Renewable Energy Has Greatest Impact Here in the Mid- Ohio Valley

Renewable Energy Has Greatest Impact Here in the Mid- Ohio Valley

Communities and individuals decide to go Solar for many different reasons.  The underlying motivations vary from gaining energy independence to lowering their personal carbon foot-print.  There are economic reasons as well.  Some people want a solid long-term investment.  Now, local renewable energy advocates in the Mid-Ohio Valley have another reason – a greater overall health impact.

A recent study by Carnegie Mellon University researchers found that Solar and wind projects achieve greater health and climate benefits in the eastern United States, particularly in West Virginia, Ohio and western Pennsylvania than in other parts of the country.  Our region is heavily dependent on electric generation by coal-fired power plants.  These plants not only produce electricity, but also carbon dioxide, which contributes to global warming, and local air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, which have adverse health effects on the population living downwind of the smoke stacks.  Therefore, a Solar photovoltaic (PV) system on a rooftop in West Virginia would replace more electricity generated by coal plants than a similar sized Solar PV system on a rooftop in a western state such as in California.  California electric power generation depends on a mix of relatively clean resources and less than ten percent is generated by coal.  The power that is generated by coal is mostly imported to California from other states.

In other words, if you are truly interested in improving human health and mitigating climate change, there are no greater benefits from Solar and wind than in places like West Virginia and Ohio.  If you had previously felt there was little YOU could do in our region to impact your family’s health now and in the future this has now changed.  You now have a powerful tool to make a national health and environmental impact.

To estimate the social and environmental benefits, the researchers assigned values (i.e., carbon dioxide = $20 per ton) to the damage caused by carbon dioxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen dioxide and coarse particulate matter.  The costs were then calculated for each of twenty-two regions of the country, based on actual EPA emissions data for 1,400 fossil-fueled power plants from 2009 to 2011.  The benefits of Solar and wind were calculated from hypothetical wind turbines and Solar arrays at 33,000 and 900 locations respectively across the country.  With this data, the researchers were able to estimate the avoided damages for each wind turbine and solar panel according to the conventional power generation it would displace in each region.

The study provides another powerful reason for the people of the Mid-Ohio Valley to go Solar.  According to study author Kyle Siler-Evans, Ph.D., “…in certain regions…wind or solar provides about 10 cents a kilowatt-hour in social benefits, and so if you were to credit wind or solar with those benefits – give them money for the benefits they provide – it would hugely change the economics”.  I doubt any of us reading this right now feel there is any merit in waiting for policy makers and economists to tell us the right path to take.  In other words, Solar electric generation is right now the choice to replace conventional grid power and the Mid-Ohio Valley can lead the way.

“Regional variations in the health, environmental, and climate benefits of wind and solar generation”; Kyle Siler-Evans et al; Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 2013 110 (29) 11768-11773; published ahead of print June 24, 2013

About PES:

Established in 2012, Pickering Energy Solutions is a growth oriented company focused on making renewable energy systems a reality for residential and commercial building owners through direct sales or through a Power Purchase Agreement or Power Leasing arrangement.

About the Author:

Lance McCoy serves as Communications Director for Pickering Energy Solutions.  Lance is a green-minded entrepreneur and is a Certified Photovoltaic Site Assessor through MREA.