Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Are wind turbines harmful to environment?

The global wind power capacity is rapidly growing and wind turbines are becoming common sight in many countries of the world. What about the environmental impact of wind turbines? Are they really harmful to our environment as some wind energy opponents say they are?

To start answering this question we must first take a look at global energy consumption where fossil fuels still satisfy more than three quarters of total global energy demand. Fossil fuels when burning create harmful greenhouse gases that contribute to climate change and air pollution. Wind turbines, despite not being perfect from environmental point of view are still much better in comparison to fossil fuel fired power plants.

Noise pollution coming from large wind turbines is usually the most talked about environmental drawback of using wind turbines. The modern turbines are usually large with huge blades, and in areas with high wind speeds they are able to produce big noise levels. Wind turbines have seriously improved their efficiency in the last couple of years but this sadly isn't the case with the levels of noise that are still significant. What this means is that the noise pollution still remains the biggest environmental drawback connected with wind turbines.

Wind turbines can also have negative impact on wildlife. There have been some cases where birds have been found dead around the base of turbines as they were caught by big, fast spinning blades. There has been also some talk about the possible environmental damage to underground habitats because large wind turbines require very deep foundations. The bird killings, however, can be prevented by equipping large wind turbines with radars so when the birds approach towards the turbine, blades stop to rotate.

It is still highly debatable whether wind turbines create visual pollution or not.

Visual pollution is also being mentioned as the negative side of using wind turbines. Some people say that wind turbines interfere with the aesthetics of natural landscape. Whether wind turbines make certain landscape “uglier” or not, is however, highly subjective opinion that varies from one person to other.

These environmental drawbacks are really minor when compared to environmental damage done by our heavy dependence on fossil fuels. Wind energy has abundant potential and it can certainly help reduce our dependence on fossil fuels. More wind energy instead of fossil fuels would certainly lead to more positives than negatives in terms of global environmental condition.

Of course, technology and science should still search for solutions that would make wind turbines more environmentally friendly. Wind energy is still far from being the perfect energy source but replacing coal power plants with wind farms would certainly be a move in the right direction if we really want to improve environmental condition of our planet.