The counter that always appears in debates about environmentalism is what is the economic repercussions will be from installing and depending on alternative energy sources and while that argument does hold merit as some are more expensive, there are untold facts of both sides.Wind energy is one of the fastest growing alternate sources of energy and may be the future energy source for many people in the future. It is one of the fastest growing for a reason and learning about the positives and negatives of wind energy might open people’s perspective on this type of alternative energy.
The biggest positive would be that it is a clean fuel source with limited downside. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause negative environmental effects such acid rain, smog, or greenhouse gases.
Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion and the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas, which emit particulate matter, nitrogen oxides, and sulfur dioxide, things that cause human health problems and economic damages along with major environmental damage.
Another point is that wind power is cost effective. Land based utility scale wind is one of the lowest priced energy sources available, costing in the range of two to six cents per kilowatt-hour, depending on the wind resource and the particular project’s financing according to energy.gov. Utility scale turbines are usually defined as turbines that are larger than 100 kilowatts in size. Utility scale wind turbines are typically installed in large wind farms connected to the nation’s power grid.
Because the electricity from wind farms is sold at a fixed price over a long period of time, like 20 years or more and the fact that its fuel is free, wind energy alleviates the price uncertainty that fuel costs add to conventional types of energy such as oil.
An economic benefit that is often overlooked is that wind turbines can be built on already existing farms. This benefits the economy greatly in rural areas, where most of the best wind sites are found. Rural areas usually carry higher poverty rates than non rural areas, adding to the already perceived benefits. Ranchers and farmers can continue to farm on their property because the wind turbines use only a small amount of the total property they own. Wind power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land, thus providing landowners with additional income.
A point that is very often overlooked by the public when discussing alternative energy sources is that the alternative energies will lower disease rates as less air pollution and less pollution in general means that the air and water will be cleaner. People in countries or areas with rampant and blatant air pollution often have to wear masks just to be able to breath safely without fear of hurting themselves. According to Scott Montgomery, a geoscientist and affiliate in the UW’s Jackson School of International Studies “Energy is the key to many things dealing with public health, and electricity is the most fundamental,” Montgomery said. “Discussions about this tend to focus on the developing world, but it’s not just happening ‘over there.’ These issues are happening everywhere; it’s just that in some places, it happens a lot more.”
Saving lives and making people healthier is a very overlooked benefit of using alternative energies, such as wind. On the flip side wind power has to still compete with traditional energy sources on a cost basis. The truth is that fossil fuels at the current time are considerably cheaper than alternative energy sources. Depending on how much energy the site the wind farms sits on, the wind farm might not be cost competitive if the site was poorly chosen. Even though the cost of wind power has decreased by a lot in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher start up investment than fossil fueled setups.
Good places to set up wind turbines are often located in remote, out of way locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed. While this does benefit local economies, transmission lines must be built to bring the electricity from the wind farm to more populated areas such as cities. Also wind turbines may not be the most profitable use of the land as rural land suitable for wind turbine installation competes with other uses for the property, which may be more highly valued than electricity generation from wind turbines.. Also turbines are not usually popular with the locals, as they might cause noise and cosmetic pollution. Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to traditional power plants, concern exists over the noise produced by the blades of the turbines and visual impacts to the landscape. Also just like dams and fish species such as salmon, turbine blades could damage local wildlife as birds have been killed by flying into spinning turbine blades.
Most of these issues have been greatly reduced or resolved by properly siting wind plants and technological developments. Falling crude prices can affect the development and use of wind energy in two different ways, either they are unaffected. If they are unaffected, then development and use of them can continue, unbothered. However if it is affected, the development is hindered greatly as the economics of it make crude oil a cheaper option, and most corporations goals are to make money, not try to save the environment.
There is definitely a moral imperative to develop and use alternative energies compared to the traditional energy sources being used today. From the industrial revolution to today, there has been too much pollution in the name of greed. There won’t be a future the way we know this earth if drastic measures aren’t taken soon to slow and attempt to stop climate change. Alternative energies may pose a short term financial burden to companies and the government in the form of subsidies, however the financial cost is well worth having a future in which global warming isn’t a threat.