Wind Farm: Principles, Pros and Cons
As many countries and companies around the world set off on their journeys to become more sustainable and transition to the use of clean energy, many countries and companies are considering the use of a wind farm – but is it the best choice for everyone?
In this article, we’ll discuss what a wind farm is, the pros and cons of using a wind farm, and who can benefit from wind farms in their transition to the use of clean energy the most out of anyone.
What is a wind farm?
A wind farm is a group of wind turbines within the same vicinity that work together to help produce electricity for nearby areas. Wind farms can vary size depending on how much electricity the wind farm is expected to provide for the surrounding areas.
A wind farm is often also referred to as:
- Wind power park station
- Wind power plant
- Group of Wind turbines
👉 Think of when you’re on a train within Europe or driving across the U.S. and you come across a sea of wind turbines harboring their own section – this is most likely a wind farm.
Wind turbines have been skyrocketing around the world and in Europe alone, with countries on the continent such as Germany, France, and Nordic countries like Sweden and Finland installing a whopping 87% of new offshore wind farms – allowing Europe to now possess a 255 GW of wind capacity.
💡 Did you know? As of 2021, the U.S. is in the top five countries having generated the most wind power – having generated a whopping 21% of total world wind electricity generation.
What is the main goal of having a wind farm?
The main principle of a wind farm is to concert the wind harnessed into electricity to be used and to help decrease the dependency on the use of fossil fuels and other finite resources to produce electricity to be consumed by businesses and residences.
Wind farms successfully do this with their propeller-like blades oscillating – acting as a generator that gathers wind to be harvested into electricity.
👉 Think of when you’re baking something and are using the strength of your arms to mix something together: this force helps to create the energy necessary to blend all of the ingredients together to be baked. The same goes for wind turbines on a wind farm.
However, wind is ultimately a form of solar energy that is created under three different circumstances:
- The even or uneven ratio in which the sun heats the atmosphere
- Irregular patterns on the Earth’s surface and variations in topography
- How the Earth rotates
However, the formation of electricity from wind turbines greatly depends on the current wind flow patterns across the U.S. – which is likely to differ depending on the area and how much wind flow there currently is in the area. This is why many countries will try to strategically place their wind turbines or wind farms in an area where there is a substantial amount of wind: which is why countries like Denmark, Sweden, and Finland make use of the high winds their countries get.
👉 Wind farms often fare best when they are built on smooth, round hills with open plains and mountain gaps that can allow “wind tunnels” to pass by and for the wind turbines to ultimately harness that “trapped” wind. Also, wind speeds are usually higher when the elevation is above the Earth’s surface: making hills the most productive home for wind farms.
How does a wind farm work?
Unbeknownst to most, most of us have made use of wind energy before without noticing it – with the most popular example being when we have sailed on a boat or flown a kite on the beach.
💡Making use of this type of wind flow is also known as motion energy, and is the same type of wind flow that wind farms use to create electricity.
A wind farm works in these six steps:
- Capturing the Wind – Everything about wind farms starts with finding the best place to implement a wind farm. Often, the best place for a wind farm is an area with high average wind speeds: such as coastal regions, open plains, and hilltops.
- Rotor Rotation – After strategically placing the wind farm, rotator blades will be installed to help the wind turbine spin and capture wind to be converted into electricity.
- Converting Wind into Electricity – Once the wind has been collected by the wind turbines on the wind farm, the rotational energy created on the rotators will then be transferred to a drive shaft and ultimately a generator that converts the energy into electricity. The generator succeeds in doing this with the use of coils and magnets that will turn into electric current as the rotor spins.
- Distribute the Generated Power – After the generated electricity from a wind farm is produced, it is then sent to a substation to be converted into a voltage suitable to be used across the main power grid in the area.
- Integration into the Grid –The electricity created by the wind farm is then sent to an existing power grid where it can be consumed by commercial buildings and residences. This ultimately helps to reduce the dependency on fossil fuels used to generate electricity and aids in the fight against climate change.
- Monitoring the Wind Farm – Wind farms aren’t a one and done deal: they require consistent monitoring in order to continuously seek improvement in how to gain the most renewable energy from the wind turbines as possible. Adjustments can’t be made if the current progress and efficiency of the wind farm isn’t being monitored.
It's important to note that a wind farm can vary in size from a few dozen to a few hundred wind turbines: meaning that not all wind farms are expected to produce the same amount of energy or prove as economically valuable in the midst of the transition to a clean energy economy.
👉 Currently, offshore wind projects are some of the most popular renewable energy projects taking place around the world: with Nordic countries in Europe coming in full-force with offshore wind farm development, and states in the U.S. like Maryland, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Rhode Island, and Virgina working on new offshore wind farm projects as well.
