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Wind Blows Coal Away

March 25, 2011

Kristen Welker-Hood, ScD MSN, Director of Environmental Health Programs provided expert testimony at the Maryland House of Delegates and the Senate this month.  She presented in support of offshore wind energy by detailing the public health impacts of coal-fired power plants. PSR strongly supports clean, renewable energy policies, which improve air quality and displace dirty electric generation.

Background:

The Maryland Offshore Wind Energy Act of 2011 (House Bill 1054 and Senate Bill 861) will create between 80 and 200 wind turbines 10 nautical miles off the coast of Maryland to produce 400 to 600 MW of energy.  This act is projected to produce 2.5% of energy for the state of Maryland which is about 10 to 15% of Maryland’s renewable energy when completed helping to achieve the Maryland Renewable Portfolio Standard (RPS) of having 22% of Maryland’s energy come from renewable sources.  Currently, Maryland gets 30% of its energy from sources outside of the state; the 500 MW offshore wind farm project, when fully up and running, can produce enough energy to power 79% of the coastal homes or about half the homes in Baltimore City.  Commercial scale facilities have been operating in Europe since 1991, and in the US, states are progressively looking towards renewable energy sources.  Delaware and Massachusetts have passed legislation for building off-shore wind farms, New Jersey is considering implementing a similar act and Rhode Island has a pilot project in place. 

Air pollutants such as sulfur dioxide (SO2), oxides of nitrogen (NOx), and particulates cause various health problems including but not limited to asthma and chronic respiratory illnesses, which result in hospitalizations, premature death, and loss in productivity due to sick days.   In 2005 National Academy of Science estimated that the US suffered $62 billion in health damages due to coal-fired power plants, or an average of $156 million per coal plant. Since emissions from wind power are close to zero (emissions from wind manufacturing and operations are less than 2% those of coal combustion per MWh), their benefits can be approximated by the health impact of the power displaced. Operations of wind energy facility will greatly reduce Maryland citizens’ exposure to dangerous air pollutants.

Read Kristen Welker-Hood’s, ScD MSN WrittenTestimony

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