Can Wind Energy Save The Planet?
By some estimates, a single on-shore wind turbine could supply power to 1,500 households.
Wind is one of the oldest renewable energy sources, but our ability to harness wind has come a long way since the first electricity-generating wind turbine was built in Ohio in 1888.
Wind power has become the largest source of renewable energy in the U.S. In 2021, it made up about 9% of the U.S.’s electricity supply, and the U.S. Dept of Energy has set a goal of increasing that number to 20% by 2030.
By some estimates, a single onshore wind turbine has the potential to generate more than 6 million kilowatt-hours in a year. That’s enough to supply 1,500 households with power. In fact, estimates suggest that wind energy helps avoid 329 million metric tons of CO2 emissions annually in the U.S., which is the equivalent of taking 71 million cars off the road.
Wind energy is a booming sector for businesses because wind is less expensive than gas or coal. According to a Bloomberg report, onshore wind and solar projects cost about 40% less than traditional coal and gas plants built from scratch.
Jereme Kent, the CEO of One Energy, believes all large factories should be investing in wind energy. “Wind is the cheapest over 20 years because you don't keep buying fuel. The fuel is free. That's what makes renewables truly valuable,” Kent told NowThis. “So actually being able to say to a factory, or to an end-use customer, ‘Here's a 20 year fixed rate where the cost of power is not going to change no matter what’ is something that's game changing.”
Kent concedes that one big hurdle keeping a lot of companies from adopting wind power is the issue of transmission — basically, how to get the energy from offshore wind farms to the factory. According to Kent, the solution is to