Myths about wind power
Despite the fact that governments and businesses in about 80 countries are embracing wind power, and more and more wind power is bringing new, clean and affordable energy every day, some people have concerns about it.
We have listed some of the most common myths about wind power and the factual information that disputes it.
Wind power myths
According to the International Energy Agency fossil fuels are supported by subsidies that amount to $550 billion a year and holding back investment from renewable energy sources. Oil, coal and gas received more than four times more the $120 billion paid out in incentives for renewables including wind, solar and biofuels.
The IEA calls for policy shift that is needed to limit global warming, which the IEA said is on track to increase the world’s temperature by 3.6 degrees Celsius by the end of this century. That level would increase the risks of damaging storms, droughts and rising sea levels.
“The huge subsidies fossil fuels enjoy worldwide gives incentives to their consumption, which means that I’m paying you to pollute the world and use energy inefficiently,” said Fatih Birol, chief economist at the IEA.
Wind energy has become a mainstream technology and is already cheaper than conventional energy sources in an increasing number of markets including Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, South Africa and parts of China and the US.
All power sources need back-up and no energy technology can be relied upon 100%. The electricity grid copes with big fluctuations in energy demand on a daily basis. Although wind speed varies, this can be forecast fairly accurately. In Denmark, nearly 40 % of electricity demand is already supplied by the wind, and is managed successfully by the Transmission System Operator.
The International Energy Agency's (IEA) report on Gird Integration of Renewables from 2014 showcases how "There is no technical limit on how much variable generation a power system can absorb. But system transformation with increased flexibility is required for higher shares. Technically much higher shares are feasible.
Opinion polls and surveys across the markets worldwide show overwhelming public support for wind power providing an important signal to decision-makers: According to a Eurobarometer survey 89% of EU citizens are in favour of wind energy, compared to 43% for coal and 36% for nuclear. In 2012 a survey conducted in the US showed that 71% of Americans want to see more wind power development and in Canada a research poll found that 78% of Ontarians say that wind is one of the safest forms of electricity generation. In a recent survey in the UK, two-thirds of the Britons voted in favour of wind energy.
Awareness campaigns such as the Global Wind Day help inform Europeans and people around the world about the benefits of wind energy.
Despite some claims to the contrary, an increasing quantity of independent research indicates that wind turbines are not harmful to human health.
“To date, no peer reviewed scientific journal articles demonstrate a causal link between people living in proximity to modern wind turbines, the noise (audible, low frequency noise, or infrasound) they emit and resulting physiological health effects.”
The wind industry is committed to engagement with experts in science, medicine and occupational and environmental health to monitor on-going credible research in the area of wind turbines and human health.
Wind energy is one of the cleanest, most environmentally-friendly energy sources. It emits no greenhouse gases or air pollutants. It emits no particles of any kind, and certainly no particles which are carcinogenic and severely affect human health, as do fossil fuels.
See a summary of latest research in 20 reviews on wind farms and health: The 20 reviews of the research literature on wind farms and health can be viewed here.
Wind turbines start operating at wind speeds of 4 to 5 metres per second and reach maximum power output at around 15 metres/second. At very high wind speeds, i.e. gale force winds, (25 metres/second) wind turbines shut down. A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70-85% of the time, but it generates different outputs depending on the wind speed.
Over the course of a year, it will typically generate 15-30% (or more) of the theoretical maximum output of the turbine. This is known as its capacity factor, and modern turbines are getting reasonably close to theoretical limit of power one can extract from a stream of moving air, hence they are very efficient. However, the capacity factor is less than conventional power generators, but there are no fuel costs - the wind is free. So it doesn't make sense to compare the 'efficiency' of thermal power systems with those of wind or solar or other renewable energy technologies.
Wind turbines produce no greenhouse gas emissions during their operation. It takes a turbine just three to six months to produce the amount of energy that goes into its manufacturing, installation, operation, maintenance and decommissioning after its 20-25 year lifetime. During its lifetime a wind turbine delivers up to 80 times more energy than is used in its production, maintenance and scrapping. Wind energy has the lowest 'lifecycle emissions' of nearly all energy production technologies.
