CMU Study: Alternative Energy Should Thrive in Pa.
22 February 2014
By Adam Brandolph, Staff Reporter
Solar panels under Pittsburgh's often-cloudy skies can offer more
overall benefits than they would under the blazing sun of Arizona,
and a wind farm in West Virginia can deliver more health benefits
than turbines on the gusty Great Plains do.
That's according to a Carnegie Mellon University study, which
concluded that in order to achieve the greatest gains from
renewable energy sources, officials should not focus on the
locations that have the greatest potential for capacity, but
places where the highest number of people would benefit by
offsetting the most pollutants.
“In many places in California or Arizona, the same solar panel
will generate much more electricity than in Pennsylvania, given
that the solar resource is much better at those locations.
However, one of the goals of renewables is also to avoid emissions
of air pollutants and their consequences,” said Ines Lima Azevedo,
an assistant professor at CMU's Center for Climate and Energy
“What makes solar benefits in Pittsburgh larger than in other
locations is that we would be mostly displacing electricity
generated by coal, which has a large amount of air pollutant
emissions — and associated health and environmental consequences.”
The study, published in the science journal Proceedings of the
National Academy of Sciences last year, put a price tag on the
social benefits of emission reductions and found, for example,
that a wind turbine in West Virginia would avoid $230 in health
and environmental damages per kilowatt-hour per year, displacing
twice as much carbon dioxide and seven times as much health damage
as the same turbine in California. Solar and wind energy sources
emit less carbon dioxide and air pollution than burning fossil
fuels for electricity.
“If the main goal of renewables is to decrease the health,
environmental and climate-change problems associated with
fossil-fueled electricity generation, it indeed makes sense to
increase renewables and other sustainable strategies and energy
efficiency in Pittsburgh — and more broadly in Pennsylvania,”
The researchers suggested that Congress take regional variations
into account when structuring tax benefits for clean energy. They
argued that the incentives should be available at least until
costs are competitive with conventional energy generation.
“The level of these incentives should be set at least at the level
that corresponds to the environmental and health consequences that
they avoid when compared to the alternatives,” Azevedo said.
In Pennsylvania, more than two dozen energy companies have built
717 wind turbines since 2000, including 256 in 2012 alone, and
installed numerous solar panels, according to PennFuture, an
environmental advocacy group. Investment in renewable energy
jumped in 2004 when lawmakers passed the Alternative Energy
Portfolio Standards Act, requiring a percentage of the state's
energy production to come from alternative sources.
Evan Enders, a project coordinator for PennFuture's Energy Center,
said the CMU study was “very eye-opening,” but investors' interest
in Pennsylvania has waned since nearby states began requiring
alternative energy sources.
“If lawmakers are serious about the overall energy mix and
reducing carbon emissions, then they should focus money in Western
Pennsylvania, West Virginia, southern Ohio and regions where that
investment is going to offset pollution,” he said.
Adam Brandolph is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be
reached at 412-391-0927.
Read more: http://triblive.com/news/adminpage/5133484-74/energy-solar-benefits#ixzz2u8M2qEFt