Wind Farms Vital to the Future of Clean Energy
There are many forms of clean energy that can be harnessed as the world weans itself off dependence on fossil fuels. Solar power is unlimited, and new technology is evolving to absorb the most energy while keeping prices competitive. Hydroelectric power has been utilized for centuries, but it’s not as cost effective as other green energy sources. The most cost-effective renewable energy source is wind power, and some estimates claim that it’s possible to harvest up to ten times the energy we need in the U.S. with this method.
OPPOSITION TO WIND ENERGY
Opposition to wind towers takes the form of resistance to having the landscape covered with them and concerns about the impact on wildlife. One response to this resistance is to design wind towers that can be used offshore. There are still obstacles to overcome with this idea, however. The fishing industry is afraid that towers could disrupt sea life on the ocean floor. Migrating birds can get sucked into the turbines. This has led to the design of longer blades that can rotate more slowly while producing the same amount of energy.
Modern wind terminals are built to have better performance and reliability, and each new generation produces more electricity. Components like blades, gear boxes and housings are continually modified to work better. So far, General Electric has led this race, with the company’s 1.5-megawatt (MW) wind turbine used in about half of the nation’s commercial wind farms. Developing “longer, lighter rotor blades, taller towers, more reliable drivetrains, and performance-optimizing control systems” has led to a 50 percent jump in wind energy output in the past two decades.
COST OF WIND TOWERS
The cost of building towers is high right now, but wind energy is in its infancy and it won’t be long before prices drop. The more we invest in wind towers, the lower the costs will be. This is because mass production of parts is so much cheaper than building prototypes a few at a time. Europe and Asia have already begun using wind power and the United States is catching up. The first offshore wind farm established in the U.S., the Block Island Wind Farm, is projected to lower electricity rates in Rhode Island by 40 percent, a sizeable return on the investment.
Increasing use of wind towers to generate electricity will benefit the U.S. financially because of new jobs, technological advances and increased exports. We’ll see more jobs in wind tower design and manufacturing, as well as installation. These will be permanent jobs, as wind tower design continues to advance and an increasing number of wind farms need to be maintained. Continuous technological breakthroughs will help us compete with the rest of the world as the use of petroleum products declines.
THE FUTURE OF WIND FARMS
For now, wind power is mostly being utilized by corporations, with exceptions like the Block Island project. It will take government backing for clean, renewable forms of energy like this to take off. Commercial wind farms have broken new ground by trying out wind power and working to make the technology behind it more effective and less expensive. The Department of Energy has set a goal of using wind energy to provide 20 percent of U.S. power by 2030. If these plans continue to go forward, we’ll see significant benefits from wind energy in the next few decades.