Advantages and disadvantages of wind energy

This article attempts to give a dispassionate summary of the current arguments for and against the increased use of wind energy.

(If you think any of the facts are incorrect, please feel free to email webmaster@newarchaeology.com)

The debate over the advantages and disadvantages of wind energy has moved up a gear in recent years. Most information is provided by groups with vested interests in the outcomes. Hence there is a lot of inaccurate and biased information being advanced by both parties.

 

The COST of Wind Energy

The debate over costs is never clear cut and both sides will massage figures for their own benefit. The truth is that in the UK, wind energy is more expensive than Combined cycle gas turbines and cheaper than hydroelectricity. The initial start-up costs of turbines are expensive, but the running costs are minimal in comparison to most other forms of energy generation. This is because the 'fuel' (the wind) is a free resource. In addition, pro-turbine groups will point out that the real cost of gas (and coal) power generators should include the cost to the environment of global warming. This is hard to quantify, so be vary wary about all figures.

GRID CONNECTION and Wind Energy

Wind generated electricity must be
integrated into the National Electricity Grid. Those against wind farms point out that this is difficult and expensive because the grid was designed for a few large power station, rather than hundreds of small wind farms. Also, the places where wind farms are planned are mostly far away from existing grid infrastructure, so there is a lot more cost there too. This is all true, and should be included in any discussion, but beware of projected cost figures for replacing the entire grid. This is unlikely to be necessary. Upgrading the grid a bit at a time will remain the standard way of dealing with the changes in generation technology.

WIND VARIABILITY and Wind Energy


The wind doesn't blow all the time What do we do on still evenings? Sit in the dark? This is an emotive argument with some merit.
Variable generation can only supply up to 10% or 20% of
peak demand, without having to make any significant changes to the grid. However, nobody is really sure how to deal with a figure larger than 20% at present.

ECOLOGICAL IMPACT of Wind Energy

Both sides argue about the ecological impact of wind farms. Pro-wind campaigners point out that only 1 percent of a farms ground surface actually gets built on, so natural wilderness or crop and livestock farming can continue around the bases of the turbines. However, no studies have been conducted on the effects on livestock of living beneath turbines.

The potential effects on birds is often cited as an issue, but in the UK, the The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) supports the increased use of wind power, “as long as wind farms are sited, designed and managed so they do not harm birds or their habitats”.

HEALTH AND SAFETY of Wind Energy

The arguments about the health problems are not to be dismissed lightly. Symptoms such as headaches, nausea, sleeplessness and
depression have all been attributed to low frequency emissions from wind turbines. Medical experts are best placed to conduct more research. Most turbines are placed far away from human habitation so the issue rarely arises at present.

TOURISM, THE ENVIRONMENT and Wind Energy

People say that wind power spoils the environment. Turbines are enormous and are very visible. Windy mountains otherwise untouched by humans are tempting sites for turbines, and here is ultimately one of the biggest bones of contention. Ask yourself if you see an unsightly carbuncle on the landscape or a beautiful piece of engineering, designed to redress the balance in favor of the environment. Pro campaigners will argue that a wind farm is a thing of beauty because it signals to everyone that we must start caring for our landscape, our tress, our animals and our planet. Anti- campaigners will argue that a wind farm is another modern intrusion on the last few bits of wilderness that still remain.

 

Lots more wind energy information at http://www.practicalhelp.org.uk/downloads/Wind_energy_bn.pdf

Have you considered installing residential Wind Power in your own home? There are a number of issues to consider, but it can prove a very effective green energy source. Microgeneration is definitely becoming more popular as the cost of energy rises.