Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy

“Desperate times require desperate measures.” This is a quotation that most of the world is familiar with. In the current context, there are various situations all around the world that can be termed as desperate times. However, one problem that poses an equal threat for people all around the world and requires immediate action from a large number of people is climate change. Conventional fuels have been a contributing factor to the current climate crisis. Hence, there is a need to replace them. There are multiple options, like wind energy, solar energy, hydro energy, etc.

HOW IS WIND ENERGY GENERATED?

Wind power is generated on wind farms. These wind farms make the use of wind turbines that are turned by fast winds. The kinetic energy in the wind is converted into mechanical energy by the turbines. Wind turbines can be installed on land or in the water, which are then known as off-shore wind farms.

HOW DID HUMANS START USING IT?

Wind energy can be classified as the oldest renewable form of energy being used by humans. The method used to harness wind energy centuries ago is still in use today. Some of the earliest evidence of sail technology comes from the Cucuteni-Tryptillian culture in Eastern Europe. Ceramics from that culture, dated back to the sixth millennium BCE, depict sailing boats. By 3,000 BCE, proto-Austronesian people were sailing across the islands of the South Pacific. Mesopotamian evidence from slightly later also provides evidence of sailing boats. Around 3200 BCE, sails had been developed in Egypt. 

The earliest known wind-powered grain mills and water pumps were used by the Persians in A.D. 500-900 and by the Chinese in A.D. 1200. Daniel Halladay is credited with the manufacturing of the first windmill in the United States. He began inventing windmills in his Connecticut machine shop in 1854. The first electricity-generating wind turbine was invented in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush. 

But how helpful is wind energy?

Let’s look at the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy.

Advantages and Disadvantages f Wind Energy
Wind turbines can be as tall as 200 meters.

Advantages of Wind Energy

Inexhaustible

Because of the natural resource that it derives power from, wind energy is a never-ending source of energy. Wind is abundant in our atmosphere. As long as the planet has an atmosphere, there will be wind to keep wind turbines running.

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Cost-Effective

Out of all renewable energy forms, wind energy is the cheapest. It requires a one-time investment into buying wind turbines and property and provides cheap energy for years to come. It costs less than INR 3 per kilowatt-hour, depending upon the wind resource and project financing of the particular project.

Wind energy is the cheapest form of new electricity generation available today. Wind power is more expensive than power from old, established power plants, but is cost-competitive with any new power plant.

Technology innovations and market building incentives have helped to dramatically lower costs over the last 20 years. Today, wind power plants can generate electricity for a price that is competitive with new coal- or gas-fired power plants.

Sustainable

Given that it does not take anything from the environment, wind energy is a sustainable source of energy. The wind blowing makes the turbines move, and the wind continues on its path. Unlike conventional sources of energy such as fossil fuels, current usage of wind energy would not make it difficult for future generations to use it.

Clean

Another advantage of this energy source is that it does not add anything harmful to the environment or change its properties in a way that might lead to damage. Usage of fossil fuels adds harmful gases to the atmosphere. Moreover, the generation of thermal energy increases the temperature of water bodies, which to the death of marine life. Wind energy does not do so, and hence is a clean source of energy. Essentially, it only produces what you need it to!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy
Offshore wind farm

Over and Above

Wind energy can be generated on properties that are already being used as farms or ranches. Wind turbines use only a fraction of the land. The rest of the land can be used for agriculture or other commercial purposes, allowing for a higher revenue generation. So, wind energy can provide benefits over and above the ones that farms currently provide.

Disadvantages of Wind Energy

Large Investment

Although wind energy is one of the lowest costing renewable forms of energy, it requires a huge one-time investment. In India, wind turbines can cost nearly 1 crore. This cost has drastically improved with time but still proves to be very high. Over the one-time installation cost, wind turbines also require constant maintenance.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy
Typical modern wind turbines have diameters of 40 to 90 metres.

Far Off Places

The best locations for wind farms are away from residential areas. This means that the generation of energy and consumption of energy are taking place in two distant areas. Hence, the energy has to be transmitted over long distances, which increases costs.

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Threat to Wildlife

There have been various instances of birds flying into wind turbines. Isolated incidents do not pose that big a threat, but in areas with large bird populations, wind turbines can prove to be disastrous. In many countries, wind turbines pose the single greatest threat to bats after habitat loss and white-nose syndrome. scientists say wind turbines are the single greatest human threat to migratory bats, which live in different habitats during summer and winter months. Some, like the hoary bat, fly south to Mexico during the winter as insects become more scarce in North America. In 2017, a team of scientists warned that the hoary bat, a migratory species, could go extinct if the expansion of wind farms continues.

Noisy

Wind energy might not lead to air or water pollution, but it does lead to noise pollution. Wind turbines make a lot of noise which can be disturbing and harmful for human and non-human life in and around the wind farm. The sounds they produce are typically foreign to the rural settings where wind turbines are most often used, but as turbine technology has improved over the years, the amount of sound has fallen considerably.

Aesthetic Pollution

Some people also argue that wind turbines in the countryside can ruin the aesthetic value of the land. In an ideal situation, this would not have been important. But, given that undisturbed nature is a rare sight in the 21st century, technology conquering more and more land seems to be a tangible loss. Different people have different reactions to seeing wind turbines on the landscape. To some, they are graceful symbols of economic development and environmental progress or sleek icons of modern technology. To others, they symbolise industrial encroachment in natural and rural landscapes. There are many ways to minimize the visual impact of wind turbines, including painting them a neutral colour, arraying them in a visually pleasing manner, and designing each turbine uniformly.

Shadow Flicker

Shadow flicker is the effect of the sun shining through the rotating blades of a wind turbine, casting a moving shadow. The Shadow Flicker Effect is caused by wind turbine machines when they produce shadows that enter through windows and nearby barns. This can become a nuisance to people who live in homes that are directly next to the wind turbine because they will frequently experience the flicker of shadows through their windows at various times of the day. This can become very annoying because the shadow flicker can cause strains in vision or even headaches to the people who are affected. 

Pros and Cons of Wind Energy

PROS

CONS

Inexhaustible

Large Investment

Cost-Effective

Far Off Places

Sustainable

Threat to Wildlife

Clean

Noisy

Over and Above

Aesthetic Pollution

 

Shadow Flicker

 

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Rhythm Bhatia