Wind Energy Pros and Cons: What You Need to Know
Getting Started: Wind Energy Pros And Cons
Wind energy has become a popular subject in recent years due to our world's dedication to renewable energy. Wind energy is used to produce electricity without harming the environment or creating pollutants. This does not mean there are not any cons to wind energy. We break down the pros and cons of wind energy here so you will have a complete understanding of this renewable energy source.
Wind Energy Pros
We want to start with the good stuff so here are the pros of wind energy.
1. Renewable - Wind energy is a clean and renewable energy source.
This means that we cannot run out of wind energy. This is a sharp contrast to non-renewable energy sources like fossil fuels or nuclear energy.
Once a wind turbine is installed there is thing left to do. Wind spins the turbine and a generator turns that rotation into electricity. Nothing is being burned, no chemicals are released, and no emissions are released.
2. Payback - Wind Farm Landowners Get Paid
Landowners can rent or lease out their land to power companies for wind farms. This can actually be quite profitable. According to the AWEA, wind farms are paying out $222 million a year to landowners who have wind farms on their property. Many of the counties with wind farms are considered low income, so this extra money can be very helpful to the families that live there.
3. Abundant - Wind Energy Won't Run Out
This goes along with being a renewable energy. As long as our planet is here, we are going to have wind. There are also many places to harvest the wind. For example, the United States has an abundance of land that has the correct wind density to produce electricity. To be considered a "Good Wind Resource" you must have average annual wind speed of 13mph.
4. Environmentally Friendly - Harnessing wind energy does not cause pollution.
Wind farms, or wind plants, are a non-polluting source of energy that is safe for the environment. Collecting wind and turning it into electricity does not add any chemicals or gasses into the environment.
This is again part of it being a renewable energy. Not only is wind a sustainable energy, but it does not cause any pollution. This is one of the reasons it is classified as renewable.
5. Wind Energy Efficiency - Windmills produce a lot of electricity
Windmills can have a large variation of size depending on their usage. Homeowners or businesses can install windmills on their property to help cover their personal power usage. These windmills are usually 8 to 25 feet in diameter.
To create more electricity the windmills just need to be larger. The largest wind turbines are able to power 1,400 homes. The blades are longer than a football field, and they stand 20 stories high.
Needless to say, there is a wind turbine for every application. Imagine how many homes an entire wind farm could supply electricity to.
6. Expanding - The Growth of Wind Energy is Remarkable
The wind energy market grew 22% globally in 2015 according to the GWEC.
This is definitely one of the advantages of wind energy. When a market grows this fast, especially something like energy, people invest in it. They see the potential and start to dedicate time and resources to it. This leads to more advances in technology and a larger infrastructure.
7. Jobs - Wind Energy Jobs
Another of the advantages of wind energy is the job growth. As we expand our wind farms and our reliance on wind energy we need more people to help. Any time an industry grows job do too.
Jobs are created at a higher rate than many other industries. According to Windustry, Wind energy creates 30% more jobs than a coal plant and 66% more than a nuclear power plant per unit of energy generated. This is a remarkable statistic.
One of the least talked about thing wind energy brings us, jobs are arguably the most important. Wind energy pros and cons constantly balance each other out, but this might be the thing that pushes wind energy over the edge.
8. Technology is Improving
As you would imagine, wind energy is not static. This energy source and industry is constantly growing and changing to fill our needs. Wind energy is relatively new compared to many other energy sources, and this means we have plenty of room to grow. Think about the technological advancements made in the fossil fuel industry over the last 100 years. Imagine that much growth happening with wind energy. There may be some bad things about wind energy, but just like any other new technology there is room to grow.
Wind Energy Cons
As we said above, there are some bad things about wind energy. Here are the wind energy cons that we put together.
1. Variable Resource - Unpredictable Wind
Wind may be free, but it is not nearly as reliable as some other sources of energy. Variable resource means that there is not a consistent amount of "fuel." Wind turbines can compensate for this irregularity by monitoring the wind speeds. This way the users won't notice a drop in power output.
Fossil fuels have a much more consistent output of energy. Power plants know how much energy they are going to get for every measurement of fuel. They also have control over the fuel so they can consistently feed the same amount of fuel. This allows an accurate prediction of power creation. Wind is not nearly as consistent, so wind energy will not be as reliable.
When it comes to a wind energy pros and cons list, this issue is frequently at the top of the cons. It is the first thing people point to when they try to delegitimatize wind energy.
2. Construction - Wind Energy Construction
Windmills are not small by any means, so wind farms are going to need a lot of work to build. Large equipment must be used to build these wind turbines, and this causes a lot of destruction to the area around the wind farm. If the land is not taken care of correctly there can be serious erosion problems.
This also bring up greenhouse gas. Wind energy itself may be clean but shipping and building them isn't. Trucks burn gas or oil and so do many of the machines used to build. This is obviously a small amount compared to what a fossil fuel plant would burn, but it is something that should be noted.
3. Sound - Are Windmills Loud?
Yes. Wind turbine sound can be very loud and can add to noise pollution. This isn't an issue in wind farms that are far from the population, but wind farms close to people may receive a lot of complaints. They are much quieter than they used to be, but you can still hear them and that can bother people.
4. Eye sore - How Big are Wind Turbines?
Imagine walking out your back door and seeing a large number windmills where you used to look at hills and mountains. Not only to many people consider them ugly to look at, but they might block the view that you used to have. Obviously, many think that clean energy is more important than a few people inconvenienced by the wind turbines. This is just something worth noting.
Shadow flicker is not that big of an issue, but it still happens. If the windmills are placed in the wrong spot they may cause light and shadows to flicker back and forth on your house. Luckily this is often taken into consideration and avoided. Even at it's worst it cannot have a large effect on families.
5. Death - Do Windmill Kill Birds?
Wind turbines are very dangerous to birds and bats. According to Save the Eagles International,
"The Spanish Ornithological Society (SEO/Birdlife) reviewed actual carcass counts from 136 monitoring studies. They concluded that Spain’s 18,000 wind turbines are killing 6-18 million birds and bats yearly."
This is in an area with an incredible amount of windmills, so it the numbers are not the same everywhere. They seem to be much lower in the United States. In fact it looks like more birds are killed by cell towers and house cats that wind turbines according to TreeHuggers.com.
Just comparing numbers that is the case. Birds have much greater enemies than windmills, but as the number of wind farms grows so will the death toll.
6. Requires Space - How Big are Wind Farms?
Wind farms require an incredible amount of space. Not everyone agrees with covering large portions of land to just windmills. One of the largest wind farms covers over 30 square miles. In 2013, of the 10 largest wind farms in the world only one was offshore. Large wind farms produce a lot of engery, but they also require a large amount of real estate.
As you can see there are many wind energy pros and cons. Wind energy advantages exist but so do disadvantages. We have to decide as a society where our priorities are. Do we think the wind energy pros outweigh the wind energy cons? Can we deal with the windmills killing birds to have a renewable energy source? Only time will tell where we decide to invest out resources.