Offshore wind facilities located off the coast of New Jersey and Maryland could have health and climate benefits worth over half a billion dollars per year, and could save over 50 lives per year.
Dr. Jonathan Buonocore, Research Associate at C-CHANGE, and his colleagues, published a study in Environmental Research Letters that explores the health and climate benefits of offshore wind facilities in the mid-Atlantic United States.
Generating electricity from low-carbon energy sources like offshore wind reduces the need for fossil fuels and decreases harmful air pollutants such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, and carbon dioxide. Dr. Jonathan Buonocore and colleagues simulated the public health and climate benefits of different-sized offshore wind facilities off the coast of New Jersey and Maryland. They used a model that accounts for wind conditions and the power plants active on the electrical grid each hour of the year.
They found that, while all the offshore wind projects reduced air pollutant emissions, the results varied dramatically by location and the size of the project. The largest project, 3000 MW off the coast of New Jersey, would have benefits of $690 million and save 55 lives in the simulation year 2017. A smaller 1100 MW facility in the same location and year would have smaller benefits per megawatt-hour (MWh) because the larger facility displaced more power generated from coal than natural gas, with coal plants tending to have higher emissions.
In general, due to the complex dynamics of the electrical grid, benefits did not scale linearly with size—meaning a facility that was twice as large did not necessarily have benefits that were twice as high.
These facilities saw benefits between $54 and $120 per MWh of electricity produced, quantifying only a subset of benefits. Given the estimated costs of generating electricity using offshore wind, the entire cost of an offshore wind facility would be justified in the health and climate benefits, before considering the value of selling the electricity.