Wind Power Transmission Project Would Provide Health Benefits

Courtesy: TN Valley Infrastructure Group

This blog is part of a series reviewing the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project. Other blogs in the series are available here.

A newly proposed transmission project would connect high quality wind power to the southeast. The proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project  would provide up to 4,000 megawatts of wind power from western Oklahoma and Texas to the southeast. The project is currently undergoing a federal U.S. Department of Energy Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) review process to evaluate potential impacts from the 720-mile high voltage direct current transmission project. The EIS directly evaluates a few of the benefits of the proposed project.

By using wind power instead of dirtier forms of power generation, the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project is anticipated to reduce air pollution. Specifically, the Department of Energy calculated the project could displace up to 11,100 tons of nitrogen oxides (NOx) per year. NOx emissions can cause asthma and other respiratory diseases, as well as premature death. NOx can also create smog, acid rain and nitrogen-polluted waterways.

Additionally, wind energy made available by the transmission project would reduce sulfur oxides (SOx) by up to 33,000 tons annually. Similar to NOx, SOx cause or worsen respiratory illnesses like emphysema and bronchitis, leading to increased visits to emergency departments. SOx are also a primary cause of acid rain and acidification of lakes and streams.

Further, the Department of Energy estimates Clean Line wind power would reduce mercury emissions by up to 200 pounds per year. Mercury pollution can lead to impaired neurological development, particularly in young children.

Mercury pollution can also harm wildlife reproduction, particularly in waterfowl like ducks. Finally, the Department of Energy estimates Clean Line wind power will reduce carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by up to 14,000,000 tons per year. That’s about as much carbon dioxide released by 1.9 million homes’ electricity use for one year, or about four coal-fired power plants. CO2 is a primary greenhouse gas, as well as contributor to ocean acidification.

These health benefits are hardly speculation. The Tennessee Valley Authority (TVA), potentially a key customer for up to 3,500 megawatts of wind power from the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project, plans on shutting down at least 3,000 megawatts of coal-fired power plants in the near future, maybe more. Such a move by TVA could provide a direct route for Clean Line to marketing its power.

It’s important to note that the benefits of wind power from the Clean Line project illuminate the negative health effects of the status quo for energy generation. Just as the Department of Energy estimates that the Clean Line project would reduce harmful air pollutants, a rejection of the project would continue to maintain these high levels of unhealthy pollution. Supporting the Plains and Eastern Clean Line high voltage direct current transmission project would provide health benefits to the southeast, and potentially beyond.

The Department of Energy is taking public comment on the Plains and Eastern Clean Line project until March 19th, 2015. If, after reading this blog, you would like to submit a public comment supporting the project, click here.

This blog is part of a series reviewing the proposed Plains and Eastern Clean Line project (PECLseries).

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