The economic costs of wind erosion in the United States

TitleThe economic costs of wind erosion in the United States
Publication TypeConference Proceedings
Year of Publication2022
AuthorsFeng I, Tong D, Gill TE, Van Pelt S, Webb N
Conference NameAmerican Geohpsyical Union (AGU) Fall Meeting, Chicago, IL
Date Published12-9 to14-2022
Conference LocationChicago, IL
ARIS Log Number396791
Keywordseconomic costs, renewable energy, society, solar panel, turbine, valley fever, wind erosion

Wind erosion negatively impacts many aspects of society, but its socioeconomic costs in the United States were last assessed comprehensively during the 1990s. It has been over three decades since and both the climate and society have changed greatly. Solar panel and wind turbine usage have risen drastically, and an infectious disease known as Valley fever that is linked to soil (and thus likely dust) has been growing in incidence. Windblown dust has also caused an increase in transportation fatalities. Due to these and other changes, we decided to re-assess the previous estimate of $10 billion annual cost of wind erosion from Pimentel et al. (1995). We examined existing literature on past cost estimates and used domestic research data when possible. Some cost estimates, such as dust morbidity, were directly taken from past studies and adjusted for inflation if necessary. Other estimates, such as loss estimates from renewable energy generation, Valley fever, and transportation costs were built from the ground up. Values for energy generation, Valley fever cases, and transportation costs were drawn from their respective government sources, such as the Department of Energy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and the Department of Transportation. The data were then modified by findings from other studies (i.e. percentage of loss attributed to dust), enabling total costs to be calculated with the cost per increment, such as the cost of one KWh of wind energy or the cost per motor vehicle crash. We found that with the most conservative parameters, windblown dust cost the U.S. at least $69 billion in the year 2017. This $69 billion estimate is likely an underestimate as other factors were not accounted for, such as airport delays and increased desertification. This study serves as an updated baseline estimate for the cost of wind erosion, but further detailed research needs to be conducted to create a more complete cost estimate for the United States.