What are the Disadvantages of Wind Power?
There are several disadvantages of wind power which should be considered when looking at options for energy generation. It is important to recognize that although there are some distinct problems with the use of wind power, it is still a highly sustainable and very environmentally-friendly method of energy production. If the choice is between wind power and a fossil fuel-powered generating plant, wind power is definitely the way to go.
One of the disadvantages of wind power is that it is not a zero-emissions form of energy generation. A number of resources are used in the construction of wind turbines and an energy distribution system, and while generating wind power does not create emissions, emissions are involved in the maintenance of wind farms and other routine tasks which surround wind farms. However, the emissions created by wind power are certainly minimal when compared to the routine emissions of something like a coal-fired power plant.
Wind farms can also eat up land which could be used in other ways, which is one of the major disadvantages of wind power. Some firms have begun to address this by building turbines which can be utilized on farms and in settled communities. Older turbines, however, require dedicated space, and a lot of space may be needed to house enough turbines to generate a useful amount of energy. Wind turbines are also extremely noisy, which often leads to community complaints, and they can threaten migratory birds that are accustomed to having free rein in the air.
The production of wind energy is also limited by location. Areas with consistent high winds are best for wind farms, and land in these areas may be expensive or hard to secure. Wind farms also need to be located reasonably near the area where the energy is used, to minimize loss in the energy transmission process. Wind farms may not always be productive, either: prevailing winds could switch, for example, making the turbines useless, which is one of the disadvantages of wind power when compared to something like hydropower, which relies on a fixed resource.
Some people also think that wind farms are lacking in the aesthetic department. Wind turbines are not terribly exciting to look at, especially in a huge group, and local communities often oppose the construction of wind farms on aesthetic grounds. Power companies must often go through a complex permit application process to build, which can put a wrinkle in construction plans.
With all the disadvantages of wind power considered, there are some distinct advantages. Wind energy is free, and utilizing wind power doesn't have the same environmental impact as utilizing hydropower, which involves damming or making other changes in the natural environment. The turbines themselves generate zero emissions when they are in operation, and emissions associated with construction and maintenance can be greatly reduced by building and operating in an environmentally-conscious way.
This does not apply to this country, but one of the biggest disadvantages of wind electricity generation is that it can violate people’s human rights (although this is true for all forms of power generation). An example is the people of Oaxaca Mexico. Government owned utility companies like CFE are displacing thousands of residents of the Chivela pass region to install wind farms that would be the equivalent of all the wind farms in the State of California and then some. The Chivela Pass has the best winds in the world (9-14 meters per second), but unlike the United States, the Mexican Government is forcing out locals native to those lands for a measly stipend. This type of displacement is also happening in China, India, and other places.
I would like to point out that there is no such thing as a true zero emission source of energy. No matter how hard we try, industrial manufacturing will always lead to some form of emissions. The trick is to create things by using emissions that are recycled through a system. Carbon emissions need to be recycled through the carbon cycle, sulfur emissions through the sulfur cycle, nitrogen through the nitrogen cycle and so on. We need to come up with production and manufacturing methods that do not convert elements from one system to another. The problem with systems we use to mine and manufacture materials is that they are waste intensive. We need to switch over to systems that connect the waste and production cycles so that we are not creating any net emissions.
The development of wind power generation has advanced in the past few years. The idea that they take up a lot of space is something that people tend to misunderstand. The footprint of a 1.6 MW wind turbine is less than a half-acre including access road, turbine foundation, and turbine frontage. Because of wind overlap, wind turbines must be spaced a certain distance apart so turbines do not actually take up large swaths of land. The big problem is only certain things can be close to turbines. Cropland and grazing land can run right up to the edge of a turbine's gravel frontage, but residential and commercial area must be a certain distance away so that the decibel level of the turbines is within a reasonable level.
The truth is though that any energy generation facility should be a certain distance from residential areas. People don't live within a few hundred feet of nuclear, coal, or solar plants, so they shouldn't be expected to live within earshot of a wind plant.
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