Wind energy offers humans a sustainable and environmentally friendly energy source. Compared to the fossil fuels that dominate our current energy matrix, wind energy does little harm to the environment. The fossil fuels we are currently using to generate our electricity are the single largest C02 emitters in the country, accounting for almost 40 percent of total U.S. C02 emissions and more than 30 percent of U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.
Wind energy does significantly less harm to the environment than the fossil fuels it will replace. That does not mean, however, that there aren’t disadvantages of wind energy. Businesses, communities and even countries need to consider these disadvantages before investing in wind generation technologies. If nothing else, they offer emotional issues that opposition to their projects can use against it’s approval. Understanding them is critical to project long term success.
One of the chief disadvantages of wind energy is that it is only viable in certain environments. Areas that receive consistently high winds are ideally suited for wind farms. These larger “farms” are typically associated with western USA areas and more recently offshore east coast sites. For smaller mid-sized projects including one or a few turbines, there is a much wider range of areas that offer excellent potential. East Coast coastal areas are particularly viable locations and have shown a lot of potential for mid-range projects.
Any coastal regions that are distant from human population centers impose a challenge of their own: wind farms for mass energy production, need to be located reasonably close to where the energy they create is used. To make these projects affordable, energy storage and transmission must be as close to it’s use as possible.
Wind energy, unfortunately, is unsuitable for some regions and countries. This is its major disadvantage.
Wind energy opponents suggest that there are hosts of other disadvantages attendant with wind energy production. These alleged disadvantages of wind energy are often overstated. Another one of the disadvantages they point to is land investment. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory recently found that, for every megawatt of power output, they required between 30 and 141 acres of land. This sounds substantial but is mitigated by the fact that this land can be used for agricultural and other general use purposes. The survey found that less than one acre of land was permanently disturbed – rendered unusable – for every megawatt produced.
Similarly, wind energy detractors suggest that wind turbines are harmful to animals and to humans living near wind turbines. These assertions have not been substantiated. There are disadvantages of wind energy, but many of the claims made by those who oppose its growth are distortions at best and outright falsehoods at worst. Wind energy is an enormously viable and environmentally friendly resource.