In recent years, wind turbines have been portrayed as ugly machines with dangerously sharp blades that do more harm to the environment than good.
Just like what happens to all progressive things, a small group of people have created a mirage of myths to hide the true benefits of wind energy. Here are the facts to debunk those myths:
Myth 1: Wind energy doesn’t help to stop climate change
Fact: Working wind turbines are renewable sources of energy that do not leave any waste or produce carbon dioxide (CO2). CO2 is the primary greenhouse gas emitted through human activities, and this gas and other heat-trapping gasses that have been added to the atmosphere have contributed drastically to climate change, according to the United States Environmental Protection Agency. To stop or lessen climate change, clean energy sources must be created. Although the initial creation of wind turbines does produce greenhouse gas emissions, the turbines more than make up for them by producing clean energy for up to 20 years. Adding one modern wind turbine to a piece of land will save over 4,000 tonnes of CO2 emissions every year, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association.
Myth 2: Wind power is inefficient and unreliable
Fact: No power sources are able to run forever without stopping, and wind power is no exception. Turbines are most effective in windy places, and the U.K. is the windiest country in all of Europe. But even so, a modern wind turbine anywhere produces electricity 70-85% of the time, with the outputs varying depending on the wind speed, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association. One of these turbines has the ability to supply power to over 1,000 homes. In terms of reliability, increasingly accurate weather reports are making wind much more predictable. Because turbines are located all around Britain, if one area isn’t very windy one day, another area usually is and can export its energy to the national grid.
Myth 3: Wind power has staggeringly high costs
Fact: Wind is currently the cheapest source of renewable energy. The cost of wind farms has decreased dramatically over the past decade and wind capacity continues to increase. The increasing developments in wind technology are only going to make wind energy cheaper. Meanwhile, fossil fuel prices are rising and will continue to rise as they get scarcer. In the United States, states that converted the greatest fraction of their electric power generation to onshore wind saw the lowest increase in direct electricity prices from 2003 to 2011, according to the Environmental Fluid Mechanics and Hydrology Program at Stanford University. This is because wind turbines don’t have any fuel costs, so once the turbines are installed, the costs are fixed. Wind farmers that work with Boythorpe can expect to make money from their investment after about two years.
The economic costs of wind power are drastically lower than fossil fuels. If the cost of environmental damage were included, the price of coal energy would be three times higher than that of wind energy, according to Friends of the Earth.
Myth 4: Wind turbines are loud and disruptive
Fact: In the early 1800s, wind turbines were very noisy, which was a big inhibitor of the expansion of the machines. New technology has allowed wind turbines to evolve into virtually soundless energy sources. The only sound coming from most modern-day turbines is the “woosh” of the blades. They are so quiet, that a wind farm at a distance of 750 to 1,000 feet (or 228.6 to 304. 8 meters) produces no more noise than a moderately quiet room, according to the American Wind Energy Association.
Myth 5: Wind turbines are dangerous to birds
Fact: For every 10,000 birds that are killed as a result of human activity, less than one death is connected to wind turbines, according to the Irish Wind Energy Association. Other man-made structures do much more damage to birds. Buildings and windows are attributed to more than 5,000 of those deaths, followed by house cats, which kill almost 1,000 of them. The Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) has found minimal impact on birds from flying into rotating turbines, according to The Telegraph. But what is of much more concern to birds’ existence than wind turbines is global climate change. A 2004 study estimated that climate change could cause up to one quarter of all bird species to become extinct by 2054, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association. Wind energy can help to stop this estimate from becoming reality.
Myth 6: Wind turbines take up too much land
Fact: Although wind turbines look large, only a very small portion of land is needed to hold a turbine. An average wind farm that holds around 20 turbines extends over an area of about 1-2 square kilometres, but only about 1-2 percent of this land is occupied by turbines and access tracks, according to Friends of the Earth. Land in between turbines can be used for agricultural farming and anything else.
Myth 7: Wind farms ruin the landscape and are unpopular
Fact: Everybody’s perception of what is ugly is different. But, according to the Canadian Wind Energy Association, studies regularly show that people find turbines to be an interesting feature of the landscape. In the U.K., most of the public are for the use of wind power. 66% of the U.K. public were in favour of it with only 8% against it, according to an Ipsos Mori poll conducted by Renewable UK, a non-profit renewable energy trade association.
Myth 8: Wind power needs a huge amount of backup energy to work
Fact: Every source of power generation needs backup energy because none work all of the time without any problems. Wind energy currently requires no additional backup. Even for wind power to provide 10% of the U.K.’s electricity needs, only a small amount of standard backup would be required, which would be about 300-500 megawatts (MW), according to the University of St. Andrews.
Myth 9: Wind turbines should only be built offshore
Fact: Onshore wind energy is currently one of the most economically competitive sources of renewable energy. Unfortunately, offshore turbines are not. Because of the technical trouble of building turbines offshore and the connection to the national grid, the cost of delivered energy from initial offshore wind farms is estimated to be up to twice that from equivalent onshore turbines, according to Friends of the Earth. Onshore turbines are necessary to economically fight climate change as quickly as possible.
Myth 10: The UK should invest in renewable energy technologies that are not wind-powered
Fact: A combination of renewable energy technologies is necessary to combat climate change. Wind energy is currently the most economically efficient of the renewable energy sources. The ongoing and future development of wind energy and the experience and challenges that the wind industry will go through will aid other growing renewable technologies.