As we all know, one of the most pressing global concerns in these times is finding clean and green forms of energy, ones that don't pollute and destroy the environment. Is wind power the way forward for our planet, as a source of clean and sustainable fuel?
It is undoubtedly a major form of renewable energy these days. Wind turbines ( those modern minimalistic-looking windmills, as in the pic) are devices which convert kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy, through wind power. These can then be used to produce electricity at a wind power plant. They can also be used to drive machinery, e.g. for grinding grain (like a traditional mechanical windmill), or pumping water, and they can also be used to charge batteries (this type is known as a wind charger). The larger ones, which are connected by an electrical grid, are becoming a very significant source of wind power.
This method of generating power is now booming in EU countries, including the UK, since our island's geographical position makes it ideal for the installation of plants. They are controversial but despite this many more onshore wind farms have been built in the last few years. One reason they are not popular with many is that they are considered to be an eyesore by many people, they are noisy, and they affect property prices in the area. The Liberal Democrat party in Britain are very enthusiastically advocating wind power as a leading form of clean and renewable energy. However the Conservative majority in the government are much more sceptical of their benefits. There are currently around 3,800 turbines being used, which are dotted around different parts of the UK.
Listed below are some of the pros and cons of this type of energy:
1) They are eco-friendly, in that there are no fossil fuels burnt to generate the energy;
2) They take up less space than the average power station;
3) New technology is now making the extraction of wind energy more efficient and it is free;
4) They are a very valuable resource in remote locations, e.g. countryside and mountain areas;
5) When combined with solar electricity, they can be ideal for both developed and developing countries as a steady form of energy.
1) The main disadvantage is the unreliability factor of the wind. In many areas winds are too low to support a wind farm.
2) They generally produce much less electricity than fossil-fuelled power stations, so there need to be a lot of them to get the same result.
3) The noise pollution from them is similar to that of a small jet engine.
4) They are considered to be a blot on the landscape, ruining the scenery.
Another allegation, not confirmed as fact, is that they have also been accused of endangering military aircraft by blocking radar signals.
Campaigners against wind farms in Britain have been encouraged by a court ruling in May 2012, in which a village called Hemsby in Norfolk succeeded in blocking four 350 ft. turbines, after a judge ruled that their right to preserve their landscape was greater than renewable energy targets.
There seems to be no doubt that wind power is a valuable resource to be exploited, especially due to its "green" credentials, but judging by the disadvantages it is certainly not an unadulterated blessing, and these factors need to be taken into account by the advocates of wind energy. I am in two minds about it myself; not really sure how I feel about those stark, alien-looking things! I am quite enthusiastic about their perceived benefits, but then, I am lucky that I don't live near a wind farm, I probably wouldn't be so keen then!
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Picture courtesy of www.carmarthenshire.gov.uk