Wind Energy: Advantages and Disadvantages

Wind energy is among the fastest growing energy sources in the world and offers many advantages.  To obtain wind power, kinetic energy is used to create mechanical power. A generator then converts this power into electricity, so it can be used across the country.

This guide will discuss what is wind energy, how this works and the advantages and disadvantages of this energy source.

What is wind energy?

The movement of air is wind. The wind is a clean, free, and easily available renewable energy source. Wind energy harnesses the power of the wind using kinetic energy to create electricity.

How do wind turbines work?

Wind turbines are the commonly used resource in the UK to turn the winds power into electricity. When the wind blows, the blades in a wind turbine spin clockwise, capturing and producing energy. This is connected to a generator which coverts the energy into electricity. The electricity is then fed into the National Grid.

Around 9 mph speed is needed for wind turbines to start turning and in high winds with speeds of 55 mph, these close down to avoid damage.

What are the different types of wind energy?

There are two main types of wind energy.

Onshore wind

Wind farms are spaces of flat and open areas that are used to create wind energy. These consist of wind turbines which feed into the National Grid.

Offshore wind

The UK currently produce the most offshore wind across the entire world. Offshore wind is harnessed out at sea and are much larger than onshore wind turbines due to the space available. Simply one rotation of their 80 metres long propeller blades would produce enough electricity to power a home for over 30 hours!

What are wind farms?

Wind farms are open and flat areas of space which has groups of wind turbines. These are also known as wind power stations or wind power plants.

A wind farm can range from a few wind turbines to over hundreds – this all depends on the space! Wind farms are connected to the National Grid and provides electricity to millions of homes and businesses across the UK.

The UK is windy!

Due to the UK being prone to high speeds of wind, we are actually well suited to wind energy. The UK gets around 40% of the total wind across Europe, with Scotland being the windiest place in the whole of Europe.

This also explains why many of our wind farms are located towards the north of England. The winter months, when it is the windiest, is the best time to produce more power at a time where people across the country would be using electricity more!

Wind energy is one of the most affordable and cost-effective sources of renewable energy, this is why the UK government have backed future developments of wind productions and farms. This also includes £160 million to upgrade all ports and wind infrastructure which would hugely heighten our offshore wind capacity.

New targets have also been set for all floating offshore wind plants to deliver over 1GW of energy by the year 2030!

Advantages of wind energy

Due to wind energy being renewable, it is very sustainable. It does not release any nasty carbon emissions such as fossil fuels and is very eco-friendly. Wind is also unlimited and free, and harvesting the kinetic energy does not affect the currents or wind cycles by any way.

Harvesting wind also does not pollute the environment and is a clean and sustainable method. Whilst upfront costs for installation of wind turbines can be very expensive, wind energy is still seen as very cost effective and is one of the lowest price energy sources available today. Once up and running, operating costs are very low, and the fuel it uses, wind, is completely free. Wind turbines also do not require much maintenance over time.

Thousands of jobs are created through wind energy through the building and maintaining of infrastructure. The government has also given its full backing behind further future developments of both onshore and offshore wind farms, due to its sustainable and cost-effective reasons.

Together, wind farms can take up a lot of land space, however actual wind turbines and it’s equipment does not, meaning the land can also be used for other reasons, such as farming.

Disadvantages of wind energy

One major disadvantage of wind energy is that it’s effectiveness in generating electricity mainly depends on the weather, and due to this can be very difficult to predict exactly how much electricity a wind turbine will generate over time.

If wind speeds are not high the propellers on a wind turbine will not spin. Due to this, wind energy can not be available for dispatch at all times, and especially during peak electricity demand, and hence is seen as a unreliable energy source.

Wind energy also brings noise and visual pollution. Wind turbines can interrupt scenic landscapes such as mountains and oceans, due to its large size, however this is required for the turbines to be able to capture a good amount of wind. Wind turbines can also be very noisy when operating due to the mechanical operation and wind vortex that is created once the blades are spinning.

Although wind turbines are very cost effective, the installation and upfront costs of this can be very expensive, and due require a high initial investment to develop the wind farms. Wind turbines do also have some negative impacts on surrounding environments, with the large size and high speeds of the blades being able to harm birds and bats around the area. However, this is still less than power lines, high rise buildings, and fracking!

Is wind energy efficient?

A correctly positioned wind turbine is able to produce electricity around 80% of the time. Its efficiency depends on the wind speed and weather consistency. In the space of a year, a wind turbine can generate 30% of it’s maximum output, which is known as the ‘load factor’.

Compared to a power station with a ‘load factor’ of 50%, this is seen as very good, and its free and renewable factors make wind energy a popular energy source.

Can wind energy be used later?

Whilst wind energy is seen as an affordable and efficient renewable energy source, it can be very unreliable due it’s dependency on the weather. However, produced electricity can be stored for future use through batteries!

Can I use wind energy to power my home?

People living in very windy areas are using wind energy to save money on their energy bills through building mounted wind turbines in their properties. However, this is not seen as a viable energy source for a large number of homes, as a large space of free and open land is needed to install an effective wind turbine.

Initial installation and maintenance costs can also be very high for domestic wind turbines. Solar panels may be seen as a much better and affordable renewable energy source for the greater public. 

However, it is important to note that if you do have a domestic wind turbine, this could make you money! Any excess energy that is produced can be sold to the National Grid!