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Carnegie Mellon University (CMU) researchers have concluded that Ohio, West Virginia and western Pennsylvania are the best U.S. sites for solar and wind power plants in terms of their ability to provide health benefits to people in the area.

Wind and solar achieve greater health and climate benefits in these regions than in traditional solar powerhouses in the Southwest and California because, in those locations, they replace electricity generated by coal plants, the researchers report.

"A wind turbine in West Virginia displaces twice as much carbon dioxide and seven times as much health damage as the same turbine in California," says Siler Evans, a researcher in CMU's Department of Engineering and Public Policy and one of the four authors of the report. "The benefits of solar plants are greatest in the cloudy East as opposed to the sunny Southwest."

Co-author Ines Lima Azevedo, assistant professor of engineering and public policy and executive director of the CMU-led Center for Climate and Energy Decision Making, which produced the report, points out that federal subsidies for wind and solar power plants are the same across the country.

“If we are going to justify the added cost of wind and solar on the basis of the health and climate benefits that they bring, it is time to think about a subsidy program that encourages operators to build plants in places where they will yield the most health and climate benefits," Azevedo argues.

The paper, "Regional Variations in the Health, Environment and Climate Benefits of Wind and Solar Generation," will appear this week in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science.

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