Everything You Need To Know About Wind Energy
Over the past decade, U.S. wind power has tripled, making wind energy the country’s largest renewable energy source. Today, you’ll find over 60,000 wind turbines operating across 41 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. These have a combined capacity of a spectacular 109,919 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Pretty impressive, right?
With so many questions about the utility and cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources, it’s natural to be curious about the viability of renewables. Read on as we discuss wind energy (also called wind power), along with how wind turbines generate electricity to power homes and other places around the world.
What Is Wind Energy?
Wind energy is a renewable energy that harnesses energy generated by wind through the use of wind turbines that convert it into electricity. Wind technically comes from the sun as a byproduct of differences in temperature. Wind is generated from the uneven heating of the atmosphere, mountains, valleys, and the planets revolve around the sun.
Pros and Cons of Wind Energy
Like all other forms of renewable energy, wind energy has its fair share of pros and cons. Certain renewable energies work better in different regions of the world for different reasons and circumstances. That’s why it’s important for consumers to know which works best for their part of the country.
Advantages of Wind Energy
Harnessing wind to generate energy has its advantages and is an efficient option for many different parts of the world since it doesn’t depend on direct sunlight exposure like solar energy.
1) Free Fuel
Since wind turbines themselves run strictly on the power of wind generated, there is no need for fuel. Once the turbine is complete and installed, it doesn’t need to be fueled or connected to power to continue working. This also reduces the overall cost to continue to run large-scale wind farms in comparison to other forms of renewable energies, which may require some energy investment.
2) One of the Cleanest Forms of Energy
Since wind energy doesn’t rely on fossil fuels to power the turbines, wind energy does not contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gases during energy production. The only time that wind energy indirectly releases greenhouse gases is during the manufacturing and transport of the wind turbines, as well as during the installation process. U.S. wind power lights homes and businesses with an infinitely available energy.
3) Advances in Technology
The latest advances in technology have transformed preliminary wind turbine designs into extremely efficient energy harvesters. Turbines are available in a wide range of sizes, increasing the market to many different types of businesses and by individuals for use at home on larger lots and plots of land. As technology improves, so do the functionalities of the structure itself, creating designs that will generate even more electricity, require less maintenance, and run more quietly and safely.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy
Although wind energy is a renewable, greener option of energy, it still has its disadvantages and limitations.
1) Dangerous to Some Wildlife
Wind turbines are known to pose a threat to the wildlife. Flying birds and bats whose habitats or migratory paths could be injured or killed if they run into the blades that turn on the fanlike structure of wind turbines when they are spinning. The deaths of birds and bats are a controversial subject at wind farm sites, which has raised concerns by fish and wildlife conservation groups. Aside from the wildlife that flies through the air, wildlife on the ground may also be affected by the noise pollution generated from whirring blades. Although wind turbines can cause problems for wildlife, other things such as skyscrapers and large windows are also hazardous and continue to be built without question or similar outcry.
Wind turbines can be quite noisy, which is why they’re mostly found in very rural areas where most people don’t live. Depending on the location of the turbine, such as offshore, noise isn’t an issue. With advancements in technology, newer designs have been shown to reduce the noise complaints and have a much quieter presence.
3) Expensive Upfront Cost
If you can imagine, these massive structures are often hundreds of feet tall and require substantial upfront investment. The placement of wind turbines in rural areas requires further investment in underground lines to send power to more populated areas like towns and cities where it’s needed. The majority of the cost is the initial installation and building stage, but after that, wind energy produces an endless supply of energy as long as there is wind.
Wind energy suffers from what is called intermittency, which is a disruption caused by the inconsistency of the wind itself. Since wind can blow at various speeds, it’s hard to predict the amount of energy it can collect at a given time. This means suppliers and cities need to have an energy reserve or alternative sources of power in case the winds die down for longer lengths of time.