The size of wind turbines is a drawback of wind power. In order to generate a significant amount of electricity, wind farms must contain hundreds of turbines, each of them hundreds of feet tall. Wind farms require a lot of land.
Another problem is that the wind does not blow at all times, even in typically windy areas. When the wind is not blowing, electricity cannot be generated.
Power transmission and service can also be problems, because the best spots for wind farms are usually in sparsely populated areas. The electricity must be transmitted to urban areas, which could be hundreds of miles away. Wind farms built in extremely remote areas still need service and maintenance, so workers need to be able to access the turbines. It can take a lot of time and effort to maintain remote wind farms.
There are a few problems commonly associated with wind energy that either need to be overcome or have recently been mostly resolved. The first is that of intermittence. Some claim that wind can never be a large part of our energy portfolio because it’s not always blowing. Large scale storage would be a great thing for the wind energy, allowing us to store energy from when the wind is blowing strongly and use it when the winds have slowed down. If we can’t do this however, we can make use of other energy sources as a backup (utilities do this right now by running natural gas plants to make up for changes in production and demand). Still, backups are not an ideal situation, and so storage would be a great thing to be developing. There is also the argument that the wind is always blowing somewhere, so if you build enough wind power, certain areas of the country can make up for deficits in others. This is good in theory, but brings us to a second limitation of wind energy. The old, outdated electrical grid isn’t great at taking variable energy inputs from remote areas and bringing them to large areas of consumption. This is why smart grid technology is so important. We also need to add grid infrastructure because wind energy usually exists in areas far from where the demand this, this means more power lines, adding cost, and also developing potentially environmentally sensitive areas.
The next few issues are those of the effects on birds and bats and the issue of noise. Birds and bats can be struck and killed by wind turbines, an event that occurred much more often than we wanted with early wind turbines. Now that the issue has been raised, designs have changed and there are a number of restrictions on placement to try to limit this effect. It is a great opportunity for green engineers and conservationists to work together to try to do the best for all involved. It is also often pointed out that smoke stacks, power lines, automobiles, etc. all lead to bird and bat deaths as well. It’s something that just needs to be considered and taken care of responsibly. Finally, the noise issue is another one that has been taken care of by new design. New turbines are much quieter than the first generation that came out.
So, in short, yes there are some problems with wind power. However, many of them are manageable and when compared to the problems with coal plants, including the effects of climate change, wind still looks pretty good.
To stress the transmission issue:
With the current technological gaps in our existing power grid, wind energy can only be used to power areas within 100 miles of the generating source.
Another issue is that some people find turbines ugly and protest against them being built as an “eyesore”.
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