Wind Energy: Pros and Cons | BiofuelsWatch.com

Wind Energy: Pros and Cons

Wind Energy: Pros and Cons

Due to unrestrained use, fossil fuels reserves are fast depleting. If predictions are to be believed, in a few years, there will be acute shortage of this non-renewable fuel. While the fossil fuels take millions of years to form, the most feasible option is to switch over to other renewable forms of energy like the wind energy. In simple words, wind energy is a modified form of solar energy.

The Earth is heated unevenly by the sun because of its shape. Whilst the equator gets maximum heat, the poles get the least amount of heat. Along with this, land heats up more quickly than the seas and oceans. This differential heating creates an atmospheric convection system between the earth’s surface and stratosphere, and the energy of the system is stored in the wind movement.
The energy from the wind can be harnessed via a wind turbine. As the changes in wind pressure occur, the blades of the turbine move. This results in the conversion of the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy. The latter is carried through the shaft of the turbine to the generator where it is converted into electrical energy and used for different purposes. Wind energy is the cleanest form of renewable energy. However, it is also associated with a number of pros and cons. Let’s take into consideration each one of them.

Eco-friendliness

The amount of land used for the construction of a wind turbine is an issue of debate. The advocates of wind energy state that the amount of land needed for building a windmill is only equal to the dimensions of its base. All the remaining space can be used for farming. According to them, the farmers can earn lots of money by renting out a portion of their land to companies that harness wind power. They can even build their own windmills and lease them out.
The opponents, on the other hand, believe that space occupied by the wind turbine is many times more than the dimensions of the base. Apart from the area occupied by the base, safety zone is needed, which should be least 5 acres. Besides this, all the trees within 30 acres should also be cleared. Transmission lines have to be laid and roads have to be built for the upkeep of the turbine. For one megawatt of power output approximately 50 acres of land would be needed.

Another issue of distress is the birds that are killed by the movement of the blades. Advocates of windmills state that hundreds of birds are also killed by pollution, planes, and other stationary structures. The opponents insist that the percentage of birds killed by windmills is far greater than those killed by pollution or planes. Noise is another disconcerting aspect of wind turbines. The blade movement produces a lot of noise.

wind energy pros and cons

Reliability

This is another issue of concern. The modern electrical grids are designed to operate efficiently 99.9% of the time; the remaining 0.1% of inefficiency can be easily handled. The situation is a bit different with regards to the wind turbines. They are operational only when the wind blows. Furthermore, if the wind doesn’t blow at constant rate, it becomes difficult to manage the power production. Unlike electrical grids, wind power is not dispatchable — it cannot be started immediately if the wind is not blowing.

Cost

Wind turbines do not require expensive boilers, reactors, engines and fuel, so they are relatively cheap. However, the money saved is spent on purchasing high-priced gearboxes, towers, propellers, electronic control systems and forth. Moreover, windmills have a capacity factor of 30 percent — if a wind turbine has one-megawatt power generation capacity, it will produce only 300-kilowatts of power. To maintain reliability, grid energy storage would be required to store energy produced on a windier day. Thus, the running cost of a wind turbine is somewhat high.

Availability

Windmills are typically built in sparsely populated areas. From there, the power has to be brought to those places where people are actually living. Transmission lines are used for power distribution, but they are also associated with transmission losses. To overcome this drawback, the cost of the wind power would increase further.

3 Comments »

  1.  
    concernedperson Says:

    Windmills should be built where the wind is best and will generate the most power. There is no reason why windmills cannot be put on top of city buildings, as well as in rular areas and on farms.

    If there is a problem with them standing up the windmills on the windmill farm (pradon the pun) should be connected together so that every windmill will be at a vetex of an equilateral triangle. This in my opinion would greatly increase the amount windmills that could be put on a given area of land. With regard to those that could be sited on top of city buildings a supporting tower might work best, or perhap guy wires like those attached to telphone poles to hold them up might suffice. These small modifications I believe will greatly increase the number of windmills that can be errected.

    Small backyard windmills should also be encouraged. The can be put up in only a few days while a wind farm takes years to become a reality.

    Enviromentalist that worry about birds flying into windmill, should not worry at all because the birds really are not stupid. As windmills become more common more bird will know to avoid them. If howevef you want to do something proactive in this regard, there should be a warning alarm that the only birds can hear and is of such a frequency such that it will not disturb people. There is a similar problem with regard to bats. In addition to the “silent” alarm, there should be a light on top of the windmills to warn birds at nignt.

    Windmills are considered unsightly by many people this problem can be eliminated by painting the windmill colors that will blend with the background scenery.

    It is important to be able to place the windmills as close as possible to where the electric power will be used. It is also important to incorporate technology that will enable the storage of the energy generated by the windmill so that the energy will be available when it is needed.

    Implementation of these suggestions will in my opinion do much to increase the viability of wind power generated electricity and an alternative form of energy.

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  2.  
    Monica Rafeedie Says:

    A friend of mine is ADAMANT that using too many windmills to harness energy will actually CHANGE the energy in the wind currents, enough that it will affect the climate as we know it.

    Is there anyone else out there who thinks this? Can this issue be addressed, and is this a valid point?

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  3.  
    gabrielchan Says:

    Monica:

    This is a point of concern that is beginning to be examined in the atmospheric science community. Research thus far seems to suggest that wind turbines will begin to effect climate at very large scale (on the order of terrawatts. If you are interested, a report by two esteemed MIT scientists is available here:

    http://globalchange.mit.edu/pubs/abstract.php?publication_id=1979

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