Wind Energy Pros and Cons
Energy is a major concern for people everywhere. Populations and energy consumption continue to grow while conventional, non-renewable sources of energy spring from limited resources. Combined, these trends have the potential to significantly impact the quality of life and economic growth in the future.
To bridge the current and anticipated gap in energy and consumption, we are turning more and more to alternative sources.
The focus of these efforts lies in renewable sources of energy. The benefits of these energy sources include their sustainable nature, lower environmental impact, and wider availability. The purpose of this article is to show some of the potential pros and cons of wind energy, but we do not claim this to be exhaustive or a full description of each and every issue, we seek to provide a conversational view on this subject and hope you see it that way.
A look at wind energy pros and cons provides some insight into the current status of renewable energy.
Pros of Wind Energy
Economical Advantages of Wind Energy
1. Job Creation
In 2017, the wind energy sector accounted for about 200,000 jobs in the United States. Current projections estimate that this number will rise to 250,000 jobs sometime in 2020. Also, wind energy infrastructure needs to be built. This creates jobs wherever construction takes place. Whole projects can take years to finish and of course, there is the maintenance and upkeep to consider. Then, there are the manufacturing jobs as well, the project of the materials needed to build the facility as well as maintain them should be considered as well. (Source: American Wind Association)
(Image Source: American Wind Association)
2. Rural Benefits
In rural areas where open space is a more available resource, wind energy can have a significant impact. Communities far from urban power grids can benefit from locally produced wind energy. While each situation will be different, urban areas can even see a lower cost of energy due to the offset the local wind warm produces.
3. Off-grid Potential
Another of the pros of wind energy for rural areas is the potential for energy independence. Homes and facilities located far from power grid hubs can use wind energy to enhance their self-reliance.
3. A Clean Financial Boost to the Economy
As wind energy currently stands, it has a total economic impact of over 20 billion US dollars, but it is expected to reach 24 billion dollars or more by the end of 2020.
(Image Source: American Wind Association)
Environmental Advantages of Wind Energy
Let’s start with the biggest one here. Wind energy is sustainable. As long as the earth is spinning and weather systems are moving, a wind will be blowing. It is a resource waiting to be tapped. Any discussion of wind energy pros and cons needs to acknowledge that.
While we understand and discuss later in this article, that wind varies in terms of its presence and strength, but that doesn’t remove the very large benefits to utilizing the inexhaustible resource that is the wind. Strategic placement of wind farms and improvements in the technologies ability to harness the energy the wind generates promises to greatly reshape the energy pollution issues we are currently facing.
Wind energy is also more environmentally friendly than fossil fuels. Construction and materials used to build windmills and their networks represent the bulk of their carbon footprint. This impact is later recouped by the positive environmental effects of wind energy. Wind energy itself produces no air or water pollution. (Source: National Geographic)
1. Space Savings
While contemporary windmills might seem large, they take up less space than big solar collection facilities. This is, of course, referring to the fact that solar farms are closely spaced panels that can take up a lot of space if arranged in a large solar farm, of course, the overall space taken by a wind farm is greater in some cases but, within reason, the space between the windmills is still open and usable for certain purposes.
2. Growing Possibilities
Like other emerging technologies, the pros of wind energy include more possibilities as technology develops. Residential wind production could be as common as rooftop solar panels, for example.
New advancements in wind turbine technology have allowed for changes to the overall size and shape of windmills. There are even efforts to develop bladeless wind power that promises new changes to the wind energy industry as a whole.
Potential Cons of Wind Energy
Economical Disadvantages of Wind Energy
1. Upfront Costs for Wind Energy Development
One of the primary cons of wind energy is the cost associated with constructing wind energy facilities. The job creation and future carbon benefits can offset this factor, but the need for significant upfront investment remains a reality for companies seeking to make this kind of energy more mainstream.
“The costs for a utility-scale wind turbine range from about $1.3 million to $2.2 million per MW of nameplate capacity installed. Most of the commercial-scale turbines installed today are 2 MW in size and cost roughly $3-$4 million installed.” – Windustry
The tax benefits that have been instituted for companies involved in these efforts, as well as the improvement in the technology that has made it easier to construct the needed facilities, have made the whole endeavor much more affordable.
2. Cost Effective Use of Land
While no one would probably like to think this way, the city, state, or landowner would probably stand to make more money by developing the land in question for either housing or business. Of course, this only applies to certain plots of land but it is still something officials and landowner are expected to consider when deciding how to use the land allotted to them.
Environmental Disadvantages of Wind Energy
1. Effect On Wildlife
We find this argument to be a bit of a stretch but it should be stated for full transparency. There are reported issues of birds being killed by flying into the spinning blades, but as far as we are aware, this isn’t causing massive losses. It has also been pointed out that in some cases that the development of these facilities would be taking up more space, but since these facilities are best suited for large open areas it is not something that has been shown to cause true problems. (Wikipedia page detailing effect on wildlife in comparison to other energy production facilities.)
Also, as demonstrated by CBS This Morning below, the new California solar farm is also under scrutiny for its ability to kill birds mid-flight due to the immense heat produced by the facility’s vertical mirrors.
While wind energy technology continues to improve, one of the cons of wind energy is the noise that windmills produce. This can be less of an issue in open, rural areas, but if wind energy is to be expanded, particularly in urban settings, but to be honest the only people we can find that have submitted actual complaints about this lived within a mile of a windmill farm, so we are talking about a very small affected area. (Here is a video we found for your reference Click here to go to YouTube)
3. Eye of the Beholder
Finally, the appearance of a conventional windmill sparks debate. Some love their futuristic look, while others consider them to be eyesores blighting the surrounding scenery. As wind energy grows, the design may take aesthetics into consideration almost as much as efficiency.
Like so many things in life, wind energy pros and cons come down to trade-offs. Some of the cons can be addressed as technology advances. Ultimately, the balance of wind energy pros and cons comes down to the consumers who make the choice to make the leap or not. One thing that seems to be certain is that wind energy is on the rise. To learn more and to explore options, sign up for Kiwi Energy. The future of energy can be yours.
General Disadvantages of Wind Energy
1. Unpredictable Energy Source
A flipside to one of the pros of wind energy is the fact that wind is unpredictable. While wind will always be an environmental reality, knowing when and how much a given area will get remains as reliable as next month’s weather forecast.
But this has been a known issue for a long time now and significant R&D has been put into this issue and the solution is already showing signs of removing this as a con entirely. Energy storage is the key to offsetting the less windy days by effectively and efficiently storing the excess energy stored during the more windy days. (See our post detailing energy storage options here)
2. Better for Some Locations than Others
Another of the cons of wind energy to counter its pros is the fact that wind energy is great for some places and less so for others. Rural communities stand to benefit greatly, while there is currently less benefit to cities where space is at more of a premium. Of course, discussing wind energy pros and cons, we might acknowledge that there might not be a universal solution that will cover the entire earth, and that’s okay. That’s why there other renewable energy sources, like solar, that are more custom fit for the needs of a given area. Wind turbines, as pictured below, can also be placed in a variety of unique areas such as open water that other energy production means are not viable for.
No matter what you are looking at, you can always make a list of pros and cons. It doesn’t matter how great something is, you can always find something about it that will be viewed as negative by someone somewhere.
The important thing to realize here is that you need to identify when the pros greatly outweigh any cons that may exist. As we have delineated above, even the cons of wind energy that honestly used to be more significant, are mere inconveniences at this point. When you look at what we are facing in the world today, it is clear that when considering the pros and cons of wind energy the pros greatly outweigh the cons, by a long shot.