Wind Energy: Pros and Cons

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind energy is a renewable energy that harnesses energy generated by wind through the use of wind turbines that convert it into it into electricity. Wind technically comes from the sun as a byproduct of differences in temperature. Wind is generated from the uneven heating of the atmosphere, mountains, valleys, and the planets revolution around the sun.[1]

Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

Like all other forms of renewable energy, wind energy has its fair share of pros and cons. Certain renewable energies work better in different regions of the world for different reasons and circumstances. That’s why it’s important for consumers to know which works best for their part of the country.

Advantages of Wind Energy

Harnessing wind to generate energy has its advantages and is an efficient option for many different parts of the world since it doesn’t depend on direct sunlight exposure like solar energy.

Free Fuel

Since wind turbines themselves run strictly on the power of wind generated, there is no need for fuel. Once the turbine is complete and installed, it doesn’t need to be fueled or connected to power to continue working. This also reduces the overall cost to continue to run large-scale wind farms in comparison to other forms renewable energies, which require may require some energy investment.

One of the Cleanest Forms of Energy

Since wind energy doesn’t rely on fossil fuels to power the turbines, wind energy does not contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases during energy production. The only time that wind energy indirectly releases greenhouse gases is during the manufacturing and transport of the wind turbines, as well as during the installation process. U.S. wind power lights homes and businesses with an infinitely available energy.[2]

Advances in Technology

The latest advances in technology have transformed preliminary wind turbine designs into extremely efficient energy harvesters. Turbines are available in a wide range of sizes, increasing the market to many different types businesses and by individuals for use at home on larger lots and plots of land. As technology improves, so do the functionalities of the structure itself, creating designs that will generate even more electricity, require less maintenance, and run more quietly and safely.

Doesn’t Disrupt Farmland Operations

Energy suppliers can build their wind turbines on pre-existing farmland and pay the farm owners to build on their property in the form of contracts or leases. This is a great boon to farmers who can use some extra income, and it wind turbine footprints take up very little space at the ground level, so it doesn’t disrupt their farm’s production. At present, less than 1.5% of contiguous U.S. land area is used by wind power plants. However, given all the plains and cattleland available on the interior of the country, there’s a lot of opportunity for expansion if landowners and government land managers are up for it.[3]

Reduces Our Dependence of Fossil Fuels

Energy generated from fossil fuels not only contributes to climate change, but we’ll one day run out of it. As long as the sun heats the planet, then there’s an endless supply of wind.[4] Furthermore, developing and investing in technology that can only run on a finite resource—that we may run out of our lifetime—is a terrible waste of human capital, private funds, and tax dollars.

Disadvantages of Wind Energy  

Although wind energy is a renewable, greener option of energy, it still has its disadvantages and limitations.

Dangerous to Some Wildlife

Wind turbines are known to pose a threat to the wildlife. Flying birds and bats whose habitats or migratory paths could be injured or killed if they run into the blades that turn on the fanlike structure  of wind turbines when they are spinning. The deaths of birds and bats are a controversial subject at wind farm sites, which has raised concerns by fish and wildlife conservation groups.[5] Aside from the wildlife that flies through the air, wildlife on the ground may also affected by the noise pollutions generated from whirring blades. Although wind turbines can cause problems for wildlife, other things such as skyscrapers and large windows are also hazardous and continue to be built without question or similar outcry.

Noisy

Wind turbines can be quite noisy, which is why they’re mostly found in very rural areas where most people don’t live. Depending on the location of the turbine, such as offshore, noise isn’t an issue. With advancements in technology, newer designs have been shown to reduce the noise complaints and have a much quieter presence.

Expensive Upfront Cost

If you can imagine, these massive structures are often hundreds of feet tall and require substantial upfront investment. The placement of wind turbines in rural areas requires further investment in underground lines to send power to more populated areas like towns and cities where it’s needed. The majority of the cost is the initial installation and building stage, but after that, wind energy produces an endless supply of energy as long as there is wind.

Unreliable/Unpredictable

Wind energy suffers from what is called intermittency, which is a disruption caused by the inconsistency of the wind itself. Since wind can blow at various speeds, it’s hard to predict the amount of energy it can collect at a given time. This means suppliers and cities need to have an energy reserve or alternative sources of power in case the winds die down for longer lengths of time.

Supporting Sustainable Energy

As technology continues to advance, so will our choices of sustainable energy. JustGreen is a simple energy option that we offer as an add-on to our energy plans. When you choose green energy options like JustGreen, you’re offsetting your energy usage with renewable energy credits that stem from sustainable sources like wind, hydro, and solar energy.

 

Resources:

  1. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Energy Basics, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-basics
  2. American Wind Energy Association, January 30, 2017,  https://www.aweablog.org/the-truth-about-wind-power/
  3. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/maps/wind-vision
  4. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Energy Basics, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-basics
  5. Wind Energy Development Programmatic EIS, Wind Energy Development Environmental Concerns, http://windeis.anl.gov/guide/concern/index.cfm