The clean, environmentally friendly, emission free, cheap energy of tomorrow.
Wind turbines – tall, magnificent, white structures taking the natural power of the wind and turning it into electricity, so badly needed by our civilization It is all perfect, even romantic. It is the hope for the future generations, no doubts about it.
There is no fault to be found, is there? Well, actually, there is.
While having a lot of benefits and gathering plenty of support, the concept of wind farms are also raising a lot of controversy among landscape architects and planners, environmentalists, biologists and inhabitants of the proposed wind farm areas. Environmental, economical and social issues are being often raised by the disputants.
Let us look closely at the concerns surrounding wind turbines!
Wind energy – A bridge over troubled water?
First of all, the local people are complaining about wind farms destroying the landscape. The turbines are usually not a problem if they are built on an empty, not especially picturesque field. However, they can have an extremely detrimental effect on the beautiful mountain landscapes, such as in the Scottish Highlands, where plans to set up even more wind farms are being met with protests from local land owners and the VisitScotlandorganisation. Those reactions are obviously connected to the fact that the turbines tend to have a serious, not necessarily positive impact on local economy. They may cause tourism decline and real estate prices reduction, which is not a result welcome by the local industry and home owners.
Is this intrusive or a balance between infrastructure and nature?
Then, there is the undeniable influence on the environment. Biologists fear that the turbines situated on the migration routes of birds might cause their deaths and decline in populations. The figures of the casualties hugely differ depending on the source of information; therefore the real number of avian deaths is yet to be established. What seems to be even more worrying is the number of bats killed when suddenly passing through a low air pressure region surrounding the turbine blade tips. One such research project claimed an estimated 2200 were individuals killed by 63 onshore turbines during a six weeks period.
A danger to the dispersal of avian species?
There are also issues raised concerning climate change around the turbines, however, this seems to be of little actual consequence to the environment. It is argued that wind turbines are actually reducing the impact on the climate by replacing some of the traditional, coal – powered power plants.
What do you think?
Environmentalists also complain about the use of land required for building a wind farm. Each tower needs a large foundation filled with concrete and steel. The surface under the turbine is kept bare and covered in gravel. The land has to be cleared of trees and the herbicides are used to keep the area void of vegetation. It must be noted, however, that traditional power plants are causing infinitely more damage to the land. Most of the area under the wind turbines can still be used for farming.
Cattle rest under windmills at a Canadian wind farm. Photograph by Steve Winter/NGS
One of the major issues with wind power plants is their unreliable nature. Too weak a wind speed is not good enough, whereas strong gusts are dangerous for the turbines. Even the build-up of dead bugs or salt may halve the maximum power generated by a wind turbine. Because of that, conventional power plants cannot be simply shut down. Some of the research claims that wind farms do not bring about any reduction in the use of the traditional power plants! However, others are speaking of energy independence and national security.
Many dangers are associated with wind energy……
There is a potential problem regarding the safety of the installations – the fire or the disintegration of the turbine. However, as the wind farms are usually built away from the human abodes, the danger to people is minimal. That is also why the suspected noise pollution and the potential influence of vibrations on human health may be dismissed as insignificant.
Too close for comfort?
Wind farms are not without faults – they have an impact on the landscape, its environment, local communities and economy. They are also not reliable, nor efficient enough. Their location should always be thoroughly considered and their placement in areas of particular natural beauty should be avoided.
Chicago-based Aerotecture International is in the final development stage of its innovative urban wind power product, the Aeroturbine
However, it must be remembered that no perfect, environmentally safe energy source is currently known; the habitat lose caused by the dams, the bare land under solar panels, the atomic waste of nuclear power stations, not to mention the smoke from burnt coal – they all are the results of various power plant activity.
Where else can we generate wind energy?
The future of wind energy? Removing blades from the equation
New York design firm Atelier DNA has an alternative concept that ditches blades in favor of stalks. Resembling thin cattails, the Windstalks generate electricity when the wind sets them waving…
The Solar Wind concept would use the space between an existing viaduct in southern Italy to install 26 wind turbines, which designers Francesco Colarossi, Giovanna Saracino and Luisa Saracino say could provide 36 million kilowatt hours of electricity every year.
A new bridge concept incorporates wind and solar energy into its design, generating 40 million kilowatt-hours per year
An incredibly innovative wind turbine system by Kyushu University
The search for the perfect energy solution of the future must continue. Whether it is the energy of the wind – time will tell.