Wind Energy - Benefits
Wind energy is an ideal energy because it:
- is a pollution free, infinitely sustainable form of energy
- doesn't require fuel to operate
- doesn't produce greenhouse gases
- doesn't generate toxic or radioactive waste
- uses comparatively small amounts of water
- has a stable price
- has a high capacity factor, maintenance doesn't impact entire wind farm
- provides new jobs to the economy
There are numerous benefits to using wind energy, especially to the environment. Wind energy offers a pollution free, infinitely sustainable form of energy and a solution to supplement and reduce our reliance on traditional fossil-based power generation. A single fossil fuel power plant can emit as much as a million tons of carbon dioxide per year and uses great amounts of water (0.49 gallons [1.90 liters] per kilowatt hour). Comparatively, wind turbines emit zero emissions and use very small amounts of water (0.001 gallons [0.004 liters per kilowatt hour]).
More so now than ever, we are able to see the link between a healthy environment and a sustainable, strong economy. Air pollution and global warming brought on by carbon emissions can affect the economy in many ways. Lung-related illnesses linked to degraded air quality costs the US more than $20 billion a year. Not only is there a monetary cost to treat these illnesses, but the economy is also impacted by a reduced available work force and overall productivity in society.
In 2003 the World Meteorological Organization warned that extreme weather events appear to be increasing in number due to climate change. An increase in global temperatures causes a variety of changes to the planet including glacial retreat, Arctic shrinkage and the rise of worldwide sea levels. Changes in the amount and pattern of precipitation can result in flooding, drought and in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events. Insurance companies have estimated that if a major US city is directly hit by a global warming-intensified hurricane it could equal $50 billion in insured losses.
In good wind areas, the costs of generating electricity from wind ranges from six to 12 cents per kilowatt hour. While this is still somewhat higher than the costs associated with the construction of some other new forms of electrical generation facilities, wind energy has no fuel costs and operating costs continue to decrease every year (by three to five percent), this is in part a result of greater efficiency and economies of scale. In contrast, most conventional energy generation costs steadily increase as resources become scarcer, making wind power economics more attractive.
Using wind to produce enough power for over 200 homes (2,000,000 kilowatt hours) of electricity instead of burning coal will leave 900,000 kilograms of coal in the ground and reduce annual greenhouse gas emissions by 2,000 tons. This is equivalent to taking 417 cars off the road or planting 10,000 trees.
Wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source, increasing in excess of 30 percent annually for the past five years. In 2012, global wind energy capacity grew by 19 percent, with the wind industry installing a record level of 44,711 MW of new clean, reliable wind power. There are over 150,000 wind turbines operating around the world in over 90 countries.