The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Power

Wind Power
By Yani Smith

The intense drive to develop alternative energy technologies has led to massive advances in wind energy. But it's not all positive.

Here we'll explore the advantages and disadvantages of wind power.

Wind farms now produce 3.2% of the energy used in the US, 9% in Germany, 17% in Portugal and an astounding 26% in Denmark.

Far from an experimental technology, wind power has begun to prove itself as a real solution to our ever-growing energy needs. Wind farms the world over are right now powering homes and businesses in many countries, and its proliferation seems assured.

However, that's not to say that wind power is a perfect solution. As with all means of energy production there are advantages and disadvantages of wind power that need to be considered, not only by the people who design and build our energy production facilities but also by we who use them.

Advantages of Wind Power

1. Wind Energy as Green as Can Be

There are no forms of energy that are truly 'green'. While solar, wind and hydroelectric power produce no emissions once the facilities are in place, the production and installation of those facilities come with their own set of costs.

However, the environmental cost of building and operating wind turbines is a fraction of the cost of any other traditional means of power generation. While coal- and oil-fired power stations continue to pump out emissions throughout their lifetimes, once wind turbines have been installed their ongoing carbon footprint drops to zero.

In fact, a modern wind turbine will reach its 'break even' point just 8 months after installation. This means that a turbine will produce enough clean power in 8 months to counteract the carbon footprint of its construction.

3. Cost advantages of wind power

An even more compelling case for wind power is that, once the turbines have been built and installed, a wind farm will produce energy at essentially zero cost as long as it is properly maintained. No fuels need to be mined, transported and burned, with minimal costs for staffing and maintenance.

Beyond these costs, a turbine will generate energy that becomes cheaper and cheaper with each Watt produced.

3. Wind Power Can Go Anywhere

While some locations will offer greater efficiency than others (based on local wind patterns), one of the major advantages of wind turbines is that they can be installed anywhere wind currents are present.

We could fill deserts, the countryside and even oceans with countless turbines to take advantage of the 250 terrawatts of potential global wind energy - many times the global demand.

Wind power isn't limited to sprawling wind farms, either. All of us can install turbines in our own homes to supplement our energy needs (or even become completely self-sufficient). At a relatively low cost we could increase wind power production to many times its current capacity.




Disadvantages of Wind Power

1. A Threat to Wildlife

In the early days of wind power there was great concern about the effect wind farms would have on wildlife, especially birds. Birds made a habit of colliding with the blades of the turbines, and many even built their nests in the structures themselves.

While bird strike is still a problem for wind farms, it's not nearly as severe as it was in the past. Modern turbines operate at a higher efficiency than the earlier models, providing the same power while the blades spin at a much lower RPM. Towers have also been redesigned to prevent birds from nesting, with smooth surfaces replacing the old girders.

This concern, then, is more of a design challenge than an intractable problem. With the right design, the effect on local wildlife can be kept to a minimum. Furthermore, it's worth remembering that most other forms of energy production have a much greater impact on wildlife, and even power lines are much more dangerous for bird life than wind farms.

2. Predicting Power from Wind Turbines

One of the major problems with wind power is the unpredictable nature of the raw material: wind. While traditional power stations can control their production at will, wind turbines depend on the local air currents to keep producing energy. When the air is still the blades don't turn, and power production drops to zero.

To solve this problem we must locate our wind farms in areas with strong, dependable air currents that rarely fluctuate. Offshore locations usually provide strong winds, as do hilltops and other exposed areas. As long as we never reach the point at which we depend entirely on a constant air flow to maintain our power requirements this needn't be a serious problem.

3. Wind Farms Are an Eyesore

One of the most bizarre complaints (considering the benefit they bring) is that wind turbines are unattractive and spoil the landscape.

This is an understandable complaint, but it seems odd to complain about a wind farm when we have for many years erected endless pylons and power lines across even our most beautiful landscapes.

This is a problem that should resolve itself on its own. In time people will become accustomed to the sight of wind turbines, and they will be ignored just as we ignore power lines. The only alternative, it seems, would be to locate our wind farms far from human habitation, which would cause more problems than it solves.

Blowin' in the Wind - Overview of the Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Power

While wind power isn't an ideal solution to our energy needs, the pros far, far outweigh the cons. An endless supply of clean, renewable energy that can be produced cheaply and easily is the Holy Grail of energy production. Wind power can provide it, so long as we can learn to accept the few small disadvantages that come with such an abundant supply of power.




