In the midst of both an energy and economic crisis, the need for sustainable alternatives to fossil fuels that are economically viable is more pressing than ever before. The benefits of harnessing the energy of the wind through massive wind farms are numerous and this practice appears to be a sustainable and economically sound choice that eases concerns about the search for cheap, clean energy and more importantly, does not cause the significant harm to the environment characterized by other energy production methods.
The key word in the quest to push for more wind farms is sustainability and with that in mind, one main facet of the benefits of wind farms is that this cheap, clean source of power will not dwindle in supply. While there are multiple arguments one could easily offer for a shift to a more wind-reliant energy practices, the two most important are the value of wind farms for these environmental and economic reasons, especially since these are contentious issues and the subject of a great deal of political, social, and economic tension with rising gas prices and fears of supply shortages and the sustainability argument in favor of wind farms offers a simple and relatively simple to implement set of changes for the good of our economic vitality and environmental health.
For many in this country, one of the most compelling arguments for a massive shift to wind farms as energy sources goes beyond concerns about the sanctity of the environment or desire for a renewable source of power–it is the economic angle that proves the most convincing. The potential economic benefits of wind farms are difficult to find fault with; although there are naturally setup and maintenance costs associated with wind farms (Blankinship 2008), the energy they harness comes freely, requires no incredibly process of refining and shipping, and boosts rural economies where farming as a way of life has been a financially unrewarding trade. For wind farmers, their land not only produces clean, renewable energy for their area, but can also be used for grazing land and crops, just as before.
Outside of rural areas, the prices of wind energy will be dramatically lower than current natural gas and other fossil fuel energy sources and helps avoid the risk of even greater increases of fuel prices and the vast economic devastation that would be produced by unaffordable fuel (U.S. Department of Energy 2007).
There are few dissenting voices that counter the idea that the conversion to wind energy by the creation of wind farms will dramatically reduce pollution and thus improve the quality of the air we breathe, not to mention the soil and water supplies we rely upon. Traditional fossil fuel-based processes for generating power are extremely polluting and the output following use of fossil fuels (carbon emissions, for example) are often just as bad as the processes that create these energy supplies. As fossil fuels are refined and prepared for use, “sulphur dioxide, carbon dioxide, and oxides of nitrogen [are released] during the energy conversion process and similarly, particulates and toxic heavy metals which affect the environment adversely are also being generated during this process" (Sathyajith 2006). The move to this clean source of energy that does not require polluting process or emissions will aid in halting the already rapid consumption of what remains of valuable fossil fuels, but will simultaneously begin to eradicate the environmental and public health (not to mention ecological) dangers of these processes.
While there is little doubt that reliance on fossil fuels is cyclical in its damage to the environment (through the pollution caused by drilling, refining, and using) it has continued unabated as wind farms are still in an experimental phase in the minds of many. What some do not realize is that although there will some damage to the local environments through the construction of wind farms, these are short-term and repairable issues. A great case study regarding the short term versus long term environmental consequences and benefits of wind farms is embodied in the projected wind farms at Horicon Marsh, Wisconsin.
The projected wind farm will produce power for around 72,000 homes (Milwaukee Reporter 2007) all of which is a renewable and clean source of economic benefit to the local area, both in terms of the local farmers it benefits and the cheap and clean energy produced for nearby areas that have been among the hardest hit by home heating costs. One issue, however, is that a bird refuge is nearby and the presence will have an impact on the safety of birds who will very likely fly into the giant turbines and will suffer other habitat issues, such as altered flight paths and breeding grounds. “Despite producing clean renewable energy, wind farms disrupt the environment, alter habitat, and affect where some wildlife can live" (Cohn 2008).
Although this is a tragic element of the move toward wind farms, the environmental devastation that is possible with another several decades of fossil fuels bodes much worse for the environment as a whole and thus, although it is unfortunate, there are likely to be some ecological casualties in the name of a better environment more generally. This ecological reason should not be an end to the viability of wind farms, especially since the damage caused by fossil fuel reliance is far more devastating to humans, animals, and our precious water, soil, and other natural resources.
What the environmental and economic benefits of a large move to energy produced at wind farms boils down to is the simple matter of sustainability of resources, which naturally gives rise to sustainability of costs. With the main concept of sustainability at the forefront of the argument in favor of a dramatic increase in the number of wind farms in the United States in mind, a few key elements of wind farms should be mentioned, the most important of which is wind energy as the ultimate renewable and clean source of energy imaginable. As a renewable and constant source of energy, wind farms will, if properly maintained, continue with minimal human effort and almost no use of external fossil fuels except for those used for basic maintenance and transportation between wind farm sites.
Blankinship, S. (2008). Keeping Wind Turbines Spinning. Power Engineering, 112(8), 50-52.
Cohn. “How Ecofriendly Are Wind Farms?.” BioScience 58.7 (2008), 576-578.
Sathyajith, Matthew. Wind Energy: Fundamentals, Resource Analysis and Economics. New York: Springer, 2006.
National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “Wind Energy Benefits: Wind Powering America Fact Sheet Series.” Wind Energy. 2007. U.S. Department of Energy. 14 Oct 2008 .
Wisconsin court rules $250M wind farm development may proceed.” Reporter[Milwaukee]03 August 2007.