Personal tools
 
Views

Debate: Wind energy

From Debatepedia

Jump to: navigation, search

[Digg]
[reddit]
[Delicious]
[Facebook]

Should wind energy be a major component of plans to fight global warming? Pros and cons?

Background and context

Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form, such as electricity, using wind turbines. At the end of 2007, worldwide capacity of wind-powered generators was 94.1 gigawatts.
Although wind produces about 1% of world-wide electricity use, it accounts for approximately 19% of electricity production in Denmark, 9% in Spain and Portugal, and 6% in Germany and the Republic of Ireland (2007 data).
Globally, wind power generation increased more than fivefold between 2000 and 2007. The principle application of wind power is to generate electricity. Wind power has become increasingly popular recently because it does not involve burning fossil fuels, utilizing wind power to generate electricity without emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. Questions, however, remain regarding wind power. The main question is whether it should be a major component of 21st century plans to combat global warming? Should it be prioritized among the various alternative energy sources? Additional questions frame the debate: Is wind energy a 0-emission alternative source of energy? While it may emit no greenhouse gases during the generation process, does the manufacture and transportation of wind turbines do so? Is wind power generally an efficient and powerful source of energy production? Can it produce enough electricity to help replace coal, one of the main contributors of greenhouse gases to the atmosphere? Do wind turbines threaten birds? Are the number of birds killed by turbines relatively insignificant? Should it matter, particularly in the context of the larger threat of global warming? Are wind turbines economical and viable in the market place? Are they viable enough to scale and produce massive quantities of energy? If not, should governments step in with subsidies? Are offshore wind turbines a good idea?

See Wikipedia's article on wind power for further background.

Contents

[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]

Global warming: Is wind energy an important part of fighting global warming?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Wind power could free up natural gas to replace oil in cars. Natural gas is a significant contributor to electricity generation. Yet, because it is transportable, it could be better used in cars. Therefore, wind energy, by contributing to overall electricity generation, could help free up gas to be better applied to powering cars.
  • Wind turbines are a beautiful symbol of "green" consciousness. Windmills are a visible reminder of the importance of protecting and preserving the environment. Few green energy resources are quite as visible and capable of reminding humans of the crisis of global warming and the need for humans to take action to reverse it.
  • Clean sources can back-up wind energy down-times. When the wind is not blowing, back-up sources of energy will have to supply the grid. Some argue that these back-up sources will be coal and other dirty energy sources. But, this need not be the case at all. There is no reason why clean sources - such as solar, geothermal, tidal, and even nuclear - can't back-up wind energy.


[Add New]

No

  • Inconsistent wind energy has to be backed-up by fossil fuels Euan C. Blauvelt, research director of ABS Energy Research, an independent market research firm in London. - "The environmental benefits of wind are not as great as its champions claim. You’ve still got to have backup sources of power, like coal-fired plants."[2]


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Birds: Do wind turbines have a negligible impact on birds?

[Add New]

Yes

  • The number of birds killed by wind turbines is relatively low "Danger to birds is often the main complaint against the installation of a wind turbine, but actual numbers are very low: studies show that the number of birds killed by wind turbines is negligible compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities such as traffic, hunting, power lines and high-rise buildings and especially the environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources. For example, in the UK, where there are several hundred turbines, about one bird is killed per turbine per year; 10 million per year are killed by cars alone.[3] In the United States, turbines kill 70,000 birds per year, compared to 57 million killed by cars and 97.5 million killed by collisions with plate glass. An article in Nature stated that each wind turbine kills on average 0.03 birds per year, or one kill per thirty turbines.[4]
  • Carbon emission greater threat to birds than wind energy In the UK, the Royal Society for the Protection of Birds (RSPB) concluded that "The available evidence suggests that appropriately positioned wind farms do not pose a significant hazard for birds."[79] It notes that climate change poses a much more significant threat to wildlife, and therefore supports wind farms and other forms of renewable energy.


[Add New]

No

Down to about 15 in 1941, the gargantuan birds that migrate each fall from Canada to Texas now number 266, thanks to conservation efforts.
But because wind energy has gained such traction, whooping cranes could again be at risk — either from crashing into the towering wind turbines and transmission lines or because of habitat lost to the wind farms.
"Basically you can overlay the strongest, best areas for wind turbine development with the whooping crane migration corridor," said Tom Stehn, whooping crane coordinator for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service."
  • Wind power in Australia was shut down due to dying birds. Wind power has stopped running in Australia because authorities were concerned at the number of birds dieing each year from flying into wind turbines. The influence that birds have on the wind industry is fairly large if you think about it.
  • Lights on wind towers can disrupt migratory birds. Wind turbine towers have lights on them. This can create problems for migratory birds, which rely on the stars to guide them, and which aren't evolved to interpret unnatural lights coming from the ground at night.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Ecosystems: Does wind energy preserve or harm local ecosystems?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Wind energy comes naturally from the environment. If wind does not harm the environment, then harnessing the energy of the wind should not be a problem to the environment.
[Add New]

