If the Western U.S. installed more solar and wind power plants, it could gain in two ways: 1. Save money. 2. Reduce pollution.
That is what an analysis by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) says.
According to the study – ”Western Wind and Solar Integration Study” – if Western USA obtained 25% of its electricity from renewable energy, CO2 pollution would go down by 34%, representing a saving of $7 billion per year in fossil fuel costs.
The authors of the report say that their study compellingly puts to rest the misconception that wind energy’s pollution savings might be smaller than expected.
They say this “myth” has been circulated by other producers of energy who say that fossil-fired power plants could run at lower efficiency when wind is generating electricity.
The authors wrote “Even at the very high level of renewable energy use examined in the report, the impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants was found to be “negligible,” reducing the carbon emissions reduction benefits of wind and solar by only 0.2 percent, so that on net, wind and solar produced 99.8 percent of the expected emissions savings.”
One-megawatt-hour of wind energy saves approximately 1,190 pounds of CO2 pollution (average), equivalent to driving a fuel-efficient car across the USA, the study found.
The authors added “The negative impact on the efficiency of fossil-fired power plants reduced those carbon dioxide savings by only 2.4 pounds, the amount produced by a typical drive to the grocery store.”
Michael Goggin, Senior Electricity Industry Analyst at the American Wind Energy Association, said:
“Some representatives for competing energy sources have spent years propagating the myth that wind energy’s emissions savings are less than expected, despite having no peer-reviewed analysis to support their claims and being contradicted by all independent grid operator data and analysis. It is simple economics and science that wind energy directly displaces the output of the most expensive power plant, which is almost always the least efficient fossil-fired power plant.
“Some advocates for competing energy sources have even called for an analysis based on real-world data from emission monitors at power plants. With today’s study they got it, though they may not like the results. It is now impossible for anti-clean energy advocates to continue sticking their heads in the sand denying the reality of wind’s environmental benefits.”