AWEA details some of wind power’s contributions to the environment and the economy. These include:
-Avoiding carbon: In 2009, U.S. wind farms generated 70.8 million megawatt-hours of electricity and avoided over 40 million metric tons of CO2, the equivalent of reducing power sector emissions by nearly 2% or taking over 7 million cars off the road. Using more wind power means using less fossil fuel-generated electricity for a simple economic reason: wind power, a fuel-free source of electricity, backs down the most expensive power source at the margin, which tends to be fossil fuel because of its fuel costs.
-Improving environmental health with pure, clean energy: On an annual basis, U.S. wind farms operating as of the end of 2009 will avoid 200,000 metric tons of acid-rain-causing sulfur dioxide and 80,000 metric tons of smog-causing nitrogen oxides, which would otherwise have been emitted from conventional power plants. Wind power also avoids other power sector pollutants such as mercury, as well as mining and drilling for fuel, and production of hazardous or toxic wastes, ash, or slurry.
-Saving water: On an annual basis, U.S. wind farms operating at the end of 2009 will conserve over 20 billion gallons of water which would otherwise be withdrawn for steam or cooling in conventional power plants. Wind energy makes it possible to meet our energy needs without further polluting or depleting valuable water resources.
-Saving money: Investing in wind power rapidly translates into savings for consumers, thanks to lower fuel use for electricity generation and lower energy bills. Several studies from government agencies and independent energy experts continue to show that a national renewable electricity standard (RES) will lower costs to consumers.
-Saving money, take two: Wind energy also saves money by protecting public health. A National Academy of Sciences study released in 2009 found that pollution from fossil fuels cost the U.S. $120 billion a year, including $62 billion from coal plants, in damages to human health. Strikingly, those figures do not include damages from climate change, harm to ecosystems, or impacts from pollutants such as mercury. The NAS study is a reminder of the enormous hidden cost that energy-related pollution inflicts on our society and of the environmental and economic imperative of using renewable energy.
-Creating new jobs and business opportunity: Wind power supports 85,000 jobs in the U.S. today, and the number of wind turbines and wind turbine component manufacturing facilities in the U.S. has blossomed to over 200 facilities across the U.S. today, up from under 100 in 2007. While manufacturing investment levels dropped in 2009 compared to 2008, at least 39 wind manufacturing plants were expanded, announced or opened last year—suggesting wind power’s huge manufacturing investment and job creation potential given the right policies.