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Wind as an Environment-Friendly Energy Source

Introduction

Air pollution lies at the heart of the world’s environmental problems among which global warming heads the list. The leading contributors to air pollution are fossil fuel power plants. In addition, the cost of energy produced by such plants is high and goes on the increase. In contrast, wind energy generated by wind turbines does not pollute the air or contribute to global warming, it is cost-effective and it benefits the area it supports.

The wind is an environmental-friendly source of energy

Traditional energy plants powered by fossil fuels like coal, petroleum, and natural gas emit huge amounts of pollutants such as sulfur dioxide, nitrous oxide, and carbon dioxide (NRG Systems) that pollute the air besides causing side effects like acid rain and snow, mercury contamination, and smog (NREL). These pollutants are the greatest cause of global warming. On the other hand, wind plants do not pollute the atmosphere at all. They help by reducing the pollution in the atmosphere. Using a single 1-W wind turbine displaces 2,000 tons of carbon dioxide each year {this is equal to growing one square mile of forest} (NRG Systems).

Secondly, unlike other power plants, wind plants do not deplete the earth’s water resources. Coal, petroleum and nuclear power plants use huge amounts of water for cooling operations. In the U.S. it is reported that irrigation and thermal electric plants are responsible for 77% of the nation’s freshwater usage. This water-saving characteristic of wind energy makes it an ideal choice for drought-affected areas. Wind energy helps conserve fast depleting natural fossil fuel resources for a longer period because increasing usage of wind energy reduces the usage of fossil fuels (NREL).

Wind energy is cost-effective

Crude oil and natural gas are expensive. In February this year, the former was priced at $ 101 per barrel while the price of the latter jumped by 25.5 cents to become $ 9.146 per 1000 cubic feet (Associated Press). Nuclear power plants are encumbered by huge construction costs and exorbitant expenses related to maintenance and safeguarding operations. Coal power plants are expensive to build and face the danger of early closure due to the rapid depletion of global coal resources. In comparison, wind energy is cost-effective. In the U.S., the cost of wind plant electricity dropped by 80% in 3 decades, from 38 cents per kilowatt-hour in 1980 to nearly 4 cents at present. It is predicted that the cost will drop lower due to technological advancements and an expanding market for this type of energy (NRG Systems).

Secondly, as the fuel of wind plants – wind – is free, the plants are not burdened by heavy costs incurred for the transportation of fuel. For example, crude oil is imported by the U.S. mostly from Gulf countries, involving the use of massive supertankers over a long distance, at a huge transportation expense (Kessinger). Thirdly, wind turbines can co-exist with other uses of the land on which they are located.

Crops can be planted on the land, or they can be used as grazing pasture for livestock in nearly its entirety, right up to the base of the wind turbine (NREL). Fourthly, as compared to traditional fossil fuel power plants, wind plants have much shorter construction lead times and involve much lower costs (NRG Systems). Lastly, unlike traditional fossil fuel power plants, wind plants need very little maintenance {they need only a few hours of maintenance for every thousand hours of operation (Gipe, 34)} and can be run on a much lower budget. Wind turbines are extremely dependable and can produce electricity 99% of the time (NRG Systems Inc.).

Wind energy benefits the areas it supports

Wind energy benefits the local area it supports in several ways. It reduces costs of consumer heating and electricity, manufacturing processes, and chemical and agriculture feedstock (NREL). Secondly, it helps the local area keep more energy dollars and makes available a regular income {up to $ 4,000 per wind turbine per year (NREL)} in lease payments to landowners (NRG Systems). Thirdly, it reduces the cost of health care. Wind energy is clean energy that keeps the air clean, lowering the chances of people contracting particulate-related, debilitating illnesses due to air pollution (NRG Systems). Lastly, wind energy can be used in many applications.

It can supply electricity to households, farms, ranches, and businesses. It is ideal for remote usage like water pumping, ice-making, and running telecommunication facilities. It can also be used in community wind projects for schools, municipal facilities, and rural electric cooperatives (NREL).

Wind energy benefits the state and country in several ways. Wind plants contribute to governmental income in the form of property taxes and state taxes (NRG Systems). In the U.S., the 161-MW Lamar Wind Plant contributed $ 32 million in local taxes to the Prowers County; the 912-MW Texas Wind Plant provided $ 13.3 million in tax revenue (NREL). Secondly, it reduces governmental spending on environment purifying and global warming lessening projects by eradicating huge quantities of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (NRG Systems). Thirdly, it contributes to national security. The nation is not dependent on foreign countries and is no longer affected by disruption in the supply of fuel. Dependence on the wind as a local source of fuel will bring about a reduction in a nation’s balance of payments, thereby enhancing national economic security (NREL).

Wind energy also negates the grave danger posed by nuclear power plants. Transportation of nuclear fuel to the plants is a very hazardous exercise. Security at nuclear plants is a very painstaking operation. There are very real dangers of either the transportation process or the plant being sabotaged by terrorists that could embroil the country is a nightmarish terrorist scenario that could well eclipse 9/11.

Conclusion

Although at present only 60,000 MW of wind energy has installed globally, countries are stepping up efforts to use it. In the U.S., the present capacity is only 9,149 MW, sufficient to provide energy to 2.3 million average homes, whereas in reality, it has the potential to generate a huge 40% of the country’s electricity needs (NRG Systems). NREL has given grants to 3 companies to develop ‘advanced wind turbines’ – Atlantic Orient, Northern Power Systems, and R. Lynette and Associates (Gipe, 69). Another large company called The Sunflower Wind Plant is poised to inaugurate Kansas’ first wind turbine manufacturing facility in late 2008 (Kessinger).

References

“Gas Prices Jump to Highest Level since June.” The Associated Press. 2008. Web.

Gipe, Paul. “Wind Energy Comes of Age.” USA: Wiley. 1995.

Kessinger, Sarah. “Wind Power Now Competitive with Cost to Build Coal Plants.” Salina Journal. 2008. Web.

“Wind Energy Benefits.” National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). 2005. Web.

“Wind Facts.” NRG Systems Inc. 2004. Web.