Wind farms seek to offer an environmentally sustainable source of energy that will help reduce our dependence on non-renewal fossil fuels. However, this clean and safe source of energy is controversial with many opposed to their use, often on grounds of aesthetics or lack of efficiency. This looks at pros and cons of wind farms.
Eyesore or the way forward for providing clean energy?
Pros of wind energy
- Creates virtually no pollution which damages environment, wildlife and humans. (very limited negative externalities)
- Some feel wind farms are actually aesthetically pleasing and help to enhance a local area. In 17th Century, the UK had 90,000 windmills (Guardian) (subjective opinion)
- Wind energy is completely renewable. There is no danger of running out of wind. Fossil fuels, by contrast, are limited and will eventually run out. As they do, we need to increasingly rely on renewable energy,such as wind.
- Wind energy does not have hidden dangers such as nuclear fuel and does not contribute to global warming.
- Wind is available across the world. Oil is concentrated in certain areas of the world, creating Geo-political tensions for control and purchase of oil. Wind is a renewable source that nearly all countries can tap into.
- In recent years, the efficiency of wind turbines has increased, enabling improved electricity generation.
- Wind energy can be good use of certain barren environments which are too rocky or hilly for agriculture. Often the best places for wind energy is on high land, which is less desirable for housing. La
Cons of wind energy
- Local residents often object to the position of wind farms arguing it spoils the view. (this opposition is greater when placed in areas of outstanding natural beauty)
- Some complain at persistent underlying noise that wind farms generate.
- Too little electricity. Critics argue wind farms contribute only a small fraction of a nations total energy supply, therefore it only gives a limited contribution to total power output
- Wind energy is not constant. With a traditional power station (nuclear / coal) you can keep a constant power output, but wind is dependent on the weather. In a period of still wind, power output can fall to nothing. This means the national grid cannot rely on wind, but has to have back up energy sources.
- More expensive to produce electricity. Wind power sometimes needs to be subsidised because it is currently more expensive than conventional energy production. However, this may be changing, e.g. China is considering building more wind power as it is potentially more efficient
- It depends where they are located, e.g. few people object to placing wind farms off shore, but would if placed in the Peak District.
- Conventional energy is currently cheaper. However, with oil and coal running out, conventional sources of energy are likely to become more expensive over time. Therefore, it makes sense for the government to subsidise the production of wind energy and this will help develop more efficient wind power for when the price of other energy sources are much higher.
- Renewable energy state that the cost of wind energy on large efficient farms is 3-4 pence per unit. This compares well with coal (2.5p – 4.5p) and nuclear power (4-7p) Wind power
- External costs associated with conventional energy (burning coal, nuclear power) are potentially very high. Therefore, the social cost of non-renewable energy is much higher than private cost. To increase social efficiency, it makes sense to tax coal power (e.g. see: carbon tax) and use funds to subsidise energy needs with renewable sources like wind.
I like seeing wind farms. I think a windmill is an attractive object which can enhance bleak moors. I don’t think they should be placed everywhere, but, I do support the expansion of wind and other renewable energy sources through taxing those fuels which create pollution.
Last year I arrived in Vienna airport and driving to the Czech Republic, I was struck by the ranks of wind turbines by the side of the motorway. Some people look upon them as a visual eye-sore, but I really like them. I think they are quite attractive, but also like seeing them because I feel it is creating the energy we need without damaging the environment.
What do you think?