\Right now, there’s a lot of attention focused on the various types of fuels that we utilize to get our energy from, and many of the major players, such as coal and fossil fuels, are getting a bad rap these days, and rightfully so. As they pollute the air, causing damage to the planet, as well as its inhabitants, the need for cleaner alternatives is becoming more and more pronounced. Luckily, science has stepped up to the plate, and come up with some effective options, most notably the relatively new (created around 1900) solar energy, and a modern adaptation of an ancient form of harnessing energy – wind power, which has been around for quite some time, with the first known instances of windmills going back to first century AD.
Our discussion today is on wind energy, and not the good things about it that we always hear about, but rather we’ll be highlighting some of the more negative aspects of it. Sure, wind turbines harness a free source of energy, take up a small piece of land, and wind is about as clean as an energy source can get, but like anything else, there’s another side to the coin, and these negative aspects are what we will be talking about today. If a career in alternative energy sales interests you, then this course on how to get into solar sales, along with this course on selling solar for contractors and entrepreneurs, will tell you what you need to know.
The Cons of Wind Energy
As we previously mentioned, harnessing wind power via turbines is a great source of clean power, and is increasingly integral to our rapidly warming planet, but it’s not all daisies and windmills – there are some very real negative aspects to it, some of which are merely inconvenient, and others which are downright harmful, all of which we will mention below. To see some of the positive aspects of this energy source, check out this article on the 5 advantages of wind energy to get a bit of context on the whole situation.
- Noisy: If you’ve ever noticed that wind turbines only stand in places where there’s not a lot of people, normally it’s not because there’s more wind there (because there’s wind in a lot of places); it’s because the machinery found inside the turbine is loud when operating. As a result of keeping these bothersome machines away from residential areas, as well as places of work, these turbines are relegated to only the most desolate of places.
- Threatening to Wildlife: While there may not be a large, or even existent, human population near wind turbines, there certainly is bound to be a thriving population of wildlife in the area. While these imposing structures may not necessarily affect the grazing wildlife that shares the land with the turbines, it’s the animals in the sky and underground are not so lucky. Birds in these areas, especially ones that migrate every year, like gold eagles and tailed hawks, have a tendency to fly into the blades, with studies showing about 45,000 birds having perished over the last 20 years due to these turbines. Underground habitats tend to be negatively affected, as well, when these turbines are installed, as a result of the deep digging that is necessary.
- Wind is Unpredictable: Once these turbines are installed, they must wait for the wind to pick up in order to be effective, and this is a completely unpredictable process. Granted, a lot of research is done to ensure that the turbines are put into excessively windy areas, but that doesn’t guarantee anything, and sometimes other energy sources must be employed to take up the slack, such as solar or geothermal. To learn more about the science of solar power, check out this course on thermal modeling of solar energy systems.
- Limited Resource: Unlike solar energy, whose the source is found in every part of the world, wind energy is only able to be harnessed when there is wind available, which is not as widely found as one might first expect. This fact, along with the need to put them in unpopulated regions, greatly limits the potential areas where turbines can be installed. For these machines to be as useful as possible, they must be put on flat lands, and/or coastal places. If meteorology interests you, then this course on how to predict the weather will have you taking your local weather person’s job in no time.
- Eyesores: While some people, usually those that don’t live in the areas of these turbines, think they are majestic and beautiful to look at, others find them to be less attractive, and even detrimental to the physical beauty of the surrounding areas. Some have even taken to sending around petitions to eradicate the turbines in their community.
- Inefficient: Sure, wind energy is clean, but it certainly isn’t efficient. When converting the wind energy into usable electric energy, the machinery within the turbines are only able to extract about 59% of the wind’s power. This seems to be one of the major issues with using wind energy, and this inefficiency appears to be remaining static at the moment, with little to no improvements in this area on the horizon.
- Storage Issues: Going along with the point of turbines being inefficient, they are unable to store converted energy in large amounts. Being that wind only comes in fits and starts, in order to be efficient, the turbines would need to store up these bursts of wind energy to be truly effective, but because they can’t, they are not as efficient as they may seem to be.
- Land Occupation: We’ve mentioned before, and surely you’ve already noticed, that while one turbine doesn’t occupy that large of an actual piece of land, it’s necessary to put up many turbines on an large track of land for them to be as effective and helpful as possible – in other words, you’ll never see just one or two wind turbines in one place. Again, this land is still usable once they’re installed, but taken as one large group, they do occupy a large swath of land.
- Poor Television Reception: While efforts are made to install these behemoths in less populated regions, chances are there’s going to be a few people around, and even better chances are that most or all of them will have televisions. Turbines are so large and imposing, that they affect local television and radio signals in a negative way.
- Installation Costs: As you can imagine, installing a group of these huge turbines can cost a lot of money. Installing just one of them can be as pricey as $2 million or more, with more costs coming for maintenance. Another cost in installing a turbine is less a monetary issue as it is an environmental one. The production, transport, and installation of one these turbines has a sizable “carbon footprint”, which is important to know, especially considering that the whole idea behind its construction is for clean power.
Hopefully we haven’t ruined any fuzzy feelings you may have had for wind power, but it’s important to know that it’s not a completely consequence-free form of energy, and people, animals, and the Earth itself all feel the effects of these turbines. If you’re in the business of building, whether as an engineer, architect, construction worker, etc., and are interested in focusing on making your operation “green”, this course on becoming a LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design) Green Associate will prepare you to enter the sustainable building industry.