Title: The Impact of Wind Energy on Air Pollution and Emergency Department Visits
Abstract: Using daily variation in wind power generation in the western portion of Texas, we show that the resulting lower fossil fuel generation in the eastern portion of the state leads to air-quality improvements and, subsequently, fewer emergency department (ED) visits. Spatially, the impact on pollution is widespread, but wind energy reduces ED admission rates more in zip-codes closer to coal plants. Using intra-day wind generation and electricity pricing data, we find that more wind generation coming from hours when the electricity grid is less congested leads to higher reductions in emissions from east Texas power plants and higher reductions in PM2.5 concentrations and ED admission rates in east Texas. Comparing wind generation effects across low-demand night hours to higher-demand day hours, more NOX is offset by wind from night hours, but the time-dependent effects for PM2.5 concentrations and ED admission rates is much weaker, potentially due to differences in exposure. Thus, to the extent that energy storage or other transmission expansions alleviate grid congestion, our results indicate that such investments will increase the effect of wind generation in offsetting emissions and, subsequently, reduce ED admission rates. Together, these results highlight the non-market benefits of renewable energy generation and grid infrastructure investments.