Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

The advantages and disadvantages of wind energy leave many divided. In our quest to reduce carbon emissions, we are now generating more and more electricity from an increasing number of renewable energy sources. The second-largest type of renewable energy by capacity is wind energy. (after hydropower)

The wind is a never-ending source and one that we increasingly rely on. In the same way as solar power, there is a limitless supply of electricity from wind. Of course, there are advantages and disadvantages to wind energy.

The disadvantages can be particularly apparent when the wind is not blowing. However, throughout the history of wind energy, it's continued to develop as engineers look to improve efficiency and output consistency6.

Wind energy is crucial in our march to cleaner energy sources

Generating electricity from the wind is almost carbon-free. If we can convert the wind to electricity, store it and use it, we can reduce the need to use other polluting energy sources. Making the switch is where we might face a problem.

To generate clean electricity on a wide scale is a challenge but one we have to face. Many governments around the world are now making it their goal to reduce greenhouse gases emitted by burning coal, oil, and natural gas to meet our energy needs. As targets are put in place to become carbon neutral, we must turn to cleaner energy sources such as wind.

There is no other way to look at it. As the facts about wind energy show, it's a crucial source for our renewable energy future. It can supply enough energy for us to thrive. With this in mind, we should identify the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy.

Advantages of Wind Energy

1. It is a green energy source

Using the wind as a source of energy will not pollute the environment. In comparison to fossil fuels, wind power is cleaner and readily available. We cannot ignore wind turbine manufacturing, installation, and transportation. However, once installed, there are no emissions. This makes it extremely green and clean.

2. The power of the wind could generate all our energy needs

Potentially wind power could generate all of our future electricity needs8. In fact, teams of scientists have found that global generating potential is more than 400 Terawatts. It is possible to harness the wind anywhere it blows with the correct technology.

When you consider the potential of onshore wind farms and offshore wind farms, wind energy looks set to grow on a massive scale. This raises the prominence of the debate on the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy even further.

3. It is Renewable

The entire push to switch to wind energy is because it is a renewable source of energy. One of the clear wind energy pros is that the wind occurs naturally, so we cannot use up the resources. Therefore, it behaves differently from fossil fuels.

The wind originates from the sun, so as long as the sun shines, we will always have wind. According to scientists, the sun is likely to burn for another 5 billion years providing ample opportunity for generating electricity cleanly. The future of fossil fuels is very different in contrast.

4. Wind Energy Uses Space Efficiently

The largest wind turbines have the ability to generate enough electricity to power around 1500 homes2. While many see a wind turbine as a blot on the landscape, they do not render the land around them unusable.

Due to their size, we cannot place wind turbines too close together. Therefore, farms can install wind turbines instead of using solar panels to generate solar energy4. And cattle, for example, can still graze in their footprint.

5. It is a Growing Technology

We now realize just how vital wind energy is. Despite this, wind only accounts for 4.8% of total worldwide energy production. However, the capacity is growing, and with this comes lower production costs. As a result, a reduction in CO2 and greenhouse gas emissions versus the same capacity generated using fossil fuels follows.

Wind energy is not a new renewable energy source. However, in contrast to hydropower, for example, it is still young. There is still plenty of room for wind technology to grow and evolve1. As technology improves, wind power plants will become more efficient at electricity generation7.

To add to this, once we find a way to store this energy reliably and on a large scale, we can better manage any variations in production. Improving renewable energy battery storage supports this motivation.

As a result, today, science works hard to improve battery and energy storage technology to keep up with demand. Storage will further allow us to increase the adoption of wind farm energy and increase its use in place of traditional energy sources.

6. Decrease in Prices

Since the 1980s, the cost of wind power has dropped by 80%. This is down to several reasons. The first is how advancements have been made in production.

The manufacturing and development process is now more efficient. This has driven prices down. Along with this, we see an increase in demand. Manufacturing larger volumes results in keener prices at the point of installation.

As governments, utility companies, and businesses are looking to reduce greenhouse gases, they now choose more wind. Uptake driven by awareness, policy, and legislation has further helped reduce prices. The result is wind energy is forecast to become cheaper and more cost-effective in the future9.

7. Reduction in Operational Costs

The main cost that we associate with wind energy is the cost of manufacturing and installation. Once turbines have been put in place, the operating costs generating energy are lower.

