Wind Energy Pros and Cons – expand your energy education

 Wind energy pros and cons. 

wind energy pros and cons
Wind enegy pros and cons, is a subject debated today by so many people in USA in quest of cost-effective clean power for their home and business.  I have, therefore, discussed in this article the vital facts one needs to know about the advantages and disadvantages of this future clean energy, mainly aiming at knowing more about addressing the challenges to greater use of wind energy which is the most environmentally-friendly renewable energy source. The main challenges towards investing in wind power can be assesed only after weighing against one another each of the pros and cons of wind energy discussed here. 

Wind power offers many advantages, which explains why it’s one of the fastest-growing energy sources in the world. People have realized that wind is one of the most promising new power sources and we can’t go on relying upon coal and oil as the world energy source forever. With today’s technology, wind power can significantly reduce our dependence on fossil fuel-generated electricity in the coming decade. According to a recent statistics 3 billion kWh of electricity produced by America’s wind machines annually replace an energy equivalent of 6.4 million barrels of oil and shun 1.67 million tons of carbon emissions. Experts believe that wind could provide 10 percent of the nation’s electricity by 2020 and 20 percent by 2030. The many pros of wind energy that include low price, land availability to build projects at scale, and the capability to move power to demand centers in areas of the country that are supply constrained, explain why it’s the fastest-growing environmentally-friendly energy source in America.

Before we get to discuss the wind energy pros and cons, let’s first look into the basics of how does wind energy work.

How does wind energy work?

How does wind energy work?

What causes the wind to blow? The Sun heats the surface of the earth non-uniformly because the earth’s surface is made up of different formations, including land and water. The hot air from the warm patches rises up and the cooler air from other areas comes in to fill the void and we experience a wind blowing as this cycle continues. Using the right technology, we can harness the kinetic energy in the wind (energy created by movement of the wind) and convert it into electricity with the help of wind turbine. The energy in the wind is converted to electricity by building a tall tower, with 3 propellers-like blades called a rotor (wind turbine) on the top as shown in the pic). As the wind blows it makes the rotor spin, which turns a generator to produce electricity.

Now that the basics of how does wind energy work has been explained let’s examine the wind energy pros and cons to judge whether investing in this environmentally-friendly energy source for your home and/or business is worth it.

Wind energy pros and cons 

Pros of wind energy

Renewable resource

While discussing wind energy pros and cons the most important advantage of wind energy that needs mention is that unlike coal, oil, and gas, which are finite resources, wind energy is a renewable resource that can never be depleted. Wind energy is derived from the sun. Winds are caused by uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun. When one patch of the earth is heated more directly, that part becomes warmer than others. The warm air from that patch rises and cooler air rushes in from other parts to replace it, creating wind flow. So wind energy is actually a form of solar energy too. As long as the sun shines we will have wind to generate electricity.

No atmospheric emission

Another important advantage that needs mention under ‘wind energy pros and cons’ is that wind power produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. Wind energy is a clean energy source meaning there is no resulting environmental pollution like those from non-renewable power sources like fossil fuels such as coal, oil or gas. Combustion of fossil fuels for electricity generation produces atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gasses (Carbon Dioxide, Methane, Nitrous Oxide and Ozone). While coal produces over 70% of the power sector’s greenhouse gas emissions, natural gas-fired power plants produces about 20%.

Needs little land area

Production of wind energy needs little land area which is also one of the major pros of wind energy under wind energy pros and cons. With today’s technology, the land use by wind turbines is much less than the conventional power stations, which is less than 1% of its land area. A typical wind farm consisting of 20 turbines covers an area of about 1 square kilometer of which less than 5% is occupied by wind equipment including turbines, access roads etc. Farmers and ranchers can continue to use the remaining 95% of the land for farming or ranching purpose.

Quick installation

Under the list of  wind energy pros and cons another significant advantage of wind power is that it does not take much time for installation of wind turbine. Once the formalities relating to site selection and various statutory approvals are completed, wind turbine installation can be completed in months as against years for a coal, gas, or nuclear plant. Since wind turbines are easily expandable such quick construction can accommodate ever growing demand for wind power effortlessly.

Can be installed Anywhere

The wind turbines can be installed wherever we want provided wind currents are present there. Under wind energy pros and cons this is a major advantage of wind energy. Wind power isn’t limited to sprawling wind farms only. Depending on local wind patterns some locations will offer greater efficiency than others.  We can install turbines in our homes even to meet our energy needs at a relatively low cost.

