A study done by Lawrence Berkeley National Lab and published by Nature Energy in August finds that wind power in the United States is responsible for saving tens of billions or hundreds of billions of dollars from prevented health care costs and saved lives from 2007–2015. The savings come from reduced pollution that causes asthma attacks and other diseases.
Power plant emissions — including sulfur dioxide, nitrogen oxides, and particulate matter — cause or aggravate respiratory and cardiovascular health, often leading to hospitalization or even death, as documented by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine and others. However, the rapid growth of pollution-free wind power in recent years has helped to decrease emissions of these harmful pollutants.
Solar power is also doing its part, of course. “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. Here we evaluate how wind and solar climate and air-quality benefits evolved during this time period,” the report authors write. “We find cumulative wind and solar air-quality benefits of 2015 US$29.7–112.8 billion mostly from 3,000 to 12,700 avoided premature mortalities, and cumulative climate benefits of 2015 US$5.3–106.8 billion. The ranges span results across a suite of air-quality and health impact models and social cost of carbon estimates. We find that binding cap-and-trade pollutant markets may reduce these cumulative benefits by up to 16%. In 2015, based on central estimates, combined marginal benefits equal 7.3¢ kWh (wind) and 4.0¢ kWh (solar).”