What Are the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Turbines?

With increasing awareness of environmental issues across the planet, including climate change, more and more industries and individuals are looking toward renewable, clean energy sources to provide them with the power they need. Wind energy is one of these energy sources, and is quickly growing in popularity across the United States and the world. And as with any source of energy, wind energy (created by wind turbines) has its advantages and disadvantages.

While wind energy has become incredibly popular, there are some who believe wind turbines disrupt the natural beauty of the landscape they are built on. To better understand if building these large, and to some people “ugly”, structures is worth it, let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of wind turbines.

What are the pros and cons of wind turbines?

Let’s start with a wind turbines pros and cons list, and then we’ll go into more detail:

Pros of wind turbines

  • clean energy source
  • domestic energy source (we can source it in the US)
  • sustainable
  • cost-effective
  • creates jobs
  • enables industry growth
  • contributes to local/rural economies
  • free fuel
  • price stability
  • low operating costs

Cons of wind turbines

  • high initial cost
  • intermittent availability
  • often located in remote areas
  • can be noisy
  • some people don’t like the way they look
  • can negatively impact wildlife

Do wind turbines cause health problems?

No – wind turbines are a clean energy source, and so they don’t produce the sort of harmful gasses that other energy sources can create that may lead to health problems.

Air is not polluted when wind turbines are in operation. The combustion of fossil fuels, on the other hand, creates air pollution in the form of particulate matter, sulfur dioxide, and nitrogen oxides. These harmful chemicals are what can cause health problems, such as respiratory diseases.

How long does it take to pay off a wind turbine?

The wind turbine itself accounts for about 75% of the cost to install a wind turbine. After the wind turbine is up and operational, the only costs are maintenance and operating costs as there are no fuel or carbon costs.

It only takes between 3 and 6 months for a wind turbine to produce the same amount of electricity as went into its manufacture, installation, operation, and maintenance, as well as its decommissioning at the end of its lifetime, which typically happens after 20 to 25 years.

Are there economic impacts for wind turbines?

Yes, and they are extremely positive for the domestic economy. Let’s look at our pros and cons with regard to economic impact:

Pro: Wind turbines are cost-effective

Commercial-sized wind farms produce some of the lowest-priced energy available on the power market, at only $0.01-0.02/kWh. The price of development is decreasing, and this trend will only continue. This means that both large commercial-scale wind farms and domestic small-scale wind farms will become more affordable to install in the not-so-distant future.

Pro: The fuel (wind) is free

With traditional sources of energy, such as oil, coal, and gas, the fluctuating price of the fuel itself must be added on top of the price of the electricity created to get the total cost of the energy. Since wind is a free fuel source, the electricity produced is the only cost involved and can therefore be sold at a stable, fixed price.

Pro: Wind turbines create jobs

In the United States, the wind energy industry employs over 100,000 workers, and with wind turbine technicians becoming one of the fastest-growing jobs in the US, this number is only likely to increase. In fact, according to the Wind Vision Report produced by the US Department of Energy, the wind energy industry is likely to provide 600,000 jobs by 2050 in areas including manufacturing, installation, and maintenance.

Pro: Wind turbines enable industry growth

The installation of new wind turbine projects accounts for annual investments of more than $10 billion in the United States. With this investment, the US is in a strong position to compete on a global scale with other leaders of clean energy.

Pro: Wind turbines benefit rural economies

Many of the most effective wind turbine sites are found in rural areas where they help to benefit the local economy to a large degree. Wind turbines can be installed within already-existing farms and ranches without causing too much disruption to farm/ranch operations. The owners of the wind farms then pay rent to the landowners, providing them with additional income, which can be put back into the local economy.

In addition, it brings in new people to the rural community to work on the wind farm, which can help dwindling rural communities bolster their numbers.

Are there environmental impacts for wind turbines?