No

  • Leaking lubricating oils from wind power can damage environment. Due to the high spinning-speed of wind turbines, a substantial amount of lubricant is required. This lubricant leaks from the turbine and gear box and often is cast off of the tips of the spinning turbine blades into the surrounding ecosystem. This can kill plants and wildlife and can drain into local water supplies.
  • Offshore wind turbines generate noise harmful to marine life. The reverberations of offshore wind turbines in the water can disturb marine wildlife and disorient them.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Economics: Is wind energy economical?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Running and maintenance costs of windmills are low. While the installation costs of windmills can be high, the running costs are relatively low. Owners can set up windmills and effectively forget about them.
  • Wind energy hedges against volatile oil prices Christian Kjaer, the chief executive of the European Wind Energy Association in Brussels. "[Wind energy is a] very good way of hedging against volatile oil prices and potentially volatile carbon costs."[5]
  • Wind is an inexhaustible, renewable energy resource. Wind is naturally occurring and cannot be exhausted. This compares favorably to exhaustible resources such as oil, coal, and gas.
  • Wind energy is abundant and can supply massive quantities of energy. There is more wind energy in the world than man could ever need to fulfill its energy requirements. In Britain, for instance, three times the wind energy used by the UK blows over the surface of the country.
  • Wind energy is free. Wind energy is entirely free. This compares with favorably against almost all other forms of electricity generation, in which the fuel costs money (nuclear, coal, oil, gas...).
  • Wind "fuel" does not require transporting to the generator. Unlike many other forms of fuel for electricity generation, wind "fuel" does not need to be transported to the windmill generator. It flows, instead, directly to the generator.
  • Wind energy is new and is advancing rapidly in its competitiveness. Wind energy is, compared to other sources of energy, very young. It is advancing, therefore - in terms of the technology, manufacturing processes, and supporting industries - at a relatively fast pace.
  • The wind energy industry creates jobs.
  • Wind energy does not require water. Unlike many other forms of energy generation, wind generators do not require the cycling of water for cooling or as the medium for transferring heat energy into usable electric energy (such as with coal or gas).



[Add New]

No

  • The installation of windmills can be relatively expensive. Installation cost. Putting in a windmill costs about $45000 to $50000.
For starters, the wind does not blow all the time. When it does, it does not necessarily do so during periods of high demand for electricity. That makes wind a shaky replacement for more dependable, if polluting, energy sources like oil, coal and natural gas."
  • Wind turbines are generally vulnerable to environmental wear and tear. Wind turbines are fully exposed to wind, rain, snow, and variable temperatures, all of which wear on the windmills. Repairs of windmills, therefore, are commonly required, and the eventual replacement of operating windmills can be expected.
  • Ramping wind energy up and down produces mechanical stresses. Because wind blows inconsistently, wind turbines and generators are constantly ramped up and down. This is mechanically stressful for wind turbines and increases maintenance and failure rates.
  • Litigation to clear land ("scenery") for windmills can be costly. Placing windmills on a ridge is often a subject of controversy in communities. There is a threat of litigation, therefore, that accompanies the installation of windmills that can be costly and even result in the forced removal of windmills from land.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Electric grids: Is wind energy consistent with electricity grids?

[Add New]

Yes

  • All energy sources need back-ups; wind energy is not uniquely bad "Wind energy myths". Wind Powering America. May 2005 - 4 Wind energy is unpredictable and must be “backed up” by conventional generation. No power plant is 100% reliable. During a power plant outage—whether a conventional plant or a wind plant—backup is provided by the entire interconnected utility system. The system operating strategy strives to make best use of all elements of the overall system, taking into account the operating characteristics of each generating unit and planning for contingencies such as plant or transmission line outages. The utility system is also designed to accommodate load fluctuations, which occur continuously. This feature also facilitates accommodation of wind plant output fluctuations. In Denmark, Northern Germany, and parts of Spain, wind supplies 20% to 40% of electric loads without sacrificing reliability. When wind is added to a utility system, no new backup is required to maintain system reliability



[Add New]

No

In 2003, Ireland put a moratorium on connecting wind farms to its electricity grid because of the strains that power surges were putting on the network; it has since begun connecting them again.
  • Electric grids are not designed for many disparate wind farms. Electricity grids are typically designed to have a hand full of very large generators contributing massive quantities of energy to the grid from very few locations. Wind energy runs contrary to this model, with many windfarms theoretically contributing small quantities of electricity to the grid from widespread locations. This runs contrary to the original model of grid design, and grids may have a difficult time dealing with it.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Subsidies: Is it OK that wind energy relies on subsidies?

