As climate change continues to increase at alarming rates, it makes sense that governments are starting to take investments in alternative energy sources more seriously. Aside from hydro-electric and solar, wind energy is a favored form of clean energy because of ease of use, wide accessibility and long-term sustainability. This article discusses the different wind energy pros and cons to be considered.
As the name implies, wind power involves the production of electrical energy using wind turbines.
What makes wind energy so reliable and sustainable is the fact that it largely depends on the wind, which is a virtually limitless source of energy. In order for the wind to happen, a combination of activities has to take place, such as certain regions experiencing imbalanced heat, the Earth’s rotation and the reaction of uneven surfaces which is quite common.
Since it’s estimated that these conditions will almost always prevail, it’s safe to say that wind energy will always be available for us to use.
However, as with any energy source, it’s important to consider wind energy pros and cons when contemplating the transition to this alternative energy source.
What is Wind Power?
Basically, wind power generates energy using the abundant flow of air that’s always circulating in the atmosphere. If you’ve ever seen wind turbines operating then you know that they work by turning their blades round and round, which is what actually produces the electricity.
While wind turbines come in all types of different sizes, they function in pretty much the same way. The blades on the wind turbine turn to harness kinetic energy every time the wind blows, and that kinetic energy is transformed into mechanical power. The mechanical power is what’s used to produce the energy that powers household devices and appliances.
The interesting thing about wind energy is that it has been around since 5000 B.C.E and there’s even evidence of it being used by ancient civilisations such as the Egyptians to power their boats as they sailed across the great river Nile. There’s also evidence of windmills being used as part of grain grinders and water pump systems as well.
However, it wasn’t until 1887 that wind energy was used to power an entire building. It was in this year that Scottish professor James Blyth built a small wind turbine using cloth sails. This wind turbine was tiny by today’s standard, measuring only 10 meters, and yet it was able to meet the energy needs of his entire vacation cottage.
Pretty soon, Blyth found that his tiny wind turbine had the ability to power his neighbours homes as well, and that was the beginning of wind turbine energy. Since then humans have been using turbines to produce electrical power in lieu of fossil fuel energy despite wind energy pros and cons.
However, wind power is still a small player in the larger scheme of alternative energy generation, albeit an important one. Statistics show that wind turbine energy produced about 4% of the world electric power in 2015, and this number is expected to rise over the next few years. In fact, some countries are able to satisfy 42% of their electrical needs from wind energy alone, with advancements in turbine production promising even higher energy yields in the future.
Wind Energy Pros and Cons
As with anything, wind energy comes with its own advantages and disadvantages which we’re going to explore below.
Wind Energy Pros
Clean Power Source
Since the production of wind energy doesn’t produce any toxic chemicals that pollute the Earth, it’s considered to be a clean form of energy. On top of that, wind energy reduces dependency on fossil fuels that pollute the atmosphere and the air we breathe.
The wind is a naturally occurring phenomenon which means that it’s available virtually for free. It’s also an asset that’s constantly being renewed and if you live in a region that gets a lot of wind then you’re in an even better position to benefit from wind energy.
As long as the wind is blowing where you are, you’ll have access to usable wind energy that can power your home pretty much all year round.
Plus, as the demand for alternative forms of energy like wind turbines increases, so does the cost of purchasing and installing it. The upfront costs of the wind turbine unit that you’ll be using to generate the wind energy are minimal when compared to your current electrical bill, and the turbine pays for itself in a relatively short amount of time.
The beauty of wind turbines is that they have the potential to power multiple homes at once. In fact, most homeowners are introduced to wind energy through shared schemes where a single wind turbine is used to provide power to a number of households in the same community. This type of arrangement will not only reduce your electrical bill, but it also eliminates the need for an upfront investment in your own wind turbine.
Can Make Land Owners Extra Cash
If you have a large piece of land that you’re not using, then you can rent it out to the government to install a wind turbine. Or you could install a large wind turbine that other homeowners in your area can rent from you.
If your wind turbine ends up generating more electric power than you need, the rest of it will end up in the general power matrix and the electric company will pay you for that energy. All of this means extra cash in your pocket just by using the wind’s power to generate energy.
Truth be told, modern wind turbines actually look nice, especially the contemporary models with their slick white design. They add to the overall aesthetic of the space and can even end up becoming a part of your outdoor design.
Promising Future Prospects
The demand for wind energy has increased tremendously over the past few years mainly due to the rise of renewable energy sources and slow decline of traditional fossil fuel energy. In fact, the U.S. Department of Energy reports that wind energy is responsible for almost 2.5% of the world’s electricity production and its capacity in the U.S. has steadily increased by 30% each year.
