There are many advantages and disadvantages of wind energy, most of which will be discussed in this article. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of wind turbines to determine whether the controversy surrounding this clean and renewable energy technology is justified.
Advantages of Wind Energy
Wind energy has numerous benefits in helping to provide a source of clean and renewable electricity for countries all over the world. This section takes a look at the many different advantages of wind energy.
1. Renewable & Sustainable
Wind energy itself is both renewable and sustainable. The wind will never run out, unlike the earth’s fossil fuel reserves (such as coal, oil and gas), making it the ideal energy source for a sustainable power supply.
2. Environmentally Friendly
Wind energy is one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources available today. After the manufacture and installation of wind turbines, there will be little to no pollution generated as a result of the wind turbines themselves.
Wind turbines produce no greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) or methane (CH4) which are both known to contribute towards global warming.
It should be noted that noise and visual pollution are both environmental factors, but they don’t have a negative effect on the earth, water table or the quality of the air we breathe.
3. Reduces Fossil Fuel Consumption
Generating electricity from wind energy reduces the need to burn fossil fuel alternatives such as coal, oil and gas. This can help to conserve dwindling supplies of the earth’s natural resources, allowing them to last longer and help to support future generations.
4. Wind Energy is Free
Unlike some other energy sources, wind energy is completely free. There’s no market for the supply and demand of wind energy, it’s there to be used by anyone and will never run out. This makes wind energy a viable option for generating cheap electricity.
5. Small Footprint
Wind turbines have a relatively small land footprint. Although they can tower high above the ground, the impact on the land at the base is minimal. The area around the base of a wind turbine can often be used for other purposes such as agriculture.
6. Industrial & Domestic Installations
Wind turbines aren’t just limited to industrial-scale installations such as wind farms. They can also be installed on a domestic scale, with many landowners opting to install smaller, less powerful wind turbines in order to provide part of a domestic electricity supply. Domestic wind turbines are often coupled with other renewable energy technologies such as solar panels or geothermal heating systems.
7. Remote Power Solution
Wind turbines can play a key role in helping to bring power to remote locations. This can help to benefit everything from a small off-grid village to a remote research station.
8. Wind Technology Becoming Cheaper
The first ever electricity-generating wind turbine was invented in 1888. Since then, wind turbines have improved significantly and nowadays the technology is beginning to come down in price, making it much more accessible.
Government subsidies are also helping to reduce the cost of a wind turbine installation, with many governments across the world providing incentives for not only the installation of such technologies, but also for the ongoing supply of environmentally friendly electricity.
9. Low Maintenance
Wind turbines are considered relatively low maintenance. A new wind turbine can be expected to last some time prior to any maintenance work needing to be carried out. Although older wind turbines can come up against reliability issues, each new generation of wind turbine is helping to improve reliability.
10. Low Running Costs
As wind energy is free, running costs are considered to be low. The only ongoing cost associated with wind energy is for the maintenance of wind turbines, which are considered low maintenance in nature anyway.
11. Huge Potential
Wind energy has huge potential. It’s both renewable and sustainable and is present in a wide variety of places. Although a significant level of wind energy is required to make a wind turbine installation cost effective, the technology isn’t limited to just a handful of locations such as is the case for geothermal power stations.
12. Increases Energy Security
By using wind energy to generate electricity, we are helping to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel alternatives such as coal, oil and gas. In many cases, these natural resources are often sourced from other countries.
War, politics and overall demand often dictate the price for natural resources, which can fluctuate and cause serious economic problems or supply shortages for some countries. By using renewable energy sources a country can help to reduce its dependency on global markets and thus increase its energy security.
13. Job Creation
The wind energy industry has boomed since wind turbines first became available on the market. This has helped to create jobs all over the world. Jobs have been created for the manufacture of wind turbines, the installation and maintenance of wind turbines and also in wind energy consulting, where specialist consultants will determine whether or not a wind turbine installation will provide a return on investment.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy
So, we’ve seen the advantages, now it’s time to take a look at the main disadvantages of wind energy. Wind energy has a number of drawbacks, with the NIMBY (not in my back yard) factor playing a large role.
1. The Wind Fluctuates
Wind energy has a similar drawback to solar energy in that it is not a constant energy source. Although wind energy is sustainable and will never run out, the wind isn’t always blowing. This can cause serious problems for wind turbine developers who will often spend significant time and money investigating whether or not a particular site is suitable for the generation of wind power.
For a wind turbine to be efficient, the location where it is built needs to have an adequate supply of wind energy. This is why we often see wind turbines built on top of hills or out at sea, where there are less land obstacles to reduce the intensity of wind energy.
2. Installation is Expensive
Although costs are reducing over time, the installation of a wind turbine is considered expensive. First, a site survey will need to be carried out which may involve having to erect a sample turbine to measure wind speeds over a significant period of time. If deemed adequate, the wind turbine will need to be manufactured, transported and erected on top of a pre-built foundation. All of these processes contribute to the overall cost of installing a wind turbine.
When the above is taken into account for offshore wind farms, costs become much greater. It’s much harder to install wind turbines out at sea than it is on land, and some companies have even commissioned bespoke ships capable of transporting and installing wind turbines at sea.
3. Threat to Wildlife
It’s widely reported that wind turbines pose a threat to wildlife, primarily birds and bats. It is however believed that wind turbines pose less of a threat to wildlife than other manmade structures such as cell phone masts and radio towers. Nevertheless, wind turbines are contributing to mortality rates among bird and bat populations.
4. Noise Pollution
One of the most popular disadvantages of wind turbines is the noise pollution that they generate. A single wind turbine can be heard from hundreds of meters away. Combine multiple wind turbines and the audible effects can be much greater.
Noise pollution from wind turbines has ruined the lives of some homeowners. Although steps are often taken to site wind turbines away from dwellings, they do sometimes get built too close to where people live and this is why new wind farms often come up against strong public objection.
5. Visual Pollution
Another widely reported disadvantage of wind turbines is visual pollution. Although many people actually like the look of wind turbines, others do not and see them as a blot on the landscape. This tends to come down to personal opinion, and as more wind farms are built, public acceptance is becoming commonplace.