There are many advantages and disadvantages of wind energy, most of which we will discuss in this article. We’ll take a look at the different pros and cons of wind turbines. This will help you to determine whether the controversy surrounding them is justified.
Advantages of Wind Energy
Wind energy has numerous benefits. It has helped to provide a source of clean and renewable electricity for countries all over the world. This section takes a look at the different advantages of wind energy.
Renewable & Sustainable
Wind energy itself is both renewable and sustainable. The wind will never run out, unlike reserves of fossil fuels (such as coal, oil, and gas.) This makes it a good choice of energy for a sustainable power supply.
Wind energy is one of the most environmentally friendly energy sources available today. After the manufacture and construction of wind turbines, they generate little to no pollution.
Most non-renewable energy sources need to be burnt. This process releases gases such as carbon dioxide (CO2) and methane (CH4) into the atmosphere. These gases are known to contribute to climate change. Wind turbines do not create greenhouse gases when generating electricity.
We should note that both noise and visual pollution are environmental disadvantages of wind turbines. However, these factors don’t have a negative impact on the earth, water table or the quality of the air we breathe.
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. As a result, they will last longer and help to support future generations.
Wind Energy is Free
Unlike some other energy sources, wind energy is completely free. Anyone can use it and it will never run out. This makes wind energy a viable option for generating cheap electricity.
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. We can often make use of the area around the base of a wind turbine for other purposes – such as agriculture.
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. As a result, many landowners opt to install smaller, less powerful wind turbines. This can help to provide a portion of a domestic electricity supply. Domestic wind turbines are often coupled with other renewable energy technologies. You can often find them installed alongside solar panels and geothermal heating systems.
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 facility.
Wind Technology is Becoming Cheaper
The first-ever wind turbine started generating electricity in 1888. Since then, wind turbines have become more efficient and have come down in price. As a result of this, wind power is becoming much more accessible.
Government subsidies are also helping to reduce the cost of wind turbine installations. Many countries across the world now provide incentives for the installation of such technologies. In addition, incentives are sometimes available for supplying environmentally friendly electricity back to the grid.
Wind turbines are fairly low in maintenance. A new wind turbine can last a long time prior to it requiring any maintenance work. Although older wind turbines can come up against reliability issues, each new generation of wind turbine is helping to improve reliability.
Low Running Costs
As wind energy is free, running costs are often low. The only ongoing cost we should associate with wind energy is for the maintenance of wind turbines. But they are low maintenance in nature anyway.
Wind energy has huge potential. It’s both renewable and sustainable and is present in a wide variety of places. Although wind turbines aren’t cost-effective at every location, the technology isn’t limited to just a handful of locations. This is an issue that can affect other renewable energy technologies – such as geothermal power stations.
Increases Energy Security
By using wind energy to generate electricity, we are helping to reduce our dependency on fossil fuel alternatives.
In many cases, a country will source some or all of its fossil fuels from another country. War, politics and overall demand often dictate the price of these natural resources. This can sometimes cause serious economic problems or supply shortages. By using renewable energy sources,a country can help to reduce its dependency on external supplies of natural resources. As a result of this, the country can increase its energy security.
The wind energy industry has boomed since wind turbines first became available. As a result of this, the industry has helped to create jobs all over the world. Jobs now exist for the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of wind turbines. You can also find jobs in wind energy consulting. This is a job where specialist consultants can determine whether or not a wind turbine installation is profitable.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy
So, we’ve seen the advantages, now it’s time to take a look at the disadvantages of wind energy. Wind energy has a number of drawbacks, with the NIMBY (not in my backyard) factor playing a large role.
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, it 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. This is because there are fewer land obstacles to reduce the intensity of wind energy.
Installation is Expensive
Although costs are reducing over time, the installation of wind turbines is expensive. First, an engineer must carry out a site survey. This may involve having to erect a sample turbine to measure wind speeds over a significant period of time. If deemed adequate, a wind turbine can 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 we take the above into account for offshore wind farms, the costs become much greater. Installing wind turbines out at sea is more difficult than on land. Some companies have even commissioned bespoke ships capable of transporting and installing wind turbines at sea.
Threat to Wildlife
We often hear that wind turbines pose a threat to wildlife – primarily birds and bats. However, researchers now believe that wind turbines pose less of a threat to wildlife than other manmade structures. Installations such as cell phone masts and radio towers are far more dangerous to birds than wind turbines. Nevertheless, wind turbines are contributing to mortality rates among bird and bat populations.
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.
The lives of many homeowners have been ruined by noise pollution from wind turbines. Although steps are often taken to install wind turbines away from dwellings, they do sometimes get built too close to where people live. This is why new wind farms often come up against strong public objection.
Another widely reported disadvantage of wind turbines is visual pollution. Although many people actually like the look of wind turbines, others don’t and see them as a blot on the landscape. This tends to come down to personal opinion. As more wind farms are built, public acceptance is becoming commonplace.