The Pros and Cons of Windmills
You may have noticed that wind power is becoming much more popular than ever before. Just a few weeks ago, I noticed the first windmill in the city that I live in. This leads me to wonder and ultimately investigate both the advantages and disadvantages of wind power.
The Advantages of Windmills
- Clean: Windmills do not produce any carbon emissions, thus they are considered clean energy sources that help fight against global warming. However, windmills do generate some minor pollution during their manufacturing, installations, maintenance, and eventual teardown. This pollution is extremely small when compared to every other form of energy production, such as fossil fuels and nuclear power.
- Renewable: Fossil fuels and nuclear power are not renewable, because there is a limited or finite amount of those resources. On the other hand, wind power is virtually unlimited and continuous, thus windmills are renewable sources of energy.
- Independence: With wind power, countries can move from being dependent on other countries to being independent for their energy needs. Some countries, such as Germany and China, are already embracing wind power.
- Cost: Currently, the two cheapest forms of energy are wind and coal. Notice that all the other sources of fuel, including oil, natural gas, hydropower, and nuclear, are all significantly more expensive than wind and coal. Furthermore, windmills are becoming appreciably cheaper and more efficient, while coal is becoming more expensive. As a result, the long term costs make wind power the cheapest form of energy.
- Potential: Wind power has vast potential. It is estimated that wind power could supply a majority of the world’s energy needs.
- Safety: Finally, windmills are considerably safer than most other forms of energy.
The Disadvantages of Windmills
- Politics: Fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas, are big businesses, and they have successfully lobbied governments for subsides; while at the same time, denying subsidies for alternative and renewable forms of energy. As a result, the prices for fossil fuels are lower than they should be in a true free market. Eventually, the decreasing cost of wind power will make the prices for fossil fuel with their subsidies less appealing. Alternatively, maybe politicians will realize the long term folly of their current subsidy policies.
- Animal Death: While it is true that old models of windmills killed a large number of birds and bats, newer windmills have been redesigned to address this issue. For instance, newer windmills move at slower and more efficient spends thus saving many animals. Newer windmills have smooth towers to prevent animals nesting near the rotating blades. Some windmills intentionally produce unnatural sounds to scare aware animals. As a result of these innovations, domestic cats are far more dangerous to wildlife than windmills.
- Initial Cost: Windmill farms have a very high initial cost for purchasing and installing a large number of windmills. Fortunately, the costs for long term maintenance is considerable lower than any other forms of energy production. This is where government subsidies should be applied to support wind power.
- Visual Appearance: The "Not In My Backyard" or NIMB is a common opinion that windmills are visually unappealing. On the other hand, other people do find them visually appealing. The real question is if people prefer smoke stacks over windmills.
- Noise: A lot of people living near windmills often complain about noise being generated by windmills. Newer models of windmills have decreased these noises, and future models will surely address this issue even more.
- Inconsistent: Wind farms produce an inconsistent amount of energy. The obvious solution is to increase the number of wind mills over large areas to mitigate the variability of energy production of each windmill. The second obvious solutions is having other forms of energy as backups when needed.
- Storage: Sometimes, wind farms produce too much energy than is currently needed. Storing energy has never been very cost effective, however I believe that breaking down water into hydrogen gas and oxygen gas is a good and reasonably safe way of storing extra energy.
- Transmission: Finally, most wind farms are located in remote areas without any convenience means of transmitting energy to high populated areas. More transmission lines can easily solve this problem.
by Phil for Humanity