When the Wind Blows

Renewable energy sources have been getting a lot of attention and over the past few months we have highlighted a few different topics; this week we are focusing on wind power. Generating energy by the wind is not a new concept. In short, wind energy works with the combination of lift and drag causing the rotor to spin like a propeller, and electricity is produced by the turning shaft spinning a generator. However, it is only in recent years that wind energy has become more popular and thus a noticeable part of the energy mix. While concern has increased regarding the effects of less clean energy resources, mainly fossil fuels, we have likewise seen an increase in installation of wind turbines.

There are both advantages and disadvantages of this renewable energy source. Some negative factors regarding wind focus on the unpredictability that wind power generates. Unlike coal and natural gas which can be calculated, wind power is intermittent. The physical aspects of the turbines including the size and noise associated with them can also be bothersome to people. Wildlife like birds and bats can be harmed when attempting to fly through the turbines which is another concern. One advantage that wind has over other fuel sources is that is a clean energy. For years there has been anxiety about the health costs associated with coal and natural gas, which do not come as a result of wind. Wind energy does not pollute the air or create emissions that cause greenhouse gas and acid rain. Another advantage of wind is that is a domestic source of energy. The U.S. is not reliant on foreign countries to supply our source of wind, as it is all around us. In addition, wind turbines account for less space than most power plants making them more attractive.

Many major businesses and organizations have made a commitment to use a variety of renewable resources, in some cases to generate more energy that they use. A few recognizable organizations that use wind power are Whole Foods, Apple Inc., University of Pennsylvania, Starbucks, and Fifth Third Bank. The U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA)  reported that “since 2013, 23 states have increased their wind generation by more than 10 percent” and “12 states accounted for 80% of U.S. wind-generated electricity.” Therefore, less than a quarter of the United States produced the majority of our wind-generated electricity meaning there is still a lot of room for improvement.

There is no ignoring the impact that natural gas and electric have on the lives of consumers and that wind power has a real chance of playing an important role in our future. It is important to keep an open mind about all energy options now and into the future.