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The Pros and Cons of Wind Power

Updated on March 9, 2017
Pros and cons of wind energy: Turbine farm operating in Bangui, Africa.  Wind energy has huge potential, although critics point out that fully harnessing that potential provides significant technical challenges that are yet to be overcome.
Pros and cons of wind energy: Turbine farm operating in Bangui, Africa. Wind energy has huge potential, although critics point out that fully harnessing that potential provides significant technical challenges that are yet to be overcome. | Source

As the world increasingly looks towards renewable alternatives to more traditional sources of electrical power such as fossil fuels and nuclear, wind power is commonly cited as a clean and effective candidate.

Produced through the use of carefully situated wind turbines, wind would appear to have lots of potential for creating clean, cheap, and renewable energy, certainly if you listen to its proponents.

Opponents of wind power, however, highlight the unsightliness of the wind farms as a major drawback, plus the inflexibility of wind turbines when compared to traditional power plants in terms of supplying the fluctuating power levels needed by the modern world.

There are over eighty countries in the world at the moment who are using wind power commercially to supply their electrical grids, these include Denmark, Spain, Portugal, USA, China, and Germany. (In Denmark over a fifth of all their energy needs are supplied by wind power, which is the largest proportion of any country).

In my wind energy pros and cons list, I give the main advantages and disadvantages of harnessing the wind as a source of power and the arguments used by those for and against.

The relationship between renewable energy sources and the communities we expect to host them must be appropriate and sustainable and, above all, acceptable to local people.

— Owen Paterson

In reality, studies show that investments to spur renewable energy and boost energy efficiency generate far more jobs than oil and coal.

— Jeff Goodell
Wind farm.  Turbines are used to harness the wind's power.  They are an increasingly popular sight, but some local people object to them, arguing that they are ugly and disrupt the environment and quality of life in other ways.
Wind farm. Turbines are used to harness the wind's power. They are an increasingly popular sight, but some local people object to them, arguing that they are ugly and disrupt the environment and quality of life in other ways. | Source

There is an urgent need to stop subsidizing the fossil fuel industry, dramatically reduce wasted energy, and significantly shift our power supplies from oil, coal, and natural gas to wind, solar, geothermal, and other renewable energy sources.

— Bill McKibben

Wind Energy Pros

  • Wind energy is plentiful and there is enough of it around to supply all the world’s energy needs, if harnessed properly. Plus, unlike oil, gas and uranium, wind energy will not run out one day.
  • Wind energy is essentially free with only the initial cost of setting up the turbines and minimal maintenance fees to pay for.
  • Wind energy has negligible environmental impact when it comes to things like pollution, contamination, toxic waste etc. especially when compared with what other energy sources create, such as the radioactive waste from nuclear power, or the smoke and smog from traditional coal burning power plants.

  • Wind energy also produces no greenhouse gasses and so does not contribute towards global warming, making it superior to fossil fuels.
  • Wind energy is very cost effective when you compare it with other power sources, such as nuclear energy.
  • Wind farms can be situated in remote areas, or offshore where they won’t cause a blot on the eye for people. Their ugliness, disruptiveness, and the noise of the turbines tends to be exaggerated by the anti-wind energy people.
  • Although some birds are killed by the turbines, the numbers are tiny compared to those killed by cell and radio towers, not to mention the billions killed by domestic cats.

I think that the world is in the middle of a huge transition that we have to make to renewable energy. We have to transition away from fossil fuels very, very quickly.

— Josh Fox
A traditional windmill.  Utilizing wind power i not a new thing, such mills were a common sight before the onset of full industrialization and fossil fuel power.  Modern technology can be used to harness wind energy more efficiently now, however.
A traditional windmill. Utilizing wind power i not a new thing, such mills were a common sight before the onset of full industrialization and fossil fuel power. Modern technology can be used to harness wind energy more efficiently now, however. | Source

There's a lot of wishful thinking that somehow we'll replace fossil fuels with alternative energy sources, but they remain far from reality. We're not going to run Wal-Mart, Disney World, and the interstate highway system on any combination of alternative or renewable energy - solar, wind, algae oils, ethanol, used french-fry grease, you name it.

— James Howard Kunstler

"The wind industry has achieved remarkable growth largely due to the claim that it will provide major reductions in carbon dioxide emissions. There's just one problem: It's not true. A slew of recent studies show that wind-generated electricity likely won't result in any reduction in carbon emissions—or that they'll be so small as to be almost meaningless."

