Weighing Wind Energy Pros and Cons

Coal, oil, and fuel fossils in general won’t be around forever. In fact, scientists say we’re just decades away from depleting our planet’s fuel fossil reserve, so what will we do then? Luckily, we have learned to harness alternative forms of energy. What are some wind energy pros and cons? And is it better than solar energy?

You should do your research before deciding whether or not you want to invest into a wind turbine. Hopefully, we can help you weigh the advantages and disadvantages of this environmentally friendly option.

many wind turbines in a field at sunset

I. PROS of Wind Energy: Clean Source

Harnessing the power of wind is one of the cleanest sources of energy we have discovered so far. Once the wind turbine is installed, there is little to no emission of atmospheric pollutants involved. Therefore, we can call wind energy a green source that should be used more.

Renewable & Sustainable

Renewable means that we can’t ever consume all of wind’s energy. In other words, as long as the Sun is around (since wind energy is based on the nuclear fusion processes taking place inside the Sun), wind will also be around. And according to NASA scientists, some billion years will pass before our hot Sun will start dying out.

Cost Effective

Once the turbines are manufactured and set up, their operational needs are minimal. At the moment, wind energy ranks rather high on the list of the lowest priced renewable energy technologies. The prices go as low as two to six cents per kilowatt-hour.

Extra Savings for Land Owners

While you don’t necessarily have to buy a wind turbine to benefit from their energy, there are also perks for land owners. For one, you don’t need to buy extra land for your turbine. Also, any surplus of energy it might generate, you can sell to local utility companies.

Space-efficient & Land Preserving

It’s true, wind farms can spread on large geographic areas, but it’s because they have to be spaced out. In fact, the actual “footprint” of a wind turbine covers only a small portion of the land. Consequently, the impact on livestock grazing and crop production is reduced.

Prices Continue to Decrease

While buying a wind turbine is not something everyone can afford, it’s worth noting that ever since 1980, the prices have decreased more than 80 percent. As technology advances, analysts expect further decrease.

Rapid Growth

Even though, at the moment, wind power covers only about 2.5% of total worldwide electricity production, this technology is experiencing a massive growing. In 2010, studies showed the increase rate is of 25% per year. Wind energy is one of the biggest contenders in the fight against global warming.

wind turbines at sunset

II. Cons of Wind Energy: Inconsistency in Availability

Clearly, turbines can produce electricity only when the wind blows. However, with newer technology came the possibility of monitoring this variability and compensating for it to match the demand of each day. In the end, however, not many changes result in the power supply offered to end users.

Mild Threat to Wildlife

A bird taking a direct hit from a wind turbine blade has slim chances of surviving. The same goes for bats and other flying creatures, which riles up a lot of environmentalists. Estimations show that avian fatalities by U.S. wind turbines are between 10,000 and 440,000. However, in perspective, collisions with buildings, for example, may decimate some 976 million birds annually.

Noise Pollution

Some older models of wind turbines can be disruptive for people living in the area because they produce a lot of noise. Thankfully, newer designs make wind turbines less noisy. (Side note: of all the renewable sources, producing solar energy with solar panels is the least noise polluting; they are virtually silent.)

High Initial Costs

Even though buying and installing a wind turbine can get quite costly, you should keep in mind you can get government or state support. The financial incentives involved are meant to help wind turbines in the fierce competition against traditional energy sources.

Suitable Only in Certain Locations

Wind turbines can strictly be installed in rural area, where there is a steady supply of wind. Therefore, people living in urban communities cannot reap the benefits. Should wind power from rural areas be used in cities, that would require even more investment because of the necessary transmission lines.

Bothersome to Obtain Approval

Given the fact that harnessing the wind’s power through wind turbines is a relatively new technology, it can get pretty complicated and bothersome for individual homeowners to obtain approvals. At the same time, you should make sure that you don’t break any height restrictions which might prevent you from installing a wind turbine.

Effect on Environment

Setting up wind turbines requires a lot of open land, which sometimes leads to cutting down trees. Ironically, that sort of defeats the green purpose of using wind energy in the first place. Unfortunately, the areas where it is most desirable to install wind turbines are often too far from cities where their power would be used.


Before You Invest

There are some things you must keep in mind before committing to a home wind turbine system. First, make sure you live in an area with enough wind flow and adequate land space. Second, research the local and state regulations you need to comply with (keep an eye out for noise and height regulations).

However, if you decide a wind turbine is not an investment you’re willing to make, you can still check if there are utility companies in your region that sell energy generated with wind turbines.

single wind turbine against countryside landscape

A renewable energy economy is highly desirable – not only in the U.S. but around the globe. It means trying to switch to sustainable energy sources, such as the wind or the sun. In our list of wind energy pros and cons, we tried to weigh the advantages and disadvantages of harnessing the wind’s power. Clearly, the cons can be compelling, but the pros are even more so.

Wind power is very kind to our environment – it doesn’t cause pollution or generate hazardous wastes, and the most important of all, it doesn’t deplete our natural resources. Wind energy could be the cornerstone for a revolutionized and healthier tomorrow.

Image Sources: 1, 2, 3

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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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