Wind energy is one of the most useful and inexpensive forms of energy. However, it is not the perfect energy source. Read on to know more about where wind energy scores and loses points.
The rapid depletion of natural and non-renewable resources, such as petroleum and natural gas, has led mankind to search for other efficient and long-lasting sources of energy to meet its colossal demands.
In the modern times, much of the world runs on electricity, which is produced from various sources. Using wind power to produce electricity is one of the relatively modern sources of energy, although it has been used for centuries for different purposes, such as agriculture and transport.
Today, many countries, including the likes of the United States, Spain, India and Germany, make extensive use of wind energy to generate electricity. Along with solar power and hydroelectric energy, wind energy has often been promoted as one of the best sources of energy.
Despite its obvious, well-documented, and tirelessly promoted set of advantages, wind energy inevitably falls short at some barriers. Here’s a brief summary of the advantages and disadvantages.
Here are some of the ways in which wind energy proves beneficial.
The biggest benefit of wind energy is that it generates electricity while not releasing any harmful pollutants or greenhouse gases as byproducts. This makes it a safe and clean source of energy.
Wind energy is also one of the cheapest forms of energy available today and therefore it can be used by everyone. Financially, all it needs is a start-up investment in a wind turbine. If the conditions — constant wind speed, constant unidirectional wind flow — are ideal, the setup will start to pay for itself in just a few months.
Farmers can not only use the electricity for themselves, but (in some countries, including the US) can also earn a surplus out of it, by providing electricity to others. If your turbines produce more electricity than you need, you can pass it into the grid and receive monetary concessions on your own power bill.
Wind energy does not involve the use of any fossil fuels or non-renewable sources of energy like natural gas, coal or oil, during any operation. Even harvesting wind energy on a large scale in the form of massive wind farms doesn’t require any raw material to be transported (apart from the turbines themselves), and thus don’t require extensive usage of fossil fuels.
Wind is a renewable, or never-ending resource. Therefore power cuts and power failures are almost non-existent in areas that rely upon wind power and have the ideal conditions to generate electricity.
Wind energy does have some notable shortcomings. Let us now look at the flip side of the coin.
Wind turbines can get damaged or completely destroyed if hit by a storm or a powerful lightning.
Wind energy helps solve electricity problems up to a large extent, but it does not eliminate it completely. Producing large amounts of electricity from wind requires a large area. Wind energy units on most residential estates can only fulfill the electricity needs partially. Farmers, however, can have much better results by utilizing a sizable share of their land.
Wind does not necessarily flow in the same speed all the time. Therefore, the production of electricity does not always remain consistent. There might be ups and downs depending upon the speed of the wind. This inconsistency in electricity production means that wind energy cannot maintain continuous production of large amounts of electricity, rendering it impracticable to be used to power cities. If paired with another source of energy, such as solar power, the fluctuations can be largely negated.
There have been instances in the past where the rotating blades of the turbines have proved fatal for birds and bats that happened to hit it. Even so, this is a rare occurrence, since birds have an excellent eyesight, and bats’ echolocation system is just as good, if not better.
Wind turbines, on an average, make a sound of about 50-60 decibels. The slower the wind’s speed, the louder is the sound produced. As the wind speed increases, the turbine functions more smoothly. Arguably, the constant drone can be considered a nuisance.
Although this is a matter of individual perception, some people think that a wind turbine ruins the aesthetic appeal of the countryside, where wind farms are generally located. If the issue concerns a turbine in an urban neighborhood, this is not an problem if the neighborhood decides to install a windmill unanimously. But if you intend to go it alone, it’s probably a good idea to check if it’s okay with your neighbors.
Wind turbines cannot be installed just anywhere. You need to place them in areas which constantly receive enough wind speed to make proper use of your turbine and to generate enough energy. If the turbines can’t recoup their installation charges in a practically small amount of time, one of the major advantages of wind energy is directly negated.
Like other alternative power sources, such as solar, hydropower, and nuclear energy, wind energy remains an excellent alternative source, but has largely failed to cement its place as the primary source of power. The major drawback hampering technological upgrades in wind energy is that shortcomings in wind energy are mostly irreparable. For instance, solar panels can be made more efficient, nuclear power can be made safer, and hydroelectricity can be made less problematic, but wind turbines will always have to maintain an equilibrium between structural rigidity and lightness. Also, fluctuations in the wind are much more frequent and unpredictable than, say, the heat received from the sun, or the amount of water flowing through a river.
Nevertheless, science and the ultra-fertile brain of man has come up with solutions for problems far worse than overcoming the niggles in maximizing the output from the power of the wind. As they say, necessity is the mother of invention, and if wind energy can be reinvented in a way that makes fossil fuels obsolete, that will be a grand slam indeed.