The best of EcoWatch, right in your inbox. Sign up for our email newsletter!
Public Health Benefits of Adding Offshore Wind to the Grid
By Jonathan Buonocore
New plans to build two commercial offshore wind farms near the Massachusetts and Rhode Island coasts have sparked a lot of discussion about the vast potential of this previously untapped source of electricity.
But as an environmental health and climate researcher, I'm intrigued by how this gust of offshore wind power may improve public health. Replacing fossil fuels with wind and solar energy, research shows, can reduce risks of asthma, hospitalizations and heart attacks. In turn, that can save lives.
So my colleagues and I calculated the health impact of generating electricity through offshore wind turbines—which until now the U.S. has barely begun to do.
Greening the Grid
New England gets almost none of its electricity from burning coal and more than three-quarters of it from burning natural gas and operating nuclear reactors. The rest is from hydropower and from renewable energy, including wind and solar power and the burning of wood and refuse.
The health benefits of moving to wind power would be significant, particularly for regions that rely more heavily on coal and oil to generate electricity.
Replacing coal and oil with offshore wind will reduce emissions of air pollutants like fine particulate matter, nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide. These pollutants can form smog, soot and ozone. When people downwind are exposed to them, they can develop incapacitating and deadly diseases.
Saving 13 Lives a Year
When my colleagues and I studied what would happen if offshore wind farms were installed off the Mid-Atlantic coast, we determined that they would bring about health and climate benefits.
We projected that a 1,100-megawatt wind farm off the coast of New Jersey, a bit smaller than the two approved offshore wind farms, would save around 13 lives per year.
When connected to the grid, this new source of power would make carbon emissions decline by around 2.2 million tons every year, the equivalent to taking more than 400,000 cars off the road.
Offshore wind faces a number of technical and economic hurdles, including installation of transmission lines. But at least theoretically, this form of renewable energy could generate enough electricity to supply all the electricity the U.S. consumes and then some, according to the Energy Department. Members of the Trump administration, including Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, appear to support offshore wind.
While it may not be possible, practical or necessary to build offshore wind everywhere, even replacing a small portion of the nation's fossil-fueled electricity will be good for everyone's health.
Jonathan Buonocore is a research associate at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health.
Disclosure statement: Jonathan Buonocore receives funding from The Heinz Foundation, Environmental Defense Fund, the Schmidt Family Foundation, and the JPB Foundation for his research.
Reposted with permission from our media associate The Conversation.
- Offshore wind energy is finally taking off in the US - Vox ›
- Estimating the Value of Offshore Wind Along the United States ... ›
- Environmental Impacts of Wind Power | Union of Concerned Scientists ›
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
David Gilmour, guitarist, singer and songwriter in the rock band Pink Floyd, set a record last week when he auctioned off 126 guitars and raised $21.5 million for ClientEarth, a non-profit environmental law group dedicated to fighting the global climate crisis, according to CNN.
The Trump administration ratcheted up its open hostility to climate science in a move that may hide essential information from the nation's farmers.
Police have cleared 250 climate activists who stayed overnight at the Garzweiler brown coal mine in western Germany, officials said Sunday.
By Megan Jones and Jennifer Solomon
The #MeToo movement has caused profound shake-ups at organizations across the U.S. in the last two years. So far, however, it has left many unresolved questions about how workplaces can be more inclusive and equitable for women and other diverse groups.
By Tara Lohan
By now it's no secret that plastic waste in our oceans is a global epidemic. When some of it washes ashore — plastic bottles, plastic bags, food wrappers — we get a stark reminder. And lately one part of this problem has been most glaring to volunteers who comb beaches picking up trash: cigarette butts.
Andrea Rodgers, second from the right, takes notes during a hearing in the Juliana v. U.S. case before the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in Portland, Oregon on June 4. Colleague Elizabeth Brown sits to her left, while colleague Julia Olson sits on her right, with co-council Philip Gregory on Julia's right. Robin Loznak / Our Children's Trust
By Fran Korten
On June 4, Andrea Rodgers was in the front row of attorneys sitting before a three-judge panel of the 9th Circuit Court. The court session, held in Portland, Oregon, was to determine whether the climate change lawsuit (Juliana v. United States) brought by 21 young plaintiffs should be dismissed, as requested by the U.S. government, or go on to trial.