Are Wind Farms A Good Choice For Environmentally Safe Energy?

While Wind is one of the cleanest forms of energy in a world that finds itself in the middle of an impending environmental catastrophe, it does not necessarily justify our obsession with wind farms that occupy too much of land and block it from being optimally utilized. Is there a better way of balancing these two scarce resources?
Are Wind Farms a Good Choice for Environmentally Safe Energy?
Source - Wikimedia Commons (https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ASomerset_Wind_Farm.jpg)

The importance of wind as a source has been known to mankind for a longtime. Wind energy has been tapped for several thousand years for propelling boats and ships sailing over water. Wind powered boats were in vogue for transporting people as well as cargo on the Nile five thousand years ago. Windmills have been used in Greece for water pumping. In the seventh century after Christ, farmers in Sistan region, which lies today over Iran and Afghanistan, were using windmills for grinding grain. Later, they became very popular in many parts of Europe such as Netherlands.

Modern use of wind

for producing electricity began towards the end of nineteenth century in Europe and North America, when the first wind turbines that produced electricity were built and operationalised. In 1941, for the first time, a wind turbine was connected with an electrical grid, opening possibilities of greater exploitation, but due to costs and greater availability of other fossil fuel based options, wind was not used to its potential

Today, that situation stands changed. With falling costs of renewable energy and greater awareness about the need to move away from fossil fuels, wind energy is increasingly looked at a valid option. However, just like any other option, wind energy also has its own pros and cons.

Wind Turbines or Wind Farms

Wind is certainly one of the two cleanest sources of energy, the other, of course being solar energy. A standalone wind turbine can provide energy to a household not connected with a grid. Of course, due to the unpredictability of wind velocities, energy storage would be required. This could mean an escalation of cost, and also made it a less than absolutely clean option. In the beginning, isolated wind turbines were more common, but their use and utility was rather limited.

A more recent development is large wind farms, where hundreds of wind turbines are built up and joined to an electric grid, thereby becoming a significant source of renewable energy. Such farms have been built over large expanse of land, and also offshore where they make use of stronger sea winds. One of the largest onshore wind farm lies in Jaisalmer, India with an output of over a thousand megawatts. United States harvests the largest amount of energy through wind farms, most of which are spread in the ‘corn belt’ in Iowa, Nebraska and Cansas. Walney wind farms in England is the largest offshore wind farm with an output of over 350 megawatts. China is taking major initiatives, and Gansu wind farm in China has an output of over 500 megwatts.

However, wind farms are not without criticism. The major criticism revolves around the argument that they take that particular part of land away from all other use. An earlier argument was whether wind turbines need to be 'farmed' in a manner they are being put together and managed these days, and whether they can be used in a manner that they do not 'occupy' the land, for it is

not the land, but the wind over it that they need to generate electricity. It is generally better if they are dispersed in a manner that leaves the land to used for other purposes, may it be agricultural, industrial or residential, and certainly, it will not hurt if they can be combined with some harvesting of solar energy as well. There are other criticisms too.

Other Criticisms of Wind Farms

Other criticisms of wind farms include the high initial investment, which make it a difficult choice. For most Governments, it is difficult as they are perennially short of resources. For companies, it makes a risky proposition as the falling costs can bring down prices in coming years and upset their calculations. Another argument against them is the damage they do to the environment, which is more in the offshore wind farms that disrupt aquatic life. Onshore turbines have adverse impact on birds and bats. Sometimes they are also criticized for the noise that they make, and their appearances.

Advantages overshadow their Disadvantages

While these criticisms do exist, they are generally overshadowed by their advantages. With the world becoming increasingly conscious about the environmental hazards of pollution, wind energy are being increasingly looked up to provide a solution. One of its greatest advantages is its low cost. In United States, it costs around 5 cents for every kilowatt, which is cheaper than most other forms of energy except coal and nuclear energy.

Real Challenge: Sustainable Ecosystems

Actually, the greatest danger to environment is caused not by adopting any particular process, but adopting it in too much intensity, and to the exclusion of everything else, and wind farms are no exception to this rule. So what we really need is a broader eco-system to exist, in which there is scope for both industry and agriculture, for solar as well as wind energy, and even bio-fuels, and where species other than Homo Sapiens can co-survive and co-exist harmoniously.

What we really need today is to learn to live in harmony with nature, utilizing it as a resource in a manner that does not interfere with the survival of existing ecosystems. Whether it is mining of heavy metals or making use of our water bodies, we should be able to do it without disturbing the existing natural equilibriums that ensure an endless sustenance of those resources by the nature itself.

We do not need thousands of windmills concentrated in a square kilometer. We need hundreds of thousands of windmills spread over the vast districts, states and continents, making use of the wind power without adversely affecting the other aspects of the land and life around it. In short, we need better planning of wind turbine location and intensity.



Article Written By V Kumar

I am a freelance writer. I write for the passion of writing. Life has blessed me an opportunity to be a witness to many interesting aspects of life and people around the world. Indeed, these are very interesting times and we who live in this era are privileged to experience it. You can find my articles at http://vkumar.expertscolumn.com/

Last updated on 16-10-2017 182 0

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