Wind power has been used by people for thousands of years as a source of power, from powering sailing ships to pumping water from rivers and wells. Many countries, for example the USA, the Netherlands, the UK, West Germany, Sweden and Denmark, are successfully using wind power as an alternative source of energy. However, wind is unreliable, variable and difficult to predict, yet these drawbacks are less serious than they may seem and there are plenty of new technological advancements addressing these problems. Wind energy in small quantities, meeting up to 5% of the total demand for electricity can be just as valuable as any other source of energy. Although relying on wind as the only source of energy for the whole country would be extremely risky since weather conditions are never 100% predictable.
Wind energy may not be the most sensible source of energy for some countries, for example countries with low wind speeds could not rely on wind power as their main source of energy. Other renewable sources such as solar, hydroelectric, geothermal, wave, tidal and biomass must be used as well. Unfortunately, to get the amount of energy that could replace one conventional power station one requires many alternative power sources. For example it would take 7,500 wind turbines to produce the power produced by one large thermal power station.
The ratio of energy consumption in the world for non-renewable energy to renewable energy is 9 to 1. The world is on its way to becoming reliant on renewable sources of energy but there is still a long way to go. Here are some recorded advantages and disadvantages of wind turbines and wind power in relation to humans and the environment.
Advantages of Wind Turbines in Relation to Humans
- Over time, once the initial cost of setting the wind farms has been paid, wind energy is predicted to be cheaper than nuclear or coal fire power stations. Electricity could cost around 2p per kilowatt/hour compared to the current 3p.
- Using wind power will mean building wind farms, which will create jobs, and the wind farms will then need to be maintained which require employees.
- They can reap economic rewards for the remote communities in which they are situated.
- They are a clean, renewable resource, which is a solution to the ever-increasing problem of finding an alternative source of energy for future use when fossil fuels eventually run out.
Disadvantages of Wind Turbines in Relation to Humans
- Some may find wind turbines visually unattractive. In upland areas they may be visible for 40km.
- Turbines create a swishing noise – this can be heard over a distance of several kilometres.
- Interference to radio and television can be caused over a radius of several kilometres.
- Some of the best areas for locating wind turbines are scenically attractive, hence there will likely be a protection law restricting the erection of wind turbines in such areas.
- Blades could break or shed ice endangering those working on the wind farms. Safety measures would have to be taken into consideration and finding employees to work here could prove to be challenging. Although the CEGB suggests that this possibility is about as likely as a turbine being hit by lightning.
- Tourism could be affected in several ways such as the areas becoming aesthetically unpleasing.
- They have been branded as inefficient and intermittent producers of power and not very cost efficient.
- Wind turbines out at sea could cause problems for ships and could create a lot more sea accidents.
- A huge storm may result in a whole wind farm being destroyed.
- Arguably, the wind programme is counterproductive – it would be better to invest in energy conservation rather than looking into expensive renewable resources.
Advantages of Wind Turbines in Relation to the Environment
- Wind farms are clean sources of energy, as they do not release any carbon dioxide emissions unlike fossil fuel burning power stations.
- If a wind farm is no longer needed then the wind turbines can be dismantled and removed. The environment is not at all damaged by this process and there isn’t any residue left behind.
- They are not as unattractive as large power stations.
Disadvantages of Wind Turbines in Relation to the Environment
- The wind turbines can affect wildlife, especially birds, as they create a loud swishing noise, which will disturb the surrounding area and affect the nearby ecosystems.
- Building wind turbines out at sea could cause problems for the sea wildlife since they will be built in the middle of their natural habitat.
- A huge storm may damage a lot of the turbines and create havoc in the nearby countryside.
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