What are the pros of having a wind farm?
There are multiple advantages to having a wind farm:
- Wind Farms Help to Create New Jobs – With over 120,000 people working in the wind industry across the U.S., it’s clear that having a role the industry of harvesting renewable energy through wind farms is growing to become a worthy and well paying job across the country. In fact, there are set to be thousands of more jobs in the U.S. associated with wind farms and wind turbines by 2050.
- Fights Climate Change – One of the biggest benefits of having a wind farm is that it helps to create renewable energy that can help to decrease the dependency on fossil fuels and prevent the need to deplete finite resources. Seeing as wind farms produce emissions, greenhouse gasses, or other air pollutants – it’s one of the best win-win eco friendly choices anyone can make.
- Benefits Communities & Improves Energy Security –Wind farm projects can help with state and local tax payments every year, which can allow for additional financial resources to be used in education systems and infrastructure projects. Wind is literally free – once the wind farm is set up, the hard work of installing a wind farm is over. Therefore, a wind farm is extremely cost effective over time and is almost guaranteed to be lucrative economically. In addition to this, wind farms create greater energy security – as local regions will not be dependent on foreign fossil fuels or other finite resources to power their commercial buildings, offices, and residences.
- Good For the Economy – As wind power is a cost-effective form of renewable energy, it will continue to serve as a competitive project and gain more attention as the world continues to transition to the use of a clean energy economy. As of 2022, over 10% of net energy in the United States was generated by wind power – and this is likely to increase in the coming years.
- Versatility – While wind farms are likely to work best under windy conditions and hilly areas, a wind farm can ultimately be used in multiple landscapes – from rural to remote areas, and can be extremely beneficial in agricultural areas.
What are the cons of having a wind farm?
While there are numerous benefits to having a wind farm, there are also some disadvantages:
- Wind Farms Have Competition: While wind and solar power are more accessible and generally more economically viable than other energy sources such as gas, coal, or geothermal energy – wind projects may not beat out their competition in areas that don’t get enough wind.
- Wind Isn’t Consistent: Bouncing off that last point, a huge drawback with wind is that like the weather – wind can’t fully be predicted or be expected. Wind is likely to vary and will never be fully consistent, rendering wind farms to produce various amounts of energy – which may not fare well in the economy in the future.
- Disrupts Wildlife & Death: Because wind farms are often in remote areas, it could potentially impact wildlife – as the installation of wind farms can wreak havoc on nearby habitats and cause certain species to flee the area they are meant to dwell in. Ultimately, while wind farms can be helpful for the future of humans and fighting against climate change – they aren’t part of nature and are still foreign objects to the rest of living organisms in the world. In addition to this, the rotating aspect of a wind turbine could cause casualties for birds and bats – as they could accidentally get caught. Luckily, new designs are being made to prevent this from happening moving forward.
- Wind Farms are Noisy: Wind farms don’t only ruin the aesthetic of scenic or rural areas, but they can be noisy and even disruptive for those who live nearby a wind farm. This is most likely to happen when wind turbines are in operation, but nevertheless – imagine having your downstairs roommate playing music 24/7: not fun.
Given all of the pros and cons of wind farms, are they still ultimately worth installation and the positive attention they have been gaining?
Who can most benefit from having a wind farm?
Ultimately, countries with high amounts of wind and smooth hilly areas would benefit most from a wind farm – meaning just because a country is windy, doesn’t mean they have the most optimal conditions for a wind farm. For instance, while the Netherlands may be windy, it’s generally too flat to fully make use of wind farms – as the wind cannot be caught by the wind turbines as easily as they can at a higher elevation.
However, a wind farm could ultimately benefit any country, region, or group of people looking to transition to the use of renewable energy – even if the conditions aren’t perfect, harvesting some sort of renewable energy source is better than acquiring none.
Wind turbines and looking to implement a wind farm are just some of the ways that countries can transition to the use of clean energy – there are so many different ways to harvest renewable energy, it’s worth looking into to learn which one is likely to be most beneficial for your region.
What about Greenly?
If reading this article about wind farms and their pros and cons has made you interested in reducing your carbon emissions to further fight against climate change – Greenly can help you!
Figuring out the most effective types of renewable energy to use for your company can be confusing, but don’t worry – Greenly is here to help. Click here to schedule a demo to see how Greenly can help you find ways to improve energy efficiency and decrease the dependency on fossil fuels in your own company.
Greenly can help you make an environmental change for the better, starting with a carbon footprint assessment to know how much carbon emissions your company produces.