By Sarah Lozanova, Renewable Energy Writer
As the world transitions to renewable energy sources to decarbonize the power grid, wind energy is one of the fastest-growing sources of new generation. Wind energy capacity has grown by 14% annually from 2010 to 2020. Now that wind turbines dot many landscapes, many people wonder about the pros and cons of wind power.
Wind power is praised for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, boosting energy security, creating jobs, and producing low-cost power, but it also has some drawbacks. Wind turbines are known to kill birds, can produce noise, and wind turbine blades are difficult to recycle.
What are the advantages of wind turbines?
With such rampant growth in the industry, there are clear advantages to using wind turbines to power the electrical grid.
Let’s explore what is making wind energy so popular across much of the globe.
Advantage: Wind Turbines Use a Clean Fuel Source
Unlike fossil fuel-fired power plants, wind energy turbines do not consume finite fuel resources. As a result, wind energy is an abundant source of clean energy that does not pollute or produce greenhouse gas emissions. As the world transitions to a low-carbon economy, wind power, solar energy, and other renewable energy sources are critical for mitigating the climate crisis.
Although it is necessary to mine for the materials in wind turbines, they need no ongoing fuel source. By contrast, fossil fuel-fired power plants need a constant supply of fuel to generate steam and produce electricity.
Extracting and burning this fuel produces greenhouse gas emissions, which are harmful for the environment. Also, fossil fuel-fired power plants consume large quantities of water for cooling and producing steam.
Advantage: Renewable Energy is Domestically Sourced
Energy insecurity can impact a country’s governing strategies and policies. Likewise, energy insecurity can cause energy prices to spike due to short supply, disrupting the economy and disproportionately hurting the lower and middle classes.
However, governments can increase their energy security by using a diverse array of fuel sources and increasing domestic energy production.
Many countries have abundant wind energy resources that can boost domestically-sourced energy. This is likely to grow in importance due to vehicle electrification because it will eventually reduce the demand for oil while increasing the demand for electricity.
Because it’s an inexhaustible energy source, wind power promotes long-term energy security while also benefitting the local economy, promoting air quality, and reducing reliance on foreign energy.
Advantage: Renewable Energy Industry Creates High-quality Jobs
Approximately 12 million people globally worked in the renewable energy industry in 2020, with 1.25 million jobs in wind energy. There are numerous jobs in the wind energy industry, including manufacturing, wind farm installation, development, and maintenance. Many of these are high-quality jobs that require skilled labor.
Roughly ⅓ of renewable energy jobs are working with solar photovoltaics and 2.4 million with biofuels. Women hold about ⅓ of the jobs in renewable energy, but the Covid-19 pandemic has caused some gender equality issues.
Jobs in the renewable energy industry are estimated to grow dramatically worldwide in the next few decades. However, climate change policies, renewable energy subsidies, and greenhouse gas emissions reduction pledges could significantly increase industry job growth.
Advantage: Wind Turbines Produces Low-cost Clean Energy
The electricity produced at onshore utility-scale wind farms is some of the most economical. In the United States, it costs $0.01 to $0.02 per kWh after the production tax credit.
And the power from wind energy projects is sold at a fixed price over a long period (often 20 years), and its fuel source is free. This mitigates price uncertainty by offering stable electricity prices, often with 20-year contracts. Many corporations and utility companies are sourcing electricity from wind farms to lock in low energy costs and as a hedge against rising energy costs.
Plus, the cost of producing onshore and offshore wind energy will likely decrease over time due to technological advances. For example, increases in rotor size and hub height are boosting the generating capacity of wind turbines. Also, advances in wind turbine technology and wind farm maintenance are increasing wind energy output.
Advantage: Wind Farms Benefit the Local Economy
Wind power projects generate tax revenue, create jobs, and promote economic development, especially in rural areas with fewer economic opportunities.
Farmers struggle to create a profit in some countries, but wind farm lease income is a reliable revenue stream. Often, wind farm developers sign leases with land owners to site wind turbines on their property.
These contracts often span decades and produce a new revenue stream.
Because wind turbines need space between them, farmers often continue cultivating crops or grazing livestock around wind turbines and access roads, making efficient use of space.
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