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. This is based on the simple reason that wind turbines don’t create pollution when generating electricity.
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. In contrast, wind turbines produce no 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 most non-renewable energy sources, wind energy is completely free. Anyone can make use of the wind 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. Wind turbines are often constructed in fields, on hills or out at sea. At these locations, they pose hardly any inconvenience to the surrounding land. Farmers can still farm their fields, livestock can still graze the hills and fishermen can still fish the sea.
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 small off-grid villages to remote research facilities. It might be impractical or too expensive to hook such locations up to traditional electricity supplies. In these cases, wind turbines could have the answer.
Wind Technology is Becoming Cheaper
The first-ever wind turbine started generating electricity in 1888. Since then, they 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 technologies. Many countries across the world now provide incentives for the construction of wind turbines. In addition, incentives are sometimes available for domestic users to supply 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. Although older turbines can come up against reliability issues, technological advancements are helping to improve overall reliability.
Low Running Costs
As wind energy is free, running costs are often low. The only ongoing cost of 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 local renewable energy sources, a country can reduce its dependency on external supplies of natural resources. As a direct result of this, the country can increase its energy security.
The wind energy industry has boomed since wind turbines became commercially available. As a result of this, the industry has created jobs all over the world. Jobs now exist for the manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of wind turbines. You can even find jobs in wind energy consulting. This is a job where specialist consultants determine whether a wind turbine installation is going to be profitable.
According to recent data released by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA), the renewable energy industry employed over 10 million people worldwide in 2017. Of these jobs, 1.15 million were in the wind power industry.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy
We’ve had a look at the advantages, so now let’s 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 constant. Although wind energy is sustainable and will never run out, the wind isn’t always blowing. This can cause serious problems for wind farm developers. They will often spend a significant amount of time and money investigating whether a particular site is suitable for wind power.
For a wind turbine to be efficient, it needs to have an adequate supply of wind energy. For this reason, we often find wind turbines on top of hills or out at sea. In these locations, there are fewer land obstacles to reduce the force of the wind.
Installation is Expensive
Although costs are reducing over time, wind turbines are still 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 period of time. If deemed adequate, a wind turbine then needs to be manufactured, transported and erected on top of a pre-built foundation. All of these processes contribute to the overall cost of installing wind turbines.
When we take the above into account for offshore wind farms, the costs become much greater. Installing structures out at sea is far more complex 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 they 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 still contribute to mortality rates among bird and bat populations.
One of the most common disadvantages of wind turbines is the noise pollution they generate. You can often hear a single wind turbine from hundreds of meters away. Combine multiple wind turbines with the right wind direction and the audible effects can be much greater.
Noise pollution from wind turbines has ruined the lives of many homeowners. Although steps are often taken to install them 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 common drawback of wind turbines is the visual pollution they create. Although many people actually like the look of wind turbines, others don’t. These people see them as a blot on the landscape. This, however, tends to come down to personal opinion. As we build more wind farms, public acceptance is becoming more common.