US Wind, Solar Power Helped Prevent 12,700 Deaths: Study

The growth in US solar and wind power output was dramatic.The growth in US solar and wind power output was dramatic.

The expansion of wind and solar energy and the resulting avoided emissions from fossil fuels helped prevent up to 12,700 premature deaths in the US from 2007 to 2015, according a new study in the journal Nature Energy.

Because renewables do not release pollutants that cause respiratory and cardiac problems, the growth of wind and solar power helped the US save as much as $220 billion from improved air quality, avoided healthcare costs and fewer sick days, the study found, Yale Environment 360 reported.

Stronger regulations on fossil fuel emissions and shifting energy markets also contributed to the health and financial savings, the study said. The research was conducted by scientists at Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.

Carbon dioxide fell by 20%, sulfur dioxide by a staggering 72%, nitrogen oxide by 50% and tiny particles known as PM2.5 by 46%.

Sulfur dioxide emissions fell from 9 million tons in 2007 to 2.5 million tons in 2015 after coal power plants were forced to fit equipment that filters the gas out to meet air quality standards.

The growth in solar and wind power was dramatic, increasing tenfold from about 10 gigawatts in 2007 to roughly 100 GW in 2015.

“From 2007 to 2015, solar and wind power deployment increased rapidly while regulatory changes and fossil fuel price changes led to steep cuts in overall power-sector emissions,” the researchers wrote.

“We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of … $29.7 billion to $112.8 billion [during 2007 to 2015] mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities."

In 2015 alone, some 1,850 premature deaths were avoided.

The researchers also estimated the increased generation of renewable energy was worth between $5.3 billion and $106.8 billion in “cumulative climate benefits” over the same period.

These include “changes to agricultural productivity, energy use, losses from disasters such as floods, human health and general ecosystem services”.

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