Wind Energy Pros and Cons
A Clean and Renewable Resource
The wind is a source of free, clean, non-polluting, electricity. Wind turbines emit no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. Wind energy is also a renewable resource. No matter how much is used today, there will still be the same supply in the future.
The Potential of Wind Energy
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, in 1990, California’s wind power plants offset the emission of more than 2.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, and 15 million pounds of other pollutants. It would take a forest of 90 million to 175 million trees to offset those emissions. Wind power is growing at a promising rate of 25% per year. Wind energy has the potential to offer 20 times more electricity than is needed by the entire human population.
The Cost of Wind Energy
Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically, the technology still requires a higher initial investment than most fossil-fuel generators. Roughly 80% of the cost is the machinery, with the balance being site preparation and installation. However, if wind energy systems are compared with fossil- fuel based systems on a life-cycle cost basis, wind energy costs are much more competitive—there is no fuel to purchase and the operational costs associated with wind energy are very low.
Wind is a Fluctuating Resource
The main challenge to using wind as a source of power is that the wind doesn’t always blow when electricity is needed. The wind also cannot be stored, although wind-generated electricity can be stored if batteries are used.
Wind turbines have relatively little impact on the environment, especially when compared to fossil fuels. That said:
- Wind turbines can be a threat to birds and bats, although they kill far fewer birds than tall buildings with reflective glass.
- Noise is sometimes reported as a problem by neighboring homes.
- How wind turbines look is a legitimate concern for some people.
Most of these problems can be resolved or greatly reduced through technological advances and by properly siting wind turbines.
For More Information
Much additional information on wind energy science and technology and wind energy development issues is available online. Visit these links:
- US Department of Energy: Wind Energy Technologies Page
- The American Wind Energy Association
- The Danish Wind Industry Association