Big environmental and nature conservation groups like Birdlife, WWF, Greenpeace, Friends of the Earth, and Birdlife support wind energy. Birdlife recently stated that climate change was the single largest threat to birds and wind and renewables were a clear solution to climate change.
Wind farms are always subject to an Environmental Impact Assessment to ensure that their potential effect on the immediate surroundings, including fauna and flora, are carefully considered before construction is allowed to start. Deaths from birds flying into wind turbines represent only a tiny fraction of those caused by other human-related sources such as vehicles and buildings.
A 2012 study carried out in the UK (Pearce- Higgins et al.) concluded that a large majority of species can co-exist or thrive with wind farms once they are operating (Journal of Applied Ecology).
According to the Greening Blue Energy study, "Including both on and offshore facilities, estimated rates of mortality for different bird species range from 0.01 to 23 mortalities per turbine per year" (Drewitt & Langston, 2005). It has been estimated that wind turbines in the US cause the direct deaths of only 0.01-0.02% of all of the birds killed annually by collisions with man-made structures and activities.
Beauty is in the eye of the beholder, and whether you think a wind turbine is attractive or not will always be your personal opinion.
Opinion polls and surveys across the markets show overwhelming public support for wind power providing an important signal to decision-makers: According to a Eurobarometer survey 89% of EU citizens are in favour of wind energy, compared to 43% for coal and 36% for nuclear. In 2012 a survey conducted in the US showed that 71% of Americans want to see more wind power development and in Canada a research poll found that 78% of Ontarians say that wind is one of the safest forms of electricity generation. In a recent survey in the UK, two-thirds of the Britons voted in favour of wind energy.
Awareness campaigns such as the Global Wind Day help inform people around the world about the benefits of wind energy.
The noise of wind turbines has been reduced significantly. Improved design has drastically reduced the noise of mechanical components so that the most audible sound is that of the wind interacting with the rotor blades. This is similar to a light swishing sound, and much quieter than other types of modern-day equipment. Even in generally quiet rural areas, the sound of the blowing wind is often louder than the turbines. A 2010 Canadian report, "The Potential Health Impact of Wind Turbines" confirmed that noise level emissions complied with the World Health Organisation (WHO) recommendations for residential areas.
How loud is a wind turbine?
More wind power in the national electricity system does not mean higher electricity bills at home. Wind power is already directly competitive with conventional sources in many markets around the world, such as Canada, Mexico, Brazil, New Zealand, South Africa, and parts of China and the US. For example, the current rate for wind power in Ontario in Canada is 11.5 cents per kWh, while nuclear's all-in cost was between 25-28 cents/kWh. Wind energy is cost-competitive with all other new sources of electricity generation. Another example comes from Montana, US, where wind facilities are able to produce energy at $47/MWh whereas cost for coal produced energy is $68 /MWh (EUR 6.8 cents/kWh).
Nuclear is considerably more expensive than wind energy. "In liberalised energy markets, building nuclear power plants is no longer a commercially feasible option: they are simply too expensive", wrote The Economist in March 2012. Because the fuel for wind power production does not have a cost, the cost can be predicted with great certainty, unlike the fluctuations in the price of oil, gas and coal. The increase in the oil price over the past few years from $20 to over $100 has added $45 billion to the EU's annual gas import bill. The more wind power produced, the less reliant it is on fossil fuels at unpredictable prices. And these savings are passed on to the end at home.
Wind power creates jobs! In 2014, approximately 1 million people were employed directly or indirectly in the global wind power industry. According to Global Wind Energy Outlook 2014 moderate scenario, wind energy could generate over 1.5 million jobs globally by 2030. In Brazil alone, 15,000 new jobs were created by the wind industry in 2012. Jobs range from manufacturing to services and development. There is currently a shortage of skilled workers and engineers in the wind business.