Yes, they require maintenance, but the technology behind them turning kinetic energy into electricity is fairly simple. Therefore, unlike other energy sources, they do not require constant monitoring or human resources to continue generating electricity with low operating costs.

Further, as wind energy continues to grow, it creates employment away from the dirty drilling, mining, and processing of fossil fuels. In the US, the role of wind turbine technician is the second fastest growing job.

8. Domestic Potential

Installing wind small wind turbines at home can provide e3nergy independence from the grid. We're likely to see a lot more at-home energy generation as efficiency, storage and costs improve. Photo Credit: David Blaikie on Flickr. CC BY 2.0

We all see large turbines that sit on the top of mountains where they harness wind power. However, the great thing about wind energy is that homeowners have the potential to generate their own electricity.

While most people rely on the energy that power plants generate, people can generate their own wind power in the right circumstances. Of course, at this moment in time, it is probably not a 100% solution to energy needs at home. At times of low wind, power typically still needs to be drawn from the grid,  but the potential is there.

Moreover, some countries allow people to feed back energy into the grid. Therefore, they can also receive credit for doing so, helping to reduce their energy bills. It also means they reduce the energy we create with fossil fuels, ultimately reducing greenhouse gases.

Coupled with increased energy efficiency, small-scale wind turbines may power many more of our homes independently of the grid in the future.

The Disadvantages of Wind Energy

1. It is Inconsistent

If we are going to switch to renewable energy sources, they need to be reliable. As we are all aware, there are days when the wind blows more than others. This is where wind energy can struggle to compete.

Wind turbines are great at generating a lot of energy when the wind blows. However, when there is no wind or the wind speed is insufficient, and the turbines are not turning, there is no energy being made. Despite this, as battery storage technology improves, so too will the consistency of power from wind energy alone3.

2. It Can Prove Costly

One of the disadvantages of wind energy is that it can cost a lot of money. Whether large wind farms or small-scale residential turbines, installing wind turbines costs a lot of money. The wind energy industry often requires financial incentives to install wind farms. This allows the wind industry to generate electricity by competing, and even removing fossil fuels.

Despite this, improving technology and increasing popularity are helping to reduce costs across the wind energy sector.

3. Problems for Wildlife

This is a problem for many as installing wind turbines can cause problems for wildlife. So, the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy can prove a subject of debate.

On the one hand, it can help to reduce carbon emissions. However, on the other hand, wind farms can have a real impact on wildlife and nature5. The installation of wind farms can disturb the natural habitat of animals. In addition to this, the number of birds being killed by the turbines is on the rise.

7. Noise Can Be a Problem

For those of us who can see wind turbines in the distance, we have no idea just how much noise they produce. People who live near them can suffer from noise problems. Offshore wind turbines offshore can prove a better option for noise. Needless to say, new models will become quieter as technology advances.

8. Appearance

The appearance of wind farms often leaves people divided in opinion. Some like them, others don't. There is no doubt that wind farms and wind turbines are an unnatural addition to the landscape.

Arguably, one of the cons of wind energy is that turbines are not particularly great-looking and they can detract from the beauty around them. If they are installed in rural areas away from people or offshore, then we can reduce the visual impact.

The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy Are Clear

As we search for new energy sources, we have to consider all options. The advantages and disadvantages of wind energy are clear, but with technological advancements, it seems as though wind energy is a likely contender.

The future is exciting, even with the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy leaving it open to some debate. Energy storage technology continues to improve, as does the efficiency of wind systems and the cost of installation. The inevitable improvements and developments will mitigate some of the concerns.

There is no doubt that we have to replace fossil fuels. We have been causing damage to the environment for too long. Now is the time to make a change, and wind will continue to play a key role.

Old Wind Mills at SunSet
Windmills have been around for 1000s of years. Whereas the modern electricity-generating versions may not be as majestic as the advantages outweigh the disadvantages they are likely to be a more and more common sight. Photo Credit: Photo by Malcolm Lightbody on Unsplash

 

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Offshore Wind Outlook 2019, International Energy Agency, IEA

9María Isabel Blanco, The economics of wind energy, Renewable and Sustainable Energy Reviews, Volume 13, Issues 6–7, 2009, Pages 1372-1382, ISSN 1364-0321, https://doi.org/10.1016/j.rser.2008.09.004.
Photo by Harry Cunningham on Unsplash
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