Researchers Found Benefits of Building Renewables in Cloudy States

Inês Lima Azevedo 

Researchers of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making at Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), led by the Portuguese Inês Lima Azevedo, concluded that there are more advantages to building solar and wind power plants in the cloudy East than in the sunny Southwest of the United States. These findings are stated in the paper "Regional Variations in the Health, Environment and Climate Benefits of Wind and Solar Generation," which appears in the weekly edition of the prestigious scientific journal Proceedings of the National Academy of Science (PNAS), of the United States National Academy of Sciences (NAS) (http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/06/19/1221978110.full.pdf+html).

The results of the research show that in order to achieve greater benefits to health and climate it is better to build new wind and solar power plants in Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania (cloudy states), instead of in the sunny regions of the Southwest, such as California. This happens because in those cloudy areas they replace electricity generated by coal plants, and therefore air pollution and carbon dioxide emissions will be reduced.

"A wind turbine in West Virginia displaces twice as much carbon dioxide and seven times as much health damage as the same turbine in California," said Siler-Evans, a Ph.D. researcher at CMU's Department of Engineering and Public Policy, who co-authored the paper with the researchers Inês Lima Azevedo, M. Granger Morgan and Jay Apt.

According to Inês Lima Azevedo, “it is time to think about a subsidy program that encourages operators to build plants in places where they will yield the most health and climate benefits". The executive director of the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making and assistant professor of Engineering and Public Policy (EPP) at CMU has been playing a fundamental role in promoting brainstorms on smart energy grids in the US, but also in Portugal. Inês Lima Azevedo has been deeply involved in the CMU Portugal program as co-advisor of dual degree Ph.D. students.

This research was supported by the Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making, through a cooperative agreement between the National Science Foundation and Carnegie Mellon, and by the Carnegie Mellon Electricity Industry Center.

Source: Carnegie Mellon News

July 2013