Geography in the News: Wind Farms

Mention ‘wind farming’ and you are likely to whip up a debate faster than Dorothy’s house was whisked away in The Wizard of Oz!  Wind is generally considered to be the second largest renewable energy source behind solar, and the use of wind turbines is the most common method of harnessing the kinetic energy of wind. However, while wind power is a popular alternative to fossil fuels, coal and nuclear energy, the construction of wind farms to harness this vast resource is not wholly welcomed; wind power has its pros and cons.

Advantages of Wind Power: (Source: Energy

 Wind turbines generate clean electricity. The motion of the wind turns the blades, which then spins a shaft that leads to a generator, which turns the energy into electricity. Wind turbines simply transfer energy from one medium to another without generating harmful CO2 in the process.

Wind is renewable and available in virtually every reach of the planet. Without getting into a science lesson, we can thank the sun for this – as long as the sun continues to shine there will be wind.

Costs are decreasing rapidly due to technological advances, though some areas are more financially viable for developing wind farms than others.

Increased demand for renewable energy is further driving down costs.

Residential systems and DIY wind power kits are increasingly affordable and available. Individuals have a greater potential than ever before to become energy self-sufficient.

Disadvantages of Wind Power
: (Source: Energy

Wind is unpredictable and until further technological advances are made in energy storage, wind power is not as reliable as other energy sources.

The development of wind farms is an expensive proposition. Nearly 80% of the cost is in machinery, with the remaining 20% being site preparation and installation. Incentives are often required for wind farms to be built.

While technological advancements are resulting in quieter turbines, noise pollution is a chief complaint from residents who live near wind farms. The aesthetics of wind farms is also a negative for many people. (While building wind farms in low-density population areas is one compromise, off-shore wind farms are a much better alternative; Off-shore wind farms not only eliminate noise and visual pollution, they also benefit from strong and more stable winds.)

The impact on wildlife is also a concern as flying creatures, such as birds and bats, don’t mix well with spinning rotor blades.

Many feel the advantages outweigh the disadvantages, yet if the wind blows the next wind farm project in your direction you may be whistling another tune. Windmills often conjure up images of Don Quixote attacking his imaginary giant enemies, and for those who live within sight of wind farms, their sentiments towards modern day wind turbines are probably much the same.

Where will the future take us? Can your business benefit from becoming energy independent? Should individual businesses and home-owners install smaller and less unsightly wind turbines? Should wind farms remain in concentrated areas? Should wind farms remain off-shore? What if off-shore is in the Great Lakes and interferes with natural vistas? A great debate is raging among five states on that very topic (click here to learn more). The answers to these questions and many more, my friend, are blowing in the wind.