Knowing the pros and cons of wind energy can really help your business or household make the right decision in what concerns this technology. Renewable energy might be the future, but if your circumstances are not right, the benefits of wind power might not be worth its monetary value.
In order to avoid losing value by purchasing a wind farm, it’s important to carefully weigh the wind energy pros and the wind energy cons for your specific situation. In what follows, you can find out more about how wind turbines work, as well as their known benefits and drawbacks.
What is Wind Energy?
Humans have benefitted from wind power for as long as we can remember. Back in the 3,000 B.C., the first explorers of Oceania relied on the wind blowing in their sails to take them around the southern Pacific region. Sails may no longer be fast enough for our contemporary traveling demands, but the force of the wind still powers our lives. Today, we enjoy many wind energy advantages, but in entirely different ways. As we speak, the kinetic energy of powerful gusts turns thousands of propellers.
The basic operating principle of a wind turbine is the following: the system has a set of blades, which is connected to a generator with the help of a shaft. As the blades turn, the generator transforms the movement into electricity. At a glance, this seems like a fantastic deal, but there are also wind energy cons which ought to be taken into consideration. Advocates of traditional sources of power will often exaggerate these. Fortunately, we now have concrete data on the pros and cons of wind energy from multiple developed countries, including the United States.
Wind Energy Pros
Now that we know how electricity is generated, namely with the help of air currents, let’s take a look at several wind energy pros. What you have to keep in mind is that this is a continually developing technology, which makes this list by no means an exhaustive and comprehensive one, but rather a good starting point.
- Cost-Effectiveness. Few things compare to the price per kilowatt-hour that wind energy offers. Depending on the reliability of air currents in a certain region, as well as any financing options or tax rebates that might have contributed to a framework, wind power can cost anywhere from $0.2 to $0.6 cents per kWh. Even on the high end, it’s 40% cheaper than the average price U.S. citizens pay for their electricity. It’s even cheaper than solar panel kits!
- Job opportunities. With more and more activities being automated, it’s important to keep in mind whether a certain technology requires manpower. Fortunately, this is one of the core wind energy pros. Alongside cost-effectiveness, this is one of the biggest variables that tips the pros and cons of wind energy list in favor of the former. In 2016, wind employed over 100,000 workers, a number that the U.S. government projects will experience a six-fold increase by 2050. Wind turbine technician is also the second fastest-growing American jobs.
- Market Predictability. Because wind farms sell their energy at a fixed price over a sizeable timeframe, such as 15, 20, or 25 years, predictability is yet another of the wind energy pros that help stabilize the economy as a whole. Fuel costs are a major source of price fluctuation and, thus, market uncertainty. With air currents, there’s no fuel, which means we can benefit from more price predictability. The more certainty there is, the better it is for big buyers, household consumers, as well as new businesses. Everybody wins.
- Economic Growth. In the United States alone, wind energy had an annual economic impact of approximately $20 billion in the year 2017. This is a substantial industry with a ripple effect throughout economies and communities, yet the bulk of it remains largely unexplored. Many nations, including the U.S., have not explored the full extent of their domestic air current resources, nor their skilled workforce. In the past 10 years, American wind power capacity has increased by an average of 30% every year and is poised to attract even more capital in the future.
- Domestic, Anywhere. Another of the wind energy pros that is hard to counteract is the fact that there is an abundant and inexhaustible supply of it wherever you may be. Certainly, there’s more of it in some places than in others due to atmospheric conditions and geographic features, but it is a domestic source of power and it thus contributes to a household’s (in the case of home wind turbines), community’s, and even nation’s self-sufficiency. This is a form of supporting local businesses and native initiatives without resorting to highly polarizing protectionist policies.
- Clean and Renewable. Although for many, this is one of the wind energy pros that is less important, pollution is an immense global problem we all have to deal with. Wind power does not rely on any form of combustion that produces greenhouse emission. There are no toxic or environmentally harmful by-products that, in the case of other sources of electricity, pollute our air, water, or soil. There’s a reason why they say renewable energy is the future and that’s because it is a sustainable way of generating electricity that does not destroy the environment.
- Boosting Rural Economies. Wind farms often have to be placed in remote areas, in the vicinity of rural communities, and usually far away from urban establishments. With the help of these installations, countryside communities can prosper once more through property taxes. In Minnesota, for example, each 100 MW of wind development resulted in over $1 million every year from property tax revenue and a good $250,000 over the same period in direct payments to those who own the land.
This is the part of the pros and cons of wind energy where we take a closer look at the latter. Sure, there are numerous benefits, but without carefully considering wind energy cons, we run the risk of misrepresenting facts. Here’s a complete list of the challenges that wind power has yet to overcome:
- Competition. Conventional generation sources are the biggest obstacle to wind energy growth. For a business that is looking for the simplest, most affordable energy solution, wind energy is not exactly the most competitive option right now, no matter how many benefits it can offer over extended periods of time (including high energy generation capacity).
- Initial Cost. Many organizations are put off by the high up-front cost of purchasing and maintaining a wind farm. The fact that the bulk of our research finances have gone towards traditional sources of power means that wind energy is far from reaching its potential in terms of affordable construction costs, reliability, and energy production. A 50 kW system can cost anywhere from $250,000 to $300,000, while a MW can range anywhere between $1-2 million.
- Noise. High-efficiency turbines, such as horizontal axis ones, cannot be placed in proximity residential areas due to the noise and vibrations they give off. This can be a major wind energy con for those looking to become energy independent and have a limited space to do this, although their environmental impact is close to negligible. For domestic purposes, vertical axis models are better suited. Furthermore, a noteworthy percentage of citizens see wind farms as a form of aesthetic pollution.
- Remoteness. Cities and urban areas are not hospitable places for harnessing the power of air currents. It’s not just the noise and vibrations given off by the framework, but also the fact that good wind sites are often located on the coast, in the plains, or in other areas that are generally remote. This means that massive electricity transmission lines are frequently required in order to get the power from the turbine system to where it’s needed the most. However, as we’ve shown in the pros, this is one of the wind energy cons that might actually benefit us.
Sail Before the Wind
This concludes our list of pros and cons of wind energy. As can be inferred, wind energy advantages far outweigh its disadvantages. Research and development into this industry will likely make it even more attractive in the years to come, both for commercial and domestic purposes. Over long periods of time, electricity is cheap and easy to make by letting the wind blow in our sails, as can be seen from the multitude of governmental initiatives around the world. Whether we agree with it or not, wind energy is here to stay.
Although it’s difficult to claim one advantage that rules them all, the cumulative effect of all the positive changes that wind turbines bring to our lives and communities can be considered its biggest benefit. Countries like Iceland, Sweden, and Denmark are leading the way in terms of relying on sustainable, non-polluting technologies, with either all or a significant part of their electricity being generated in an environmentally friendly way.
Whether through wind, solar, geothermal, or hydroelectric means, our world is rapidly headed towards a greener future. In particular, the pros and cons of wind energy are worth discussing because people are yet unaware of the full economic, environmental, and social impact that renewable energy has on our world.