Cost effective 

The cost aspect also needs examination while discussing wind energy pros and cons. The production and operational costs associated with wind power generation are one of the lowest among other renewable energies. To date, wind energy is the most cost competitive renewable energy option on the market. In fact, wind energy’s cost has dropped so much over the years that it compares with many conventional power generation technologies. No fuels need to be mined and transported for wind power generation and the costs for staffing and maintenance are minimal.

Declining costs  

With increasing popularity of wind power and growing environmental concerns, the Global Wind Energy Council predicts global wind capacity will reach 536,000 MW by 2017, almost double its current size. Due to technology improvements and cost advantages realized from economies of scale, the cost of producing wind energy has steadily declined over the years and is expected to keep decreasing further with increasing volume of output. In fact according to a recent report the cost of energy for wind power has generally decreased more than 55% since 2009, and 15% in the last year alone.

Price stability

Unlike electricity prices from fossil fuels and nuclear power, which considerably fluctuate due to highly variable mining and transportation costs, wind power comes with a relatively fixed price, that likely to drop considerably over time.

Cons of wind energy

High initial investment

While discussing wind energy pros and cons the major disadvantage comes to the front is the high initial investment required for wind power. Even though the cost of wind power has declined considerably over the years, building a wind farm requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fuel generating plants. It requires a lot of open land to set up wind turbines. Suitable areas for wind farms are usually near the coast, where land is quite costly. On an average, development of wind power costs around $1.75 million per megawatt of generating capacity installed. About 80% of the investment goes to machinery purchase and balance 20% to procurement of land, site preparation and installation. To take advantage of economies of scale, capacity of wind power farm should be in excess of 20 MW. This means, assuming an average rating of wind turbine at 750 kilowatts, it will require installation of at least 26 turbines and an initial investment of $35 million dollars.

Unpredictable nature

Another disadvantages of wind power under the list of ‘wind enegy pros and cons’ is the unpredictable nature of wind flow. While conventional power stations can manage their production as they wish, generation of energy by wind turbines depends on the local air flow. If the weather is not in your favor and there is insufficient air flow, power production will drop to zero. Therefore, so long there is no cost-effective energy storage system to serve as backup, wind power is not suited as a base load power source. In order to meet energy demand with reliability, wind turbines have to be linked to standby power supplies. This will hopefully change with future innovation in energy storage technology or with integration of wind energy into the power grid, but it will likely remain the case for a while to come.

A Threat to Wildlife

Threat to wildlife is a major issue that needs mention while discussing wind enegy pros and cons. In the early days of wind power the blades of wind turbines sometimes posed a threat to Wildlife, particularly birds. Birds had a habit of bumping into the blades, and many even used to build their nests in the structures themselves. While bird strike is still a problem for wind farms it’s not nearly as serious as it was in the past. It’s more of a design challenge than a stubborn problem. Modern turbines are designed to operate at a higher efficiency than the earlier models i.e. supplying the same power while the blades spin at a much lower speed. With flat surfaces replacing the old girders, towers have also been redesigned to stop birds from nesting.

Wind turbine noise

The noise produced by wind turbines is a contentious issue that may need mention under wind energy pros and cons. There have been some concerns expressed regarding supposed health effects of noise from the wind turbines. Though wind turbines do not create extraordinary levels of sound which may have direct impact on physical health, modern turbine designs have significantly reduced whatever sounds, both mechanical and aerodynamic (i.e. from air moving past the blades), originating from the wind turbines. The wind farms are now comparatively quieter than other industrial facilities.

Conclusion

While wind power may not be an ideal solution to our energy needs, the wind energy pros and cons explained in the article clearly show that the pros of wind energy heavily outweigh the cons of wind energy. There is no denying that fossil fuel or nuclear power plants cannot be totally replaced by wind farms and it needs to be acknowledged that we will also need conventional power plants as backup when wind farms produce almost no electricity. Although wind energy can only supplement other sources of energy for now, it is clear from the list of pros and cons of wind energy mentioned in this post that this green power provides an endless supply of clean, renewable energy that can be produced cheaply and easily and can replace environmentally harmful energy sources, and is inexhaustible.

One Response to “Wind Energy Pros and Cons – expand your energy education”

  1. Cindy Tesler

    Nov 23. 2016

    Thanks for pointing out that wind power is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world. You also mention that using wind power will significantly decrease our dependence on fossil fuels. I think it’s a good idea to choose wind power, especially if you live in a canyon.

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