How Does Wind Power Affect the Environment?

Trying to find a way to contribute to the fulfillment of the Paris Agreement’s goal is very important. That is why we should all diminish the greenhouse gas emission levels and use alternative energy sources. However, specialists argue that even some of the renewable sources of energy can produce harm. If the first question that pops into your head is “how does wind power affect the environment?”, then stay tuned. In what follows, we will provide an answer to this question.

Using the wind as a source of energy may seem like a good idea until you hear about all the downsides. First, we should look at the benefits of wind power. Utilizing the power of the wind to produce energy is one of the most sustainable ways to produce electricity. Wind power does not produce global warming emissions or toxic pollution. Furthermore, unlike fossil fuels, the wind is an inexhaustible source of energy. Hence, it is one of the large-scale alternatives we could use instead of fossil fuels. Despite all these benefits, there are also certain disadvantages when using wind power.

Community and public health

Another concern related to wind turbines is that they represent visual pollution and the sound impact can be harmful. Wind turbines raise concerns among the members of a community since their effect may disrupt people’s hearing. The sound that a turbine generates is aerodynamic, but there is also a mechanical noise. This is produced by the turbine itself. However, the sound levels rely on wind speed and turbine design.

People living near wind facilities complained about vibration and sound issues. After experts have investigated the problem, they established that this does not impact public health. To reduce wind turbine noises, turbine developers should consider using sound-absorbent materials and minimizing blade surface irregularities.

If the weather is sunny and there is too much light, wind turbines may act as shadow flickers. This may pose a threat to aviation safety. Hence, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) asked turbine developers to place a red or white light for structures higher than 200 feet. In this pay, they will prevent any possible aviation accidents.

Land use

The impact of wind turbines facilities on land use may vary, depending on their location. For instance, wind turbines situated in a flat area may use more land compared to those located on hills. The important idea here is that wind turbines need to be located at a distance of 5 to 10 rotor diameters apart. The rotor diameter represents the diameter of the wind turbine.

The National Renewable Energy Laboratory developed a survey, indicating that large wind facilities in the US use between 30 and 141 acres per megawatt of power output capacity. During construction, nearly 3.5 acres of megawatt get temporarily disturbed.

Silhouette of wind turbines at sea

Offshore wind farms can power numerous countries for the following years, since wind is an infinite source.

Habitat and wildlife

Wind turbines can affect the habitats of bats and birds. Many environmentalists and scientists signaled the effects of wind power on animals. A recent review from the National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC) indicates clear evidence of bat and bird deaths due to collisions. Several birds hit the turbines while flying. The changes in air pressure near the spinning turbines affected birds and bats, disrupting their flight and causing deadly collisions.

What is even more concerning, it is that these wind turbines also determined habitat disruptions. However, the impacts appear to be low, and they do not jeopardize species populations. Some specialists also discussed the fact that wind turbines need a better positioning. Many organizations contributed to this debate, offering several recommendations and suggestions for best management practices.

If we were to look at offshore wind turbines, we would notice the same effects on marine birds. Nevertheless, compared to onshore wind turbines, those offshore caused a lot fewer bird deaths. Specialists raise awareness regarding wind farms’ impact on marine wildlife. Previous studies indicate that wind turbines may increase the populations of fish because they may act as artificial reefs. Nevertheless, the impact of wind farms can vary depending on the site.

Global warming emissions

Even if this is a renewable source of energy and does not produce greenhouse gas emissions when generating electricity, there are certain stages in the life-cycle of wind turbines which may trigger emissions. The production of certain materials that contribute to the assembly of turbines as well as material transportation can cause greenhouse gas emissions. Furthermore, operations like dismantlement, decommissioning and maintenance can also affect the environment.

The estimates of wind turbine life-cycle greenhouse gases emissions are somewhere between 0.02 and 0.04 pounds of CO2 per kilowatt-hour.

The overall effect of wind power

Wind is indeed one of the most useful sources of renewable energy. Overall, using this alternative energy, it has fewer effects on the environment compared to any other source of energy. Wind turbines do not require water for cooling, and they do not emit toxic gases. If we were to use more wind energy than fossil fuels than we would be able to reduce the amount of CO2 from the atmosphere.

Hence, we will reach to accomplish the Paris goal of reducing global average temperatures with 1.5 degrees Centigrade. The amount of air pollution will drop, and this planet will finally have another chance to reborn. Despite all this, some people may avoid installing wind turbines to use renewable energy due to the high costs. It is true that having one of these huge turbines near your house is not ideal.

It will produce a lot of noise, and you will have a lot of money for its maintenance. That is why many people avoid installing them. State officials and other specialists should try to negotiate the huge prices. A new study shows that offshore wind farms are able to offer plenty of energy for our planet, annihilating the use of fossil fuels. However, the prices are a big disadvantage.

Summing up

Learning how does wind power affect the environment will help many people weight the positive and negative effects of renewable energy. We all know how important it is for us to stop the dangerous effects of climate change. Hence, we should try to diminish the use of fossil fuels to diminish the amount of greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere. By using green energy, we also reduce air pollution.

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William E. Eubanks
 

I'm one of the main writers on the site; mostly dealing with environmental news and ways to live green. My goal is to educate others about this great planet, and the ways we can help to protect it.

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