National Geographic
Menu

10 (Short) Reasons to Be Excited About Wind Power

The American Renewable Energy Day (AREDAY) conference opened Thursday in Aspen, Colorado, with leaders from the sectors of government, industry, activism and science engaging on questions about how the United States can wean itself from dependency on fossil fuels.

In an early keynote speech, Lester Brown, founder and president of the Earth Policy Institute, offered 10 succinct reasons why wind power is desirable:

  • It is abundant. China, for example, has enough harnessable wind to increase its electricity consumption 16-fold.
  • It is carbon-free. Reducing carbon emissions is a key part of any plan to transition from fossil fuels.
  • It is non-depletable. What we use today doesn’t affect how much we have tomorrow.
  • It does not require any water. This is in contrast to other water-intensive energy sources, such as nuclear and natural gas.
  • It does not use any fuel. Wind farm developers are ready to sign 20-year fixed-price contracts, Brown said, because the main cost associated with wind is building the farm.
  • Wind turbines don’t use a lot of land. It’s true that wind farms take up a lot of land. But the turbines themselves only occupy 1 percent of a wind farm’s land area, which leads to the next point…
  • Land owners can double-crop. It’s possible to produce cattle, wheat, corn, and other commodities while also harvesting wind energy. Far from creating a NIMBY (not-in-my-backyard) problem, wind farms become very desirable in agricultural areas.
  • It is locally available. Wind is everywhere.
  • It scales up easily. A wind farm can go from 20 to 400 megawatts easily.
  • Wind farm construction is not time-intensive. The power can be brought online very quickly.
  • Brown cited Denmark, Spain, Germany and India as having significant portions of energy sourced from wind. But wind still represents only a small fraction of worldwide power generation (in the United States, it’s around 2 percent), and like other renewable energy sources struggling to gain on the fossil-fuel behemoths, it needs support.

    Speakers at AREDAY had varying ideas about what would finally create a breakthrough for renewable energy. For Brown, it was the problem of how to feed 7 billion people with shrinking resources: “Food prices will be the biggest indicator to bring us face-to-face with the climate problem,” he said.

    Comments

    1. Annie
      WV
      March 11, 1:34 pm

      What are the disadvantages?

    2. Rudy David Rodriguez
      Hampton-Dumont middle school
      February 19, 1:49 pm

      these are good reasons

    3. Isabel
      Cleveland , Ohio
      September 12, 2013, 9:54 am

      You all have something to say but people are trying to make a better environment. Coal take millions of years to form so we will soon run out of it. Its better for us to be prepared for the future. That’s how wars start going into other people lands getting coal , fossil fuels , etc . Everybody have something to say but not helping out & not doing anything. So before you have anything say try and make good renewable resources.

    4. Grinner
      Albuquerque
      August 26, 2011, 7:55 am

      You know, a lot of these renewable sources would work better if the public would spend even a quarter of the money they use on , fantasy sports, alcohol consumption, the lottery or any other waste, the would increase the budget for research by a factor of 10.

      As for all of you who complain about these turbine, do you have a better solution then “Let’s keep it business as usual?” If not, please keep your comments to yourself, at least these people are trying to do something to help this nation.

    5. woodswalker
      NY
      August 24, 2011, 11:05 pm

      Wind power may contribute to cleaner air but it certainly ruins the environment in many other ways, not to mention here is little truth in what the energy output iactually is.
      While it’s nice that large landholders get to glean financially while others who live in rural areas lose all that attracted them in the first place, including property values which is no small thing in this dire economy. In other words, the financial rewards are distributed to relatively few while the rest live with the visual blight, strobing red lights at night, intermittent noise and higher energy bills. I say let there be greater investment in improving the technology: there seems to be great promise with vertical axis models.

