Energy sources: Wind power
Fossil fuels are a finite commodity, and with the supply gradually dwindling and the human population increasing, the need for renewable, cleaner energy has never been so prevalent.
As technology improves scientists can extract sustainable, renewable energy from increasingly unlikely sources like biomass, hydrogen, hydro-power, geothermal energy and energy derived from the ocean, both from the heat stored within it and from waves. More commonly, renewable energy is produced through solar panels soaking up the heat from the sun and via wind, which utilise turbines to generate electricity.
Using the power of the wind to generate power isn't a new idea, as sail boats and windmills will attest, but using a force as unpredictable as the wind can have its limitations.
Below are the advantages and disadvantages of wind power as a renewable source.
Advantages of wind power
- Once constructed, wind turbines produce zero emissions and pollution.
- Despite the height of wind turbines, each takes up only a small plot of land which means the land below can still be used. This is especially the case in agricultural areas as farming can still continue.
- Wind turbines are a great resource to generate energy in remote locations, such as mountain communities and remote countryside. Wind turbines can be a range of different sizes in order to support varying population levels.
- Another advantage of wind energy is that when combined with solar electricity, this energy source is great for developed and developing countries to provide a steady, reliable supply of electricity.
Disadvantages of wind power
- The main disadvantage regarding wind power is down to the unreliability factor. In many areas, the wind strength is too low to support a wind turbine or wind farm, and this is where the use of solar power or geothermal power could be great alternatives.
- One drawback of wind power is the necessity to site large wind turbine units in a suitable situation. Suitable sites must have a constant supply of wind and this typically means that they are sited in elevated positions away from large buildings or other things that may disrupt the wind flow. This makes them highly visible for miles around. The effect of this is that large wind farms are built in areas of natural beauty. Some people regard wind turbines or wind power farms as an eye sore and a blot on the landscape. The very nature of harnessing wind for power means that there is little that can be done to avoid this.
- Wind turbines are emission free, but consequently it takes far more turbines to produce a comparable amount of energy to a fossil fuelled power station.
- Commercial wind turbines are expensive to build, with the average cost around US$1000 per mega watt of electricity. As the standard turbine produces around 600 mega watts the average cost is around US$600,000.
- There are concerns that wind turbines can cause electromagnetic interference. This means that the turbines could cause interference with communication systems and television signals. While the levels of interference are reported to be low, this is still a real concern to some communities that are facing the erection of wind turbines in their locality.
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