— Robert Bryce

Wind Energy Cons

  • An individual wind turbine produces very little energy. To produce sufficient amounts of power, many turbines need to be gathered together in large “wind farms”. Wind farms therefore take up huge amounts of space, even just to produce relatively small amounts of power, covering far bigger areas than conventional power stations.
  • Wind farms look unsightly, often spoiling areas of natural beauty. They can also be noisy and disruptive in other ways.

  • Wind turbines kill birds, which can fly into them by accident.
  • Although the idea of “free” electricity might seem appealing, there are problems associated with wind power that you don't get with traditional energy sources. One main difficulty is that wind energy is unreliable and you can’t predict how much energy that you will have coming in from day to day, because even when the wind does blow, it is inconsistent in its strength. Modern society needs energy levels maintained at certain levels in order to keep functioning. Because of the unreliabilty of wind, it isn't as flexible as traditional sources of power - for instance, if your power levels are running low, you can’t respond quickly and create lots more energy suddenly like you can with most traditional power sources (For instance, with coal you can increase power output just by burning more.)
  • The cost effectiveness of wind energy is also sometimes overestimated. This is because the technology involved has to be very high tech to try to counteract some of the problems associated with the unreliability of wind and efficiency mentioned above. This state-of-the-art technology that is needed can be very expensive (a modern wind turbine isn't just a propellor, it consists of lots of complex electronics and gear systems). Even with all the technology, research has shown that a typical wind turbine only works at about a third of its potential power-producing capacity on average.

We rushed into renewable energy without any thought. The schemes are largely hopelessly inefficient and unpleasant. I personally can't stand windmills at any price.

— James Lovelock

The future is green energy, sustainability, renewable energy.

— Arnold Schwarzenegger
Former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, here pictured at the 2003 Cannes film festival, has been an advocate for wind energy for many years.  During his time in office he made efforts to reduce greenhouse gases created in California.
Former Governor of California, Arnold Schwarzenegger, here pictured at the 2003 Cannes film festival, has been an advocate for wind energy for many years. During his time in office he made efforts to reduce greenhouse gases created in California. | Source

Facts About Wind Power

  • Denmark generates 40% of its electric power from wind.
  • Over 80 countries in the world use wind power to supply their electric grids.
  • 4% of electric power usage world wide is generated by wind.
  • 11.4% of electric power usage in the European Union is wind powered.

Wind power has been around in human life for a long time, wind-powered sails on boats being a classic example.  It wasn't until the 19th century that it was used to create electricity, however.  Pictured is Charles Brush's windmill of 1888.
Wind power has been around in human life for a long time, wind-powered sails on boats being a classic example. It wasn't until the 19th century that it was used to create electricity, however. Pictured is Charles Brush's windmill of 1888. | Source

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    • profile image

      paulgoodmanismyhusband 22 months ago

      hi i didnt read your hub but I love you

    • radharenu profile image

      radharenu 2 years ago from India

      Thanks for sharing this informative hub.

      While bird strike is still a problem for wind farms it’s not nearly as serious as it was in the past.The many advantages of wind energy that include low price, land availability to build projects at scale, and the capability to move power to demand centres in areas that are supply constrained, explain why it’s the fastest-growing environmentally-friendly energy source in America. Here is a good article on related subject:

      http://www.the-tech-addict.com/wind-energy-pros-an...

    • ecogranny profile image

      Kathryn Grace 3 years ago from San Francisco

      Germany has shown that wind turbines can be a significant source of energy, and it does seem to be one source to help us bridge the change from fossil fuels to renewables. Like many, I have concerns about wind farms as a lasting strategy, for some of the very reasons you cite.

      Not only do wind turbines kill birds, what they kill most often are raptors, who see the towers as nesting or perching opportunities and don't see the spinning blades. Quite often, these raptors are eagles, hawks and peregrine falcons.

      Still, wind remains a viable tool in our efforts to combat global warming, and right now, we need every tool we can get--except nuclear.

      Thank you for covering this important topic.

    • someonewhoknows profile image

      someonewhoknows 3 years ago from south and west of canada,north of ohio

      Tapping into lighting strikes seems more practical to me. Even a machine that could tap into the wind power of tornadoes and hurricanes . All three at the same time would make more sense. More energy in more energy out! Nikola Tesla had more to offer us than just Alternating Current. One was being able to transmit electrical energy from place to place directly.No wires or transmission lines necessary.