The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy and Wind Farms
By Chris Bradshaw on June 21st, 2011
Once seen as just the choice of the eccentric, wind energy has now become a regular sight in the landscape of most parts of the countryside. Yet, despite the huge increase in the use of wind farms it still only constitutes a tiny proportion of our total energy production. Why is that?
One of the main reasons is that despite the universal tourist appeal of the Windmill in the countryside, wind turbines have never had a good press from the visual standpoint and erected as they need to be, on the top of hills, at the high points on the horizon to maximise wind flow, they often attract negative press. Wind farms are frequently described as eyesores where the windmill was seen as an attraction.
As well as not being perceived as attractive, the noise given out by wind turbines can be surprisingly loud especially from a large wind farm. The noise can seem out of lace too. Whereas a motorway sounds very noisy, when we are on it we are cocooned in the car where the noise is muted and furthermore it is a noise we expect in the context. However, in the middle of the countryside we expect it to be quiet and peaceful so the noise from the wind farm appears very intrusive and inappropriate.
Simply the fact that wind farms have to have large numbers of wind turbines to produce even a small amount of power means that there have to be a number of them and this means that they will affect more people across the country. In most cases trees have to be cleared in order to dig the large holes required to take the concrete to support the steel structures and many people feel that trees are more attractive and a more natural skyline than wind turbines. Environmentalists express concern about the loss of trees for bird life as they can intrude on birds migrational flight path .Where possible therefore wind farms are often sited offshore to avoid this environmental issue but this can also create a problem for aquatic life on account of the vibration.
On the pro side we need wind energy to replace the dependence on oil and gas which is in diminishing supply and prone to political conflict as nations try to ensure a steady supply of this scarce resource. Wind is not a finite resource and is free at the point of collection unlike fossil fuels which require expensive exploration resources and the need to drill and transport the finished product. Wind farms pay for themselves within 3 months of installation in terms of the energy produced. They, unlike fossil fuels do not cause pollution or create waste products nor do they take up much space, farmers can still work around turbines. They have a small footprint, an aspect that we are having to consider.
Wind farms are able to produce electricity cheaper than nuclear power and with less invasion of the environment than fossil fuels and will become the cheapest form of energy over the next few years.
Many of the arguments against wind farms have been addressed by better design and citing and the noise associated with the early wind turbines have been reduced in more recent manufacturers.
The arguments for and against large scale wind farms are often heightened by the fact that the perceived negative aspects tend to be experienced by those close to them in the local community. The positive outcomes tend to be associated with those far removed from their impact such as the energy companies who benefit from the profit generated and the government who attract good will from meeting their carbon reduction targets.