The wind, like sunlight and water, is a free and renewable fuel source that can be harnessed to produce electricity. Unlike electricity generated by burning fossil fuels, wind power is clean and environmentally responsible, with no emissions of global-warming gases like carbon dioxide or harmful pollutants such as mercury or dioxin. Tapping into an indigenous resource also helps us achieve energy independence by reducing our reliance on imported fossil fuels.
Wind power provides numerous benefits and advantages:
The price of electricity generated by the wind has decreased 80-90% in the last 20 years. This makes wind power cheaper than nuclear energy and on par with current prices of coal and gas-fired power plants. With fossil fuel sources continually depleting, the price of electricity generated from them will only increase. The wind, however, is inexhaustible and free, and buying wind power can be a good hedge against future rises in energy costs.
Wind power does not carry the hidden external expenses endemic to many conventional means of energy generation. Unlike dirty power plants that put dangerous particulates into the air, wind power generation does not cost our society any proven health detriments. A recent report by the American Lung Association found that about a quarter of people in the US live in area have unhealthy levels of year-round particle pollution. While conventional electricity production is one of the largest uses of fresh water in the United States, wind turbines do not require water to operate. In 2000, 39 percent of total freshwater use was from thermoelectric-power withdrawals for cooling of power plants. Wind power additionally fights global warming and thus the numerous unforeseen expenses related to it. By avoiding the many hidden external health and environmental costs of tradition energy generation, wind power becomes all the more attractive.
Wind energy is a growth industry. Global capacity increased 290% (from 31 GW to 121 GW) between 2002 and 2008. US generating capacity, has increased 270% since 2004—50% in 2008 alone—and is currently at approximately 25,000 GW, which is enough to power 7 million households. The US now leads the world in wind power generation, followed by Germany (23,900 MW), Spain (16,750 MW) and China (12,200 MW).
There are several reasons behind the dramatic growth in wind industry. Unlike with other types of power plants, construction of wind farms takes months instead of years. Additionally, wind turbines can be added in small increments to match growth in demand, and they are also one of the most environmentally reversible power generators. Where nuclear power leaves hazardous and expensive waste and is very expensive to decommission, a wind turbine can be taken down, allowing the site to re-grow. Since only a miniscule fraction of the wind potential has been tapped, the industry is expected to continue to grow at a rapid rate for many years.
Wind energy is popular: dozens of surveys conducted in the US and abroad consistently show a preference for wind energy over traditional power generation. A March 2009 survey shows that 82% percent of Americans support a wind farm project in their hometown and 79% do not believe a large wind farm project is detrimental to their health and welfare. Another recent survey taken in Lewis County, New York—home of Maple Ridge, which hosts the largest wind farm east of the Mississippi—found that 70% of residents believe the wind farm has a positive impact on the community, and, 79% favor more wind projects in the county. Interestingly, 35% of survey participants are able to see the wind farms from their homes.
Power production is a major contributor to greenhouse gasses. The eight warmest years on record have occurred in the last decade. Power production is also a major contributor of atmospheric pollution. Nationwide, as many as 30,000 deaths a year are related to power plant emissions alone, according to a study by Abt Associates, a private research organization that does work for the EPA. Electricity generated by the wind, however, is clean—it does not emit either greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide or other harmful pollutants. Harvesting the wind’s power does not require devastating extraction or transportation of a fuel source. And current practices of wind farm siting, installation and maintenance mitigate environmental impacts to the point where they have nominal if any impact on important wildlife or plant communities.
In 2008, 35,000 new US jobs were created in the wind industry. As a result, wind power now employs more people than the coal industry. With wind energy, customers pay for people, not fuel. Wind farms also generate income for landowners through leases and tax revenues to local towns.
1 US Geological Services
2 European Wind Energy Association
3 The Saint Group
4 American Wind Energy Association
5 Earth Policy Institute
6 American Wind Energy Association
For more information about wind power, including advantages, benefits and myths, check out these sites:
American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) – Up-to-date, detailed information about wind power in the United States, including its advantages and benefits, the truth behind many myths surrounding it, as well as updates on projects throughout the country
North American Wind Power – A print and online trade publication with news and detailed stories about wind power projects, legislation and regulations pertaining to wind power, etc.
Yes2Wind – Wind power advocacy group based in the UK, providing lots of great general information about wind power, including debunking many of its myths
Union of Concerned Scientists – Wind Power in New England Factsheet Series – A series of factsheets addressing various wind power topics in New England, including benefits to local communities and climate change.
Greenpeace – One of the largest global environmental activist groups is also an ardent supporter of wind power
Conservation Law Foundation is the oldest regional environmental advocacy organization in the nation. CLF has vocally supported the wind farm Endless Energy has been planning on Redington Mountain.
Wind Power Facts
* Wind is a form of solar energy caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun and rotation of the earth.
* Since earliest recorded history, wind power has been used to move ships, grind grain and pump water.
* In 1941, the world's first large-scale electricity-producing wind turbine was installed on Grandpa's Knob in Castleton, Vermont.
* In 2008, 35,000 new US jobs were created in the wind industry. As a result, wind power now employs more people than the coal industry.
* According to the US Department of Energy, wind energy provides more jobs per dollar invested than any other energy technology.
* The United States produces six billion metric tons of carbon dioxide annually, 40% of which are generated by the electric power sector. Increased installation of wind power could help reduce these amounts.
* According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA): "To generate the same amount of electricity as today’s U.S. wind turbine fleet (over 25,300 MW) would require burning over 36 million tons of coal or 110 million barrels of oil each year."