First published September 29, 2012
Last updated February 4, 2021

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25 comments on “The Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Power”

    1. Very much dependent on the spicefic engineering of the wind turbine. You are losing energy to friction, so the mechanics of the device are very important. All of that is not a consideration for fossil fuels becase the earth has done most of the conversion already by using gravity (i.e., pressure), which is basically infinitely available. If you are thinking not in terms of energy cost, but financail cost, then you really need to think about the supply chain. A single high-effeicncy wind turbine might cost $5MM to build, but there is operational cost, land cost, distribution and storage costs. All of that is baked into the end user price of a gallon of processed fossil fuels. I don't know the spicefic numbers, but I do know that none of the wind farms would be profitable without the government subsidies that they are getting ATM.That chart of 1996 California date someone posted showing that wind is the lowest cost seems highly suspect to me at a minimum it is looking at regulatory compliance costs for things like nuclear and fossil feuls, not just the cost of generating and delivering the energy. That is the problem with data "sound bites", they are a little to easy to quote without thinking about them.

    1. The wind milles may definitly spoil the landscape if they are located without knowledge and feeling about the surroundings where they are located. You shall always have in mind that the wind farm may have an impact on the environment, and avoid unique areas with high values for peoples well being and/or other activities.
      I think that wind power is a part of our future but you have to consider other values and make compromises when developing new sites. The best location (most efficient) for the windfarm is not necesseraly the best location considering other values in a society, also in an economic point of view.

      Ted/Sweden

      1. We moved into an area where we did not know and were not informed by annyoe that a wind farm was planned in the near future.It is beyond comprehension. And people bitch about enhanced interrogation .Come live in my front yard for a while and see what deprivation,constant annoyance and just plain disgust does to you over a period of time.It ain't pretty and it sure as hell is not the place in the country I hoped it would be!It is all a farce, lies and deceitfulness.Tasteless, lame and weak !

  1. There is something beyond bird strikes. There are genuine advantages and eco-benefits of offshore wind turbines and farms, pollution, emission free and economic. But what about the marine environment and marine ecosystem? Does anybody care? Corporates never care about the planet except profit. Have anyone looked at the disadvantages of offshore wind turbine farms? no doubt they are better than coal fired or nuclear power plants, but may be damaging to the ocean ecosystem. Fresh water fish and marine aquatic could be in the peril if all the wind turbines are to become seaborn in future. and just imagine the ugly look at the ocean you will see only turbines spring up. We need energy and power, no doubt, but let us not become powerful enough to destroy the marine ecosystem, already reeling under heavy pollution from oil spills and industrial pollutants. Going for the alternative is good, but only if such alternates does no compromise our ecosystem further. This is a voice for concern, but these idiot engineers always ignore such (half-knowledge) unless a catastrophe occurs.

  2. One disadvantage regarding wind power, impact on health. The negative impact of turbines over 100 feet on people within 1/4 to 1/2 mile of the turbines is bad, indeed. Headaches, inability to sleep, the "humm" of the turbines interrupts sleep and causes problems, the "flicker" effect and dizziness has also been reported by people in the US, Canada, and Europe.

  3. you know... if we install a wind energy at our home and there are no wind around... can't we just spin it ourself? just wondering

  4. Nice article(s), but where are you getting your information from? And are there any impacts correlated with the absorption of energy by the turbines? How many MPH do the turbines take away to make the turbines spin? A friend of mine posited that due to the nature of energy and wind farms, using the wind's energy to make energy, not all energy would come "out", and the wind "deficit" could harm and disrupt ecological systems and habitats. Is there any information on this? If so, you have my e-mail. Thanks!

