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Wind energy pros and cons

Last updated 9/27/2019

There are advantages and disadvantages to any type of energy source, and wind energy is no different. In this article, we’ll review some of the top pros and cons of generating electricity from wind turbines.

Top pros and cons of wind energy

Wind energy is one of the most commonly used types of renewable energy in the U.S. today, and also happens to be one of our fastest-growing sources of electricity. However, while there are a number of environmental benefits to using wind energy, there are some downsides. Here are a few of the top pros and cons:

Pros and cons of wind energy

Pros of wind energy Cons of wind energy
Renewable & clean source of energy Intermittent
Low operating costs Noise and visual pollution
Efficient use of land space Some adverse environmental impact

On the pros side, wind is a clean, renewable energy source, and is one of the most cost-effective sources for electricity. On the cons side, wind turbines can be noisy and unappealing aesthetically, and can sometimes adversely impact the physical environment around them. Similar to solar power, wind power is also intermittent, meaning that turbines are reliant on weather and therefore aren’t capable of generating electricity 24/7.

Below, we’ll explore these pros and cons in further detail.

pros and cons of wind energy infographic

Advantages of wind energy

Wind energy is clean and renewable

Unlike coal, natural gas, or oil, generating electricity from wind doesn’t result in greenhouse gas emissions. While there are some environmental considerations that come with building large wind farms, once operational, wind turbines themselves don’t require burning any fossil fuels to operate.

Additionally, wind energy is completely renewable and will never run out. In opposition to traditional fossil fuels resources that replenish very slowly, wind naturally occurs in our atmosphere, and we don’t have to worry about supply issues in the future.

Wind energy has low operating costs

As far as upfront costs go, wind farms or individual turbines can be expensive to install. However, once up and running, operating costs are relatively low; their fuel (wind) is free, and the turbines don’t require too much maintenance over the course of their lifetime.

Wind energy is space-efficient

Cumulatively, wind farms can take up a lot of land space; however, the actual turbines and equipment don’t use up a lot of real-estate. This means that land used for wind turbines can often also be used for other purposes, such as farming.

Disadvantages of wind energy

Wind energy is intermittent

A wind turbine’s effectiveness in generating electricity depends on the weather; thus, it can be difficult to predict exactly how much electricity a wind turbine will generate over time. If wind speeds are too low on any given day, the turbine’s rotor won’t spin. 

This means wind energy isn’t always available for dispatch in times of peak electricity demand. In order to use wind energy exclusively, wind turbines need to be paired with some sort of energy storage technology.

Wind energy causes noise and visual pollution

One of the biggest downsides of wind energy is the noise and visual pollution. Wind turbines can be noisy when operating, as a result of both the mechanical operation and the wind vortex that’s created when the blades are rotating. Additionally, because wind turbines need to be built up high enough to capture a good amount of wind, the turbines can often interrupt otherwise scenic landscapes, such as mountain ranges, lakes, oceans, and more.

Wind turbines have some negative impacts on their surrounding environment

A wind turbine’s blades are very large and rotate at very high speeds. Unfortunately, their blades can harm and kill species that fly into them, like birds and bats. The construction of wind farms can also disrupt natural habitats of local species if not conducted in a sustainable manner. However, these problems can be solved to some extent with technological advancements and properly-siting wind farms.

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