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Title: The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States

Abstract

We estimate the environmental and public health benefits that may be realized if solar energy cost reductions continue until solar power is competitive across the U.S. without subsidies. Specifically, we model, from 2015 to 2050, solar power-induced reductions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollutant emissions, and water usage. To find the incremental benefits of new solar deployment, we compare the difference between two scenarios, one where solar costs have fallen such that solar supplies 14% of the nation's electricity by 2030 and 27% by 2050, and a baseline scenario in which no solar is added after 2014. We monetize benefits, where credible methods exist to do so. We find that under these scenarios, solar power reduces GHG and air pollutants by ~10%, from 2015 to 2050, providing a discounted present value of $56-$789 billion (central value of ~$250 billion, equivalent to ~2 cents/kWh-solar) in climate benefits and $77-$298 billion (central value of $167 billion, or ~1.4 cents/kWh-solar) in air quality and public health benefits. The ranges reflect uncertainty within the literature about the marginal impact of emissions of GHG and air pollutants. Solar power is also found to reduce water withdrawals and consumption by 4% and 9%, respectively, includingmore » in many drought-prone states.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ; ; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Lawrence Berkeley National Lab. (LBNL), Berkeley, CA (United States); National Renewable Energy Lab. (NREL), Golden, CO (United States)
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE), Solar Energy Technologies Office (EE-4S)
OSTI Identifier:
1339519
Report Number(s):
NREL/JA-6A20-67716
Journal ID: ISSN 0360-5442
DOE Contract Number:  
AC02-05CH11231; AC36-08GO28308
Resource Type:
Journal Article
Resource Relation:
Journal Name: Energy (Oxford); Journal Volume: 113; Journal Issue: C
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
14 SOLAR ENERGY; 29 ENERGY PLANNING, POLICY, AND ECONOMY; solar energy; greenhouse gases; air pollution; public health; co-benefits; water use

Citation Formats

Wiser, Ryan, Millstein, Dev, Mai, Trieu, Macknick, Jordan, Carpenter, Alberta, Cohen, Stuart, Cole, Wesley, Frew, Bethany, and Heath, Garvin. The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States. United States: N. p., 2016. Web. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2016.07.068.
Wiser, Ryan, Millstein, Dev, Mai, Trieu, Macknick, Jordan, Carpenter, Alberta, Cohen, Stuart, Cole, Wesley, Frew, Bethany, & Heath, Garvin. The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States. United States. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2016.07.068.
Wiser, Ryan, Millstein, Dev, Mai, Trieu, Macknick, Jordan, Carpenter, Alberta, Cohen, Stuart, Cole, Wesley, Frew, Bethany, and Heath, Garvin. Fri . "The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States". United States. doi:10.1016/j.energy.2016.07.068.
@article{osti_1339519,
title = {The environmental and public health benefits of achieving high penetrations of solar energy in the United States},
author = {Wiser, Ryan and Millstein, Dev and Mai, Trieu and Macknick, Jordan and Carpenter, Alberta and Cohen, Stuart and Cole, Wesley and Frew, Bethany and Heath, Garvin},
abstractNote = {We estimate the environmental and public health benefits that may be realized if solar energy cost reductions continue until solar power is competitive across the U.S. without subsidies. Specifically, we model, from 2015 to 2050, solar power-induced reductions to greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, air pollutant emissions, and water usage. To find the incremental benefits of new solar deployment, we compare the difference between two scenarios, one where solar costs have fallen such that solar supplies 14% of the nation's electricity by 2030 and 27% by 2050, and a baseline scenario in which no solar is added after 2014. We monetize benefits, where credible methods exist to do so. We find that under these scenarios, solar power reduces GHG and air pollutants by ~10%, from 2015 to 2050, providing a discounted present value of $56-$789 billion (central value of ~$250 billion, equivalent to ~2 cents/kWh-solar) in climate benefits and $77-$298 billion (central value of $167 billion, or ~1.4 cents/kWh-solar) in air quality and public health benefits. The ranges reflect uncertainty within the literature about the marginal impact of emissions of GHG and air pollutants. Solar power is also found to reduce water withdrawals and consumption by 4% and 9%, respectively, including in many drought-prone states.},
doi = {10.1016/j.energy.2016.07.068},
journal = {Energy (Oxford)},
number = C,
volume = 113,
place = {United States},
year = {Fri Jul 22 00:00:00 EDT 2016},
month = {Fri Jul 22 00:00:00 EDT 2016}
}