People remain skeptical yet optimistic about turbines, as there are wind energy pros and cons. It’s amongst tough competition, such as solar energy and biomass.
The future of sustainable energy remains the fastest-growing industry. Does wind energy stand a chance amongst the rest?
Let’s dive into the pros and cons of wind energy.
1. Wind Power Increases Domestic Sources of Energy
As of 2019, wind energy exceeded hydroelectricity as the most-used electricity generation source in the U.S (1). China has the largest portion of onshore wind energy. Both China and the United States increased their domestic wind energy, accounting for 60% of the world’s onshore additions (2).
Governments promoting favorable policies and regulations increased the demand for domestic wind power.
Domestic use of wind power is expected to increase because of its lower cost over offshore energy. This great video from CNBC expands on the potential impact wind power can have on our overall domestic energy production:
2. Wind Energy is Cost-Effective
These key factors contribute to the cost-effectiveness of wind energy (3):
- Wind power capacity is increasing at a vigorous pace
- Bigger turbines produce more energy while lowering costs
- Reduced turbine pricing is fueling low installation costs
- Wind energy prices reaching historical lows
- Lower costs than fossil fuels
- Wind is free
The supply chain and parts continue to reduce costs, while the industry continues to increase jobs.
3. Wind Power Creates Jobs
In the United States alone, the industry projects 600,000 jobs by 2050 (4).
Amongst China, the U.S., Brazil, the European Union, and India, there are over 1 million wind energy jobs (5). Job creation exhibits why renewable energy is important, as renewables employ 11.5 million people worldwide and counting (6).
4. Wind Energy is a Clean Fuel Source
Wind power does not produce air pollution (7).
Traditional power plants emit harmful emissions that produce acid rain, and smog; this makes them harmful to both people and the environment.
5. Wind Energy is Sustainable for the Future
Wind energy is a form of solar power (8), involving three events:
- The sun heating the atmosphere unevenly
- Earth’s surface and its irregularities
- Earth’s rotation
Wind power does have challenges, as it’s an interchanging field (9). Charles Meneveau, a Mechanical Engineer, and wind energy expert put it best when he said this:
Eiffel used rudimentary knowledge about wind speed distributions while designing the tower that bears his name. Now imagine the challenges of designing and building Eiffel Tower–sized devices with fast moving parts, the blades.
While challenging, as long as the wind is around, wind energy will continue to grow as a potential sustainable energy source.
6. Wind Turbines Can Help Farmers and Ranchers
The best wind sites remain to be rural areas (10).
Wind power plant owners can pay rental fees to farmers to use their land, giving them extra income. Ranches and farmers can still work, as wind farms will occupy part of the land.
1. Wind Power Competes with the Reliability of Conventional Power
While fossils fuels contribute to air pollution, they are the most reliable in powering households. About 77% of Americans believe it’s important to explore alternative energy sources (11). However, fossil fuels still dominate the market. The United States still contributes most of its domestic production in energy in natural gas and petroleum.
Coal has declined while solar and wind increased, allowing wind power to remain a future energy source.
Fossil fuel price increases may open present wind power an opportunity if it remains a cheaper alternative.
2. Wind Sites May Be Limited Geographically
When you’re looking for the top wind energy pros and cons, you have to mention the inconvenient fact that the wind does not blow strong enough everywhere.
For instance, in the United States, most wind sites are in five states (12):
These states produced 60% of the total wind electricity in the U.S.
3. Wind Power Plants Raise Noise and Aesthetic Concerns
The most common complaint amongst residents is the noise. Turbines tend to be in remote areas amongst rural communities. Curtailing is an option to alleviate these disturbances, which limits nuisances (13). Scientist Jonathan Rogers explains this further in his recent article:
Wind farms impact local residences and wildlife through sound emissions, shadow flicker, visual impact, and encroachment on the habitats of birds, bats, and other species. As a result, wind energy developers are spending increasing effort working with communities and permitting authorities to mitigate these impacts and gain community buy‐in for development activities.
That said, by setting limits within a community during the night, noise pollution may reduce. Wind turbines also can be an eyesore on vast landscapes.
4. Wind Turbines Historically Harms Wildlife
Wind power contributes to bat fatalities across the globe (14).
Bats help the environment as natural pest control. Birds also are harmed yearly by wind turbines. Experts are unsure why these fatalities occur but continue to find solutions to alleviate this issue.
5. Solar Energy Triumphs Over Wind Energy
The number of solar energy solutions are growing rapidly, just barely breezing by wind energy. Solar energy can occur in most areas where the sun shines. Wind power requires an intricate location with decent wind speeds.
Until wind energy builds a better sail, solar energy will be more viable for most U.S. homes.
How Efficient Is Wind Energy?
Wind energy is becoming more efficient than fossil fuels because of its low cost, and increasing capacity.
Plus, it’s much cleaner than fossil fuels. Other sources produce more power than wind due to their current convenience, but the landscape is changing rapidly. This guide on the most efficient renewable energy sources details this further.
How Clean is Wind Energy?
Wind energy is a clean source of power because it does not emit any harmful substances, and the wind is free! Compared to the energy produced from fossil fuels, which require the burning of a finite resource, wind energy uses what the Earth naturally provides in a more sustainable way.
Can Wind Energy Generate Enough Power for a Home?
Yes, wind energy can definitely generate enough power for a home, depending on the location. The average home will require around 867 kilo-watt hours of electricity annually, and with the right set up, wind energy can more than shoulder the load (15).
- Wind has surpassed hydro as most-used renewable electricity generation source in U.S. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/todayinenergy/detail.php?id=42955
- Wind Power Market Size, Share Industry Report, 2020 – 2027. Retrieved from https://www.grandviewresearch.com/industry-analysis/wind-power-industry
- Report Confirms Wind Technology Advancements Continue to Drive Down the Cost of Wind Energy. Retrieved from https://newscenter.lbl.gov/2019/08/26/report-confirms-wind-technology-advancements-continue-to-drive-down-the-cost-of-wind-energy/
- Wind Vision | Department of Energy. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/maps/wind-vision
- Jobs in Renewable Energy, Energy Efficiency, and Resilience (2019). Retrieved from https://www.eesi.org/papers/view/fact-sheet-jobs-in-renewable-energy-energy-efficiency-and-resilience-2019
- Renewable Energy Jobs Continue Growth to 11.5 million Worldwide. Retrieved from https://www.irena.org/newsroom/pressreleases/2020/Sep/Renewable-Energy-Jobs-Continue-Growth-to-11-5-Million-Worldwide
- Wind Power. Retrieved from https://www.nationalgeographic.com/environment/article/wind-power
- How Do Wind Turbines Work? Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/how-do-wind-turbines-work
- Wind energy expert says the industry’s future requires an interdisciplinary approach. Retrieved from https://hub.jhu.edu/2019/10/18/charles-meneveau-future-wind-energy/
- Wind Resource Assessment and Characterization | Department of Energy. Retrieved from https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-resource-assessment-and-characterization
- Fossil fuels still dominate U.S. energy, but renewables growing fast. Retrieved from https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/01/15/renewable-energy-is-growing-fast-in-the-u-s-but-fossil-fuels-still-dominate/
- Where wind power is harnessed. Retrieved from https://www.eia.gov/energyexplained/wind/where-wind-power-is-harnessed.php
- Optimal strategies for wind turbine environmental curtailment. Retrieved from https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1002/we.2489
- How are bats affected by wind turbines? Retrieved from https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-are-bats-affected-wind-turbines
- How much wind energy does it take to power an average home? Retrieved from: https://www.usgs.gov/faqs/how-much-wind-energy-does-it-take-power-average-home