Wind energy benefits the local ambient air quality and long-term health of the atmosphere because it produces electricity without emitting pollutants. Unlike conventional fossil fuel-fired electric power plants, no pollutant emissions are associated with wind power generation. To the extent that electricity produced by wind energy displaces electricity produced by fossil fuel-fired power plants, pollutant emissions are reduced and air quality is improved.
Pollutants that may be reduced from this energy displacement include "criteria pollutants" regulated by the Clean Air Act, such as nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide, carbon monoxide, particulate matter, and volatile organic carbon, as well as "non-criteria pollutants," such as hazardous air pollutants (HAPs) including metals and other toxic compounds. In addition, unlike fossil fuel-fired energy generation, wind power does not result in greenhouse gas emissions (such as carbon dioxide), generally considered the major factor in global warming. Wind energy developers should emphasize the zero carbon dioxide emissions, particularly in light of the creation of regional and state cap-and-trade systems for carbon dioxide such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006. as well as multiple bills in the U.S. Congress to create a federal cap-and-trade system. Wind energy projects can calculate the extent of such pollutant and greenhouse gas emission displacement using average emissions data for the power generators in the region. Such estimates should consider the fuel mix (coal, natural gas, oil, nuclear, etc.) and the power generators that normally supply the electricity to be displaced by the wind farm project or use the dispatch model to identify which units would likely be supplanted.
The only air pollutants generated as a result of a wind energy facility occurs during construction of the facility. The primary pollutant generated is particulate matter (PM), which may occur from excavation activities and fugitive wind-blown dirt/dust. Pollutants (NOx, CO, VOCs, SO2, PM) are also emitted in the engine exhaust of the construction equipment. However, because all of these emissions are associated only with construction, they are temporary in nature.
These construction emissions are not typically regulated on the project level other than to be quantified if an EA or EIS is required for the project and included in mitigation measures. However, many states do have nuisance regulations for dust, visible emissions, and odors. Mitigation usually entails minimization of disturbed surface area and possible use
Wind energy developers should emphasize the zero carbon dioxide emissions, particularly in light of the creation of regional and state cap-and-trade systems for carbon dioxide such as the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative and California's Global Warming Solutions Act of 2006, as well as multiple bills in the U.S. Congress to create a federal cap-and-trade system.
of watering or other dust suppressant to reduce fugitive dust. Construction equipment engines must be manufactured in accordance with non-road engine emission standards, and the equipment should be operated in accordance with the manufacturer's recommended procedures.
Construction-related PM emissions can be estimated by multiplying the EPA emission factor by the amount of area being excavated. While potential project emissions probably will not exceed any air quality permitting thresholds, local concerns may require a wind energy developer to implement dust mitigation measures. These measures may include dust suppression or temporary suspension of excavation activities during high wind conditions. Any special project requirements can be addressed during the siting and/or permitting process.
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