Questioning Wind Energy’s “Green Meter”
Wind energy is one of the two most classic and forms of renewable energy. Whenever the idea of renewable energy pops up, the first things that come into mind are images of wind and solar farms.
But as wind energy is used and applied over the years, a few researchers gradually started to doubt the actual equated benefits of this zero-emission energy source. How in the world could the cleanest energy source be suspected of actually harming the environment? That’s what we are about to find out.
Reanalyzing Traditional Wind Power
Wind energy gets its greatest eco-friendly merit from the fact that, like solar energy, it only uses what is readily available and renewable in our surroundings. Wind is simply an atmospheric phenomenon that is mainly caused by pressure and/or temperature differences within atmospheric layers. Since wind is typically flowing air (driven by kinetic energy), it is then possible to capture and transfer it for an indefinite period of time using wind turbines.
Aside from its easily renewable nature, applied wind energy also does not typically produce emissions, and standard wind turbine configurations make it energy independent (it does not need another energy source to start spinning).
What do you suppose would be left when we remove these positive points? We would definitely leave a few dark spots that show that wind energy isn’t always the traditional green renewable energy source that we had always thought it would be.
The Reason Why It’s Not Perfectly “Green”
The most common setup that is used in wind farms is the lined up formation of wind turbines. It’s a straightforward method, and is pretty much the most obvious way to efficiently install multiple wind turbine units. But even if this setup looks quite harmless and typical, there are several not-so-evident effects at work whenever these wind turbines operate for a considerable amount of time, and some of these are:
- The risk of birds getting accidentally hit by the turbine blades – this is one of the most commonly cited environmental problems of wind turbines. The possibility of a bird flying into a wind turbine is very real, although actual statistics say that the occurrences are far less than the incidences of birds getting killed at communication towers. The risk can be increased however, if some design and installation rules are ignored, which is why newer wind turbine designs, configurations, and implementation guidelines are still made to mitigate the risk.
- Wind turbine presence causing negative psychological effects – Believe it or not, the presence of a huge number of wind turbines alone can already cause mental problems for the surrounding residents. Causes of such stress may greatly vary for each individual, with reasons starting with the idea of seeing something very unnatural (“mechanical towers”) in a rural area, to simply being annoyed at the sight of wind turbine. The issue of aesthetics might also be involved in this problem, as wind turbine towers that are “clumped” together might look a bit unsightly for a few people.
- Accumulated noise generated by the wind turbine – Apparently, the annoyance factor is not just limited to seeing the wind turbine, but more seriously, to the noise that wind turbines create. In fact, the combination of “sight and sound” disturbance from wind turbines could cause not only psychological problems, but apparently physiological problems as well, and collectively this condition is called as the “Wind Turbine Syndrome“. (Take note that the noise problem might not just be limited to humans, as a few animals around the area could also be disturbed by the low-frequency noise that it generates.)
- Possible changes in weather patterns – the collective disturbance in airflow caused by large wind farms also have the possibility to change weather patterns. The atmospheric effects turbulence generated in a wind turbine, although miniscule in direct comparison, can actually be detected for many miles. Following the principle of the butterfly effect, these small but constant changes might eventually lead to major changes in the local meteorology of the area surrounding the wind farm.
Finally, just like any other technology that is still dependent on currently available technologies for manufacture and production, setting up and fabricating each component of the wind turbine still causes a considerable amount of carbon emissions.
So, is Wind Energy Harmful After All?
At a degree, it would seem that these drawbacks lessen wind energy’s appeal as one of the traditional green renewable energy sources. However, the effects are certainly nowhere near the negative environmental impacts produced by dirtier sources of energy. With the help of our current research to make wind turbines even more efficient, we might just be able to return wind energy again to the pristine renewable energy source that we have once thought of it as.
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