If you want to generate electricity from the sun or wind, it makes sense to go where it’s sunniest and windiest. But part of the reason to generate electricity from such renewable resources is to cut back on the pollution that comes from burning fossil fuels. And if you take that into account, the best places change.
Researchers at Carnegie Mellon University totaled up the health and environmental benefits of renewable electricity across the U.S. Such benefits range from decreased respiratory disease thanks to less soot all the way to mitigation of climate change.
And when you consider all those factors, a solar panel in New Jersey delivers more overall benefits than photovoltaics in far sunnier Arizona.
The difference comes down to what the renewable power replaces. For example, a wind turbine in West Virginia that cuts down on coal burning avoids 33 times as much health and environmental damage as would the same wind turbine in California.