    6. don bronkema
      DC
      August 24, 2011, 1:14 pm

      Gneiss to know that so many have all the answers

    7. Eros9
      Hanover, NH
      August 24, 2011, 9:43 am

      10 succinct reasons why wind power is undesirable:

      1. It can not meaningfully replace more reliable sources, currently fueled by hydro, fossil fuels, or nuclear. Because wind is intermittent, highly variable, and nondispatchable, the rest of the grid must continue to operate as if it is not there. Large-scale batteries are very far from practicality and would provide only short-term mitigation of variability.

      2. It can not meaningfully reduce carbon emissions. For the reasons in (1), wind forces the grid to operate less efficiently, like switching from highway to city driving.

      3. It requires huge machines spread over huge areas. Even “good” wind is a diffuse resource to capture.

      4. It subjects rural and wild land to industrial development. For the reasons in (3), that’s where the space is, and besides the turbines themselves, heavy-duty roads, transfer stations, and high-voltage transmission lines are also needed.

      5. It destroys, degrades, and fragments wildlife habitat. Again, for the reasons in (3) and (4).

      6. It is a particular threat to migratory birds, raptors, and bats. These animals already use the wind, and the giant turbine blades are a direct physical danger or force the animals to detour or go elsewhere.

      7. Its giant turbine blades create a disturbing thumping noise as they pass through different layers of air. The noises from large wind turbines make many people sick, and other animals are likely affected similarly.

      8. It requires blasting on mountain ridges to create level platforms of 2-3 acres or more and wide slow-turning roads.

      9. It adversely affects water headlands and runoff when built on mountain ridges. This is not only by the construction (blasting and compacting) of the roads and platforms, but also by the clearance of vegetation for them, as well as for the transfer stations and transmission lines.

      10. It’s ugly. Industrial wind turbines are now typically well over 400 feet tall and easily dominate the landscape, especially when the blades are turning. And a single facility consists of a lot more than 1, from dozens on mountain ridges to hundreds in the prairies, spread over miles.

    8. Ellen Cote
      Anderson, California USA
      August 22, 2011, 3:28 pm

      A wonderful contribution to intelligent commentary on the needs of continued life on earth. Thanks! Where can I direct aquaintences that they may read this material?

    9. CB
      August 22, 2011, 10:46 am

      Reason 11: The facility can easily be removed (unlike coal, oil, Nuclear, gas) and be re-used (turbines, metal, etc..) once another cheaper/better power source arrives.
      Reason 12: Offshore wind (10+miles), where the wind blows strongest and most steady doesn’t ruin the landscape because you can’t see it 10 miles away over the water haze.
      Reason 13: It can scale down to building rooftops. Unused space on a mid to high-rize can be used to offset the utility bill.

    10. Tom Gray
      Norwich, VT
      August 22, 2011, 9:59 am

      But it DOES work. If coal were used to generate the electricity that wind turbines in the U.S. will generate this year, a coal train 6,000 miles long (more than the distance from Los Angeles to London) would be needed.–Regards, Tom Gray, Wind Energy Communications Consultant

    11. Steph D
      Germany
      August 22, 2011, 4:27 am

      @Tom Wassa: It does work.

      And by the way: Which energy production does not ruin the landscape?

      Coolant from power plants, e.g. nuclear power stations heats up rivers and lakes. As a result, many species disappear. Well, but who cares? It’s all about the landscape!

    12. Simge
      istanbul,tr
      August 22, 2011, 1:58 am

      Basically 10 reasons why we should prefer wind energy over nuclear energy. It’s much more safer !!

    13. Shailesh
      Pune, India
      August 21, 2011, 4:40 am

      It is true that the Wind is a clean source of energy. It is also beneficial that generating wind energy doesn’t require water and fuel. But I am little bit worried about the quantity of electricity generated through it . Plant Load Factors (PLF) of wind turbines is withing the range of 20-35 % (based on present technology) and it always depends on geographical location. Wind energy is very region specific and also involve high establishment cost.

    14. Tom Wassa
      Fairgrove
      August 20, 2011, 10:15 pm

      Are you kidding? It doesn’t work… It look terrible, it ruins the landscape.