Yes, as with any energy source, there are pros and cons for the environmental impact wind turbines have. Let’s look at them in more detail:

Pro: Wind energy is sustainable

Since wind energy is a form of solar energy, it is completely sustainable. As long as we have warmth from the sun, the wind will blow, and therefore, energy can be produced. Sustainability is crucial to ensure that our environment is protected now and in the future.

Con: Wind turbines are noisy and can be seen as unsightly

Compared to traditional power plants, wind turbines have very little environmental impact, however, many people who live near wind turbines or wind farms find that they are noisy and unsightly. Although this is a concern for some, the benefits of a clean energy source should outweigh these issues.

Con: Wind turbines can negatively impact local wildlife

In the past, birds have been killed after flying into the path of turning blades. These instances have been largely reduced through technological development and finding more appropriate locations for the turbines.
There is still an issue with bats being killed by turning blades, and further research is needed to find ways in which to reduce the impact of turbines on species of bat.

As with any type of development, there is also the impact on habitats surrounding wind turbine installations, which in turn may cause some wildlife species to leave the areas they once called home.

It is worth noting, however, that the numbers equate to approximately 7,000 bird deaths per year. Traditional power plants (fueled by fossil fuels) kill 14.5 million.

How reliable is wind energy?

One of the major difficulties with clean power sources is that, in many cases, their ability to generate energy is subject to the weather.

Con: Wind energy is intermittent

Whether a wind turbine will rotate in order to generate electricity depends entirely on the weather, more specifically, wind levels. Because of this, it is difficult to calculate precisely how much electricity will be created by a wind turbine in advance.

A wind turbine will not spin if wind speeds are particularly low and, conversely, a wind turbine is programmed to shut down if wind speeds are dangerously high. Therefore, electricity created by wind turbines isn’t always available, unless surplus wind energy has been stored previously.

Even though wind energy can be an intermittent resource, wind energy can contribute to a variety of additional benefits of renewable energy, visit Inspire today and learn more.

How efficient are wind turbines?

Similar to reliability, the efficiency of wind turbines depends on wind speed. Wind turbines will begin rotating when wind speeds reach about 4 or 5 meters/second and will reach their maximum output when wind speeds reach around 15 meters/second. This means that, although a wind turbine generates electricity between 70% and 85% of the time, the output of energy produced depends on wind speed.

Pro: Wind energy is a domestic energy source

As wind is a domestic energy source, this means that the supply of wind in the United States is abundant and infinite. Over the past decade, wind power capacity in the US has grown by 15% each year, now being the most widely used renewable power in the country.

Con: Located in remote locations

Although wind turbines are useful for rural areas, the majority of power produced is needed in urban areas, far from where wind turbines often are. This means that transmission lines need to be constructed in order to transport the generated electricity from wind farms to towns and cities.

Does residential wind energy make sense?

This depends on your geographical location, but often residential wind energy in the form of a small wind turbine does not make sense. If you live in an urban area with many tall buildings and other permanent structures that reduce wind flow, a small-scale wind turbine simply won’t get enough wind, even if you got permission to have one (which is unlikely).

You might live in a rural area with relatively strong wind speeds, but if your state or local government places height restrictions on structures, you will not be able to install a wind turbine that is tall enough to be beneficial.

They also cost between $15,000 - $30,000 on average to install. Unless you’re trying to find energy sources for living off the grid, simply using a clean energy plan like ours is your best option. Our Inspire members get all the environmental benefits of using clean energy to power their home, without the difficulties of installing a wind turbine in their backyard. Visit us at Inspire today to find out how to switch to renewable energy for your home.

Though there are a few cons to wind turbines, they are minor compared to the cons of traditional forms of energy generation. In order to slow down the effects of global warming, it is important that we all work toward living in a greener, cleaner world. We can help you do just that.

It takes only a few minutes to make the switch to renewable energy with us, and then you can feel good knowing you are not only using clean energy to power your home, but increasing the national demand for clean energy. The more people who want it, the more will be produced. Make the switch today, with Inspire as your renewable energy company for your home.