

According to the report, wind cost reductions do not depend on disruptive technological breakthroughs, but requires continued cost improvements, including:

  • rotor scale-up;
  • taller towers to access higher wind speeds;
  • overall plant efficiency improvements achieved through advanced controls;
  • improved plant designs enabled by deepened understanding of atmospheric physics;
  • installation of both intra-region and inter-region transmission capacity to high quality wind resource locations;
  • and collaboration and co-existence strategies for local communities and wildlife that support the timely and cost-effective installation of wind power plants.

Because of the amount of land required for wind energy, there are concerns about wildlife impacts. A review panel for the Wind Vision report included Defenders of Wildlife president Jamie Rappaport Clark.

“We focused our engagement on securing the future of wind by reaffirming the importance of wind wildlife co-existence,” Rappaport Clark said. “To make the wind vision a reality we must promote thoughtful, ‘smart from the start’ planning to ensure that we can achieve our wind energy goals without jeopardizing our rich wildlife legacy,” she said.

Clark was asked to participate in the “Wind Vision” as a member of the conservation community because of Defenders’ role leading efforts to bring to light the effects that climate change is having on a wide range of species, and the need to develop strategies that curb greenhouse gas pollution while helping wildlife adapt to habitat changes and addressing short-term impacts to wildlife from utility-scale renewable development.

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