[Add New]

Yes


[Add New]

No


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Land-use: Is wind energy's land-use manageable?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Only 1 percent of a wind-farm's surface actually gets built on. As a result, natural wilderness or crop and livestock farming can continue around the bases of the turbines.


[Add New]

No

  • Wind farms span across wide swaths of territory. Wind energy is diffuse, so requires collection over wide swaths of territory. This is inefficient and economical costly, and puts pressure on protected environmental areas.
  • Heavy land-use of wind farms can jeopardize forests/ecosystems. By increasing the demand for land, wind energy creates an incentive to clear forests and other natural areas to make way for wind turbines.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Noise: Is noise pollution from wind turbines minimal?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Modern wind turbines produces relatively little noise For example, in December 2006, a Texas jury denied a noise pollution suit against FPL Energy, after the company demonstrated that noise readings were not excessive. The highest reading was 44 decibels, which was characterized as about the same level as a 10 mile/hour (16 km/hr) wind.
[Add New]

No

  • Wind turbines are noisy Wind turbines make a kind of thumping noise, much like a slow moving helicopter. West Virginia writer found the noise from the turbines on Backbone Mountain - "incredible. It surprised me. It sounded like airplanes or helicopters. And it traveled. Sometimes, you could not hear the sound standing right under one, but you heard it 3,000 yards down the hill."[6]


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Aesthetics: Is wind power aesthetically pleasing?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Wind turbines are a beautiful symbol of "green" consciousness. Wind turbines are beautiful conceptually to those that desire to combat the greatest environmental threat - global warming. If people believe that wind farms ruin natural landscapes, they should consider the costs of doing nothing to combat global warming, which would include the grander destruction of climates and landscapes.


[Add New]

No

  • Wind turbines can disrupt the scenery of a community Chatham, Ontario businessman Harry Verhey told Chatham Sunrise Rotary Club members, "The recent proliferation of industrial wind projects will have a negative impact on the community. The massive size of industrial wind turbines conflicts with the scale and character of the Chatham-Kent landscape."[7] It is notable that wind is often most active on mountains or ocean sides, where the scene is most beautiful, and where wind turbines have the most potential to disrupt the natural beauty.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Worker safety: Do wind turbines uphold worker safety?

[Add New]

Yes

[Add New]

No

  • Construction deaths related to wind turbines are common. There have been at least 40 fatalities due to construction, operation, and maintenance of wind turbines, including both workers and members of the public, and other injuries and deaths attributed to the wind power life cycle. Most worker deaths involve falls or becoming caught in machinery while performing maintenance inside turbine housings.
[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Public safety: Are wind turbines safe?

[Add New]

Yes

  • Considering the danger posed by Nuclear power stations, Wind turbines are relatively safe to the public. There may be accidents occurring but are not fatal.


[Add New]

No

  • Wind turbines sometimes disintegrate, jeopardizing communities. When a turbine's brake fails, the turbine can spin freely until it disintegrates, sending the blades significant distances, risking the lives of local communities.


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

National security: Does wind energy help advance national security?

[Add New]

Yes

Again, the technology of wind energy is new, and I'm sure in the future there will be a wind mill that doesn't obscure radar.

[Add New]

No

  • Wind energy obscures radar, a threat to national security On February 4, 2008, according to British Ministry of Defence turbines create a hole in radar coverage so that aircraft flying overhead are not detectable. In written evidence, Squadron Leader Chris Breedon said: "This obscuration occurs regardless of the height of the aircraft, of the radar and of the turbine."[8]


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section down]
[Move subquestion section up]

Alternatives: Is wind energy a good choice among the various energy alternatives?

[Add New]

Yes

[Add New]

No

  • The focus should be on saving energy, not producing more by wind Eric Rosenbloom. "A Problem With Wind Power". 5 Sept. 2006 - "It is wise to diversify the sources of our energy. But the money and legislative effort invested in large-scale wind generation could be spent much more effectively to achieve the goal of reducing our use of fossil and nuclear fuels. As an example, Country Guardian calculates that for the U.K. government subsidy towards the construction of one wind turbine, they could insulate the roofs of almost 500 houses that need it and save in two years the amount of energy the wind turbine might produce over its lifetime. Country Guardian also calculates that if every light bulb in the U.K. were switched to a more efficient one, the country could shut down an entire power plant—some-thing even Denmark, with wind producing as much as 20% of their electricity, is not able to do."


[Edit]
[Delete Subquestion section]
[Add new subquestion section]
[Move subquestion section up]

Pro/con sources

[Add New]

Pro

[Add New]

Con


See also

External links

Problem with the site? 

Tweet a bug on bugtwits
.