There are lots of opinions & controversy approximately the use of wind turbines for power generation. Mostly the arguments revolve around the killing of bats & birds, with others complaining of noise & the unsightly panoramas created around wind farms. Wind turbines are not windmills. Wind turbines are designed solely for the production of electricity, not the turning of machinery to grind grains.
All of the arguments are fair. The large wind turbines are noisy, & do indeed kill birds & bats, & are extremely unsightly, blotting out the natural vistas. Also the large wind turbines only produce power at certain times when the wind is blowing. The reason for this is because of the mechanics of these systems. At slower wind speeds there isn’t enough wind to overcome the mechanical processes involved in producing power. At higher wind speeds the system works fine, yet in storm conditions the wind blows too hard, & the system has to apply it’s brakes to keep the turbine from tearing itself to pieces.
Wind turbines are highly visible structures that often are located in conspicuous settings. They moreover generate noise that can be disturbing to nearby residents. It has been recommended that wind turbines be installed no closer than half a mile from any dwelling. Communities in Germany, Wales, & Ireland claim that even 3,000 feet away the noise is significant. Individuals around the world say they have to close their windows & turn on the air conditioner when the wind turbines are active. The noise of a wind plant in Ireland was measured in 2002 at 60 db 1 km (3,280 ft). The sub aural low-frequency noise was above 70 db (which is 10 times as loud on the logarithmic decibel scale). A German study in 2003 found significant noise levels 1 mile away from a 2-year-old wind farm. ( We’re talking approximately the large commercial wind turbines here, not the smaller ones used on farms & ranches. )
Wind turbines are mostly used in large fields & coastal areas. Large fields eliminate surrounding obstructions allowing the turbines to work at their maximum capacity. And coastal areas naturally have strong winds coming from the oceans. They are used both commercially & privately. Wind turbines are not ideal for all locations.
The turbines have to be placed on towers at least 100 feet tall, as the wind speed is at a greater velocity & the wind is more uniform, or less turbulent (wind follows the inverse square law in physics). At lower heights the wind hits obstructions & creates eddies & currents. Unlike an airplane propeller, the blades of the wind plant don’t disturb the wind as they are moving with the wind, not propelling through the wind.
Homeowners, farmers, & ranchers in windy areas can use wind turbines as a way to cut their electric bills. Small wind systems moreover have potential to distribute energy resources. Distributed energy resources pertain to a variety of small, modular power-generating technologies that can be combined to improve the operation of the electricity delivery system.
Small wind power systems don’t seem to have the killing potential of the large turbines, although there are always risks of birds, bats, & bugs flying through the blades. When the blades spin they can be invisible, yet the smaller wind power plants rarely have a blade diameter of more than 6 feet.
The future of wind turbines is still unclear due to the arguments previously mentioned. They are thought to be a boon to our future in regard to power production. Only the future will show the direction we have chosen, & there will always be problems associated with wind turbines & our environment.
Another reason for the debate is wind power is not a constant power source. Like solar power a wind energy system is not generating any power for a large part of the time. This makes it a costly alternative, yet on a small scale, solar & wind together can actually be the most cost effective solution for generating power to your site.