Quick summary: As with any resource, wind energy has advantages and disadvantages that need to be considered as we expand our use of it. 

What Is Wind Energy?

Wind energy is a power source harnessed through wind turbines, which collect kinetic energy and convert it into electricity. Also known as eolic energy, wind is generated from the combination of the uneven heating of the atmosphere, the earth’s irregular surfaces like mountains and valleys, and the planet’s revolution around the sun. 

Uneven heating creates areas of high pressure and low pressure, and these differences in pressure create wind. When cool, dense air and warm air are near each other, the cool air replaces the warm air, causing wind. 

What is Wind Energy Used For?

Humans use wind power for a variety of purposes. Sails have been used to propel ships for millennia. Windmills used for tasks like grinding grain have been around for over a thousand years. Wind-powered pumps have been used to draw water from the ground for centuries.  

But it’s just been within the last several decades that we’ve learned how to use wind to generate electricity. 

How Does a Wind Turbine Work?

A turbine is a piece of machinery that rotates to perform some type of work. In the context of power and electricity generation, a wind turbine spins metal blades connected to a drive shaft that turns a generator to produce electricity. 

Conventional power plants work by burning a fossil fuel that heats water, producing steam. That steam is used to turn a turbine, producing energy. Similarly, electricity is produced in the wind energy sector when wind rotates the turbine’s blades. 

When wind turbines produce enough electricity, they can be connected to the power grid and used anywhere electricity is needed. In other words, wind energy is used for generating electricity the same way the energy from fossil fuels or any other energy source is used. 

Is Wind Energy Renewable?

Along with solar, wind power generation is one of the most readily available renewable energy sources. Renewable energy is derived from natural sources that are replenished at a higher rate than they are consumed. Using some of that naturally occurring clean energy does not impact the processes that produce it. Solar energy doesn’t take anything away from the sun, and wind energy doesn’t prevent more wind from blowing. 

That’s in contrast to fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which are finite resources. Though we’re not in immediate danger of running out of those energy sources, their finite nature and the environmental problems they cause, like air and water pollution, which affect the surrounding environment, and climate change, make their use an unsustainable solution. 

Now that we’ve provided some context, let’s review some pros and cons of the wind energy industry. 

What Are the Pros and Cons of Wind Energy?

Like all other forms of clean energy, wind energy has its advantages and disadvantages. One renewable energy source might work better in certain regions than other renewable energy sources, so it’s helpful for consumers to know which type of clean energy is most abundant in their part of the country. 

What Are Some of the Positives of Wind Energy?

Like solar energy, harnessing wind to generate power has many advantages. They include the following: 

1) There’s Free Fuel

Wind turbines run on wind power, which is very cost-effective. Once the turbine is built and installed, it doesn’t need to be fueled or connected to power in order to operate. This also reduces the carbon footprint and the overall cost to continue to run large-scale wind farms in comparison to other types of renewable energy, which may require some energy investment. 

2) It’s One of the Cleanest Forms of Energy

Is wind renewable? The answer is a resounding yes. Since the wind energy industry doesn’t rely on fossil fuels to power the turbines, wind energy does not contribute to climate change by emitting greenhouse gasses during energy production. The only time that wind energy indirectly releases greenhouse gas emissions is during the manufacturing and transport of the wind turbines, as well as during the installation process. U.S. wind electricity lights homes and businesses with infinitely available energy. 

3) It’s Increasingly Efficient

Many people’s understanding of wind turbine use is based on past technologies. When first developed, turbines were not terribly efficient, but times change. Recent advances in technology have transformed preliminary wind turbine designs into extremely efficient energy harvesters. Additionally, energy storage technology continues to advance, making clean energy available whenever it is needed. Turbines are available in a wide range of sizes, increasing the market to different types of businesses and even individuals for home use. As technology improves, so do the functionalities of the structure itself. The industry is creating designs that will generate more electricity, lower operating costs, require less maintenance, and run more quietly and safely. 

 

Wind Energy | What is it and is it Renewable?source

4) There’s Extra Revenue for Farmers

Energy suppliers can build their wind turbines on farmland and pay the farm owners to build on their property through contracts or leases. This provides farmers with additional income. Plus, wind turbines take up very little land space and don’t disrupt farm production. Less than 1.5% of the U.S. land area is used by wind power plants. Given all the plains and cattle land in the interior of the country, there’s a lot of opportunity for expansion in the wind industry. 

5) It Reduces Dependence on Fossil Fuels

Energy generation from burning fossil fuels not only contributes to greenhouse gas emissions; we’ll also run out of those energy sources one day. As long as the sun heats the planet, there’s an endless supply of wind. Furthermore, developing and investing in technology that can only run on a finite resource is a terrible waste of human capital, private funds, and tax dollars. 

6) It Stimulates Job Creation and Economic Growth

In 2022, jobs in clean energy grew 3.9%, adding 114,000 jobs across the United States, according to the 2023 U.S. Energy and Employment Report. The wind industry alone created 5,000 new jobs that year. These numbers are expected to increase as more energy from renewable sources is added to the power grid. 

Wind projects can also provide revenue through development fees for the communities that host them. After construction, communities can use wind energy revenue to build new infrastructure like schools. 

What Are Some Disadvantages of Wind Energy?

Disadvantages of Wind Power and Energysource

Although wind energy is a renewable, greener form of energy, it has its limitations, which are important to keep in mind. 

1) It’s Dangerous to Some Wildlife

Wind turbines pose a threat to local wildlife. They can affect the habitats and migratory paths of birds and bats, which can be injured or killed if they fly into the blades. The deaths of birds and bats are an issue at offshore wind turbines and farm sites, and it has raised concerns among fish and wildlife conservation groups. Wildlife on the ground may also be affected by the noise pollution from whirring blades. 

2) It’s Noisy and Unsightly

Wind turbines can be noisy, which is why they’re mostly found in remote areas. Depending on the location of the wind turbine, particularly if it’s offshore, noise isn’t an issue. With technological advancements, newer designs have been shown to reduce noise complaints. 

Some people who live nearby wind farms complain about visual pollution from the appearance of wind turbines in otherwise clear landscapes. These two factors together have contributed to a NIMBY (not in my backyard) movement that can impede development of wind farms. 

3) There Are High Upfront Operating Costs

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 population centers like towns and cities. The majority of the cost is the initial installation and the building of the turbines. 

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4) Wind is Unpredictable

Wind power is intermittent because wind is inconsistent. Since wind blows 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 an energy reserve or alternative sources of power in case the winds die down for long periods. But new technologies can mitigate these issues, including energy storage. Grid-level batteries can store the excess power from peak wind energy production times and save it for peak demand times. Short-term solutions that store electricity for several hours are already common, and long-duration wind energy generation and storage technology continue to see more adoption. 

Supporting Sustainable Energy

As technology continues to advance, so will our choices of sustainable, renewable energy sources. JustGreen is a simple green energy option that we offer as an add-on to our energy plans. When you choose clean energy options like JustGreen, you’re offsetting your energy usage with renewable energy credits that stem from sustainable sources like wind, hydropower, and solar energy. 

Brought to you by justenergy.com 

Resources:

  1. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Energy Basics, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-basics
  2. American Wind Energy Association, January 30, 2017,  
  3. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Vision: A New Era for Wind Power in the United States, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/maps/wind-vision
  4. Office of Energy Efficiency & Renewable Energy, Wind Energy Basics, https://www.energy.gov/eere/wind/wind-energy-basics
  5. Wind Energy Development Programmatic EIS, Wind Energy Development Environmental Concerns, http://windeis.anl.gov/guide/concern/index.cfm

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