    P.S. Love the site

  5. CBC hit a nerve with CanWea! home > media centre > news reeaesls02/08/2013 Wind Rush documentary requires fact-checks on health and global wind experienceOttawa, February 8, 2013 – According to the Canadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA),the documentary Wind Rush, presented on CBC’s Doc Zone February 7, 2013, requires clarification and fact-checks concerning wind energy development in Canada and around the world.CanWEA regularly consults with experts in science, medicine, and acoustics here in Canada and around the world to ensure the industry is reviewing all credible information related to wind energy and health. While the wind energy industry welcomes a fact-based debate about energy choices, CanWEA is disappointed that the film did not provide multiple nor balanced expert views on a wide range of issues discussed, particularly with respect to wind energy and human health.CanWEA was also not contacted by the filmmakers to provide comment, background, or context with respect to wind energy development across Canada and the film makes no effort to present the views of regulators, utilities or electricity system operators.We provide important fact-checks here:Wind Energy and HealthThe wind industry has been delivering clean electricity for more than 30 years. Worldwide, there is now over 240,000 MW of installed wind energy capacity, delivering affordable and reliable electricity in over 90 countries. Today the majority of people that live and work around wind turbines have productive and positive experiences in Canada and around the world.The balance of scientific evidence and human experience to date clearly shows that wind energy is not harmful to humans. The documentary does not provide a balance of perspectives on wind energy and human health. Please consult the 17 international reviews on this matter that have engaged dozens of scientific, medical, and acoustics experts – none of whom appear in the documentary.The documentary raises concerns related to infrasound from wind turbines. A report recently released by the South Australian Environment Protection Authority (EPA), consistent with most studies in this area, concluded that “…the level of infrasound at houses near the wind turbines assessed is no greater than that experienced in other urban and rural environments, and that the contribution of wind turbines to the measured infrasound levels is insignificant in comparison with the background level of infrasound in the environment.”The documentary features many comments by Dr. Nissenbaum. However it is important to note that much of the research he has undertaken that is referenced in the documentary has been reviewed by experts at the first Environmental Review Tribunal (ERT) in Ontario, by the Queen's Bench of Saskatchewan and by an independent expert panel established by the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and the Massachusetts Department of Public Health (MassDEP/MDPH, 2012). Both courts, as well as the Massachusetts independent expert panel, found no justification for halting wind energy development as a result of the information presented by Dr. Nissenbaum. Further, the MassDEP/MDPH panel concluded that attributing any of the observed associations to the wind turbines (either noise from them or the sight of them) is premature .The documentary suggested that the distances wind turbines are setback from residences in Ontario is a cause for concern. In fact, a 2011 study from the Minnesota Department of Commerce found in their review of setbacks in thirteen countries that “the average lower setback distance is approximately 470 meters, and the average upper setback distance is 700 meters.” In Ontario, the regulations do not permit wind turbines to be closer than 550 metres to a residential home.Wind Energy in DenmarkThe documentary argues the Danish population has turned against wind energy this is not the case. A June 2012 survey from the Danish Ministry of Energy, Climate and Buildings, however, showed that 83 per cent of Danes support continued development of wind power both on- and offshore. In addition, 95 percent of Danish parliamentarians, from multiple political parties, have supported Denmark’s new and more aggressive wind energy targets.A Responsible Industry Delivering Real BenefitsAs the voice of Canada’s wind energy industry, CanWEA supports the responsible and sustainable development of wind energy. CanWEA’s global industry-first Best Practices for Community Engagement and Local Consultation recognize the fundamental right of every citizen to play an active role in any new development in their area. These Best Practices were informed directly by input from local municipal officials and stakeholders. Wind energy is universally recognized as one of the safest and most environmentally friendly sources of electricity available to us today. It also provides significant economic benefits to rural communities and is now cost-competitive with most conventional forms of electricity generation.For more information or interview opportunities, please contact:Ulrike Kucera, Media Relations OfficerCanadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)Tel: 613-234-8716 ext. 228 | Mob: 613-867-4433Email: Lejla Latifovic, Communications OfficerCanadian Wind Energy Association (CanWEA)Tel: 613-234-8716 ext. 241 | Mob: 613-608-8226Email:

  6. The articles on this website are extremely useful. They were a great source for my alternative energy project! Thank you for collecting data and writing this!

  7. Sorry but whether or not they are an eyesore is a personal opinion and to dislike them is not "odd".

    In reply to your point about pylons though:

    1) they are also an eyesore IMO. To see a beautiful landscape cluttered with them is heartbreaking.
    2) pylons are essential though. You need wires to carry electricity. You do not
    NEED to generate that electicity with windmills although you may choose to.
    3) the main difference between pylons and windmills aesthetically is movement. The eye is attracted to movement and therefore it is hard to ignore these windmills. Not so with pylons.

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