The best part is that the consumer now has different wind turbine sizes to choose from which makes it suitable for different applications and purposes. Some might choose to go for smaller turbines that will power their homes while others with larger acreage might choose bigger turbines that they can turn a profit from.
Either way, you can never go wrong when investing in wind turbines.
Can Benefit Existing Farms
Wind turbines can be an alternative or additional source of income for farmers that have large acres of land, as they can simply lease out a part of their land to wind plant owners that want to install a wind turbine. Since wind turbines only take up a small amount of space they won’t get in the way of tiling the land either.
Wind Energy Cons
Dependent on Wind
While you may reside in an area that experiences a lot of wind, there are still times when it will be scarce, which means your wind turbines will not be able to generate energy. That’s why most people use wind turbines as a supplementary form of power generation in addition to other solutions like solar. On the other hand, extreme weather conditions like high winds and storms may actually damage your wind turbine, leaving you without a power source.
Could Be a Threat to Wildlife
Another downside of wind turbines is that they can be quite harmful to wildlife. Birds have been known to accidentally fly into wind turbine blades, and this can happen to any of the flying creatures in your area. So just keep that in mind if you’re someone that loves animals and prefers to live in harmony with them.
The installation process involved in putting up a wind turbine setup can be a real headache. After that, you’ll have to deal with the constant sound that wind turbines make, which experts estimate can be between 50 and 60 decibels loud. Obviously, listening to this sound every day might eventually get annoying, especially if the wind turbine is placed next to your home.
Other homeowners are reluctant to install wind turbines because of their imposing size and they worry that it’ll disrupt the aesthetic beauty of their landscape.
Expensive Upfront Costs
The upfront costs of getting a wind turbine setup can be quite expensive. It’s worth noting also that wind turbines are not as easy to come about and in some places, you might even struggle to find an installer, which means you may end up calling in a professional from out of town who will charge you for their traveling costs as well as the installation service fee.
Can Be a Safety Hazard
Wind turbines need to be checked after every major storm because they may be damaged to the point that the blades might come off when you start operating them. A broken wind turbine blade may fall on a passing pedestrian or vehicle, making it a safety hazard.
Not Suitable for Some Locations
Unfortunately, wind turbines can only be installed in locations that experience frequent high-speed winds. For some reason, such conditions usually prevail in remote areas that require additional infrastructure to be set up first before the wind turbine can be installed and operated successfully. And all of this means more money out of your pocket.
Affects the Environment
Before you can install a wind turbine, you have to clear a space for it and this might mean getting rid of trees that have been on your property for a while. This will, in turn, affect the lives of the flora and fauna that were thriving around that tree, as well as the small critters that relied on it for shelter and maybe even food.
Then you have to consider the different city codes and regulations that you need to comply with before you can install your turbine, while the most suitable areas for wind turbines also tend to be remote and difficult to access.
Looking Beyond Wind Energy Pros and Cons
Sure, there are some wind energy pros and cons that you need to overcome when it comes to realising the full potential of wind power, but all in all, it’s a form of power that’s worth considering. It’s definitely a more sustainable and energy efficient solution when compared to fossil fuel energy.
Plus, the growing demand for wind energy has spurred a renewed interest in innovation and research, as engineers are working hard to find ways to improve wind power through better technology. That’s why you have ideas like offshore wind farms and horizontal-axis turbines that run quieter and are more beautiful to look at than previous models.
Lastly, the cost of wind energy seems to be decreasing as the demand for it increases which means that consumers can look forward to enjoying low-cost electricity prices that won’t fluctuate as traditional electricity does.
Judging by the rapid rate of pollution that’s caused by the production and usage of fossil fuels, it only makes sense that we should look into alternative energy solutions like wind turbines more carefully. Not only is wind energy renewable and sustainable but it’s also more cost-effective in the long run.
Similar to solar energy, wind energy is derived from a virtually infinite source which makes it more reliable than any of the current energy solutions. In addition, wind energy doesn’t require much space, it’s affordable to use and even though the setup costs can be steep the whole setup pays for itself in no time.
Of course, it’s not a perfect solution because wind turbines are notoriously noisy and have an imposing stature that some people may not particularly take to in their backyards. They’re also rather unpredictable because without wind they simply can’t operate. However, with technological advances, these and other issues can be ironed out, which means that wind energy could be a feasible energy solution in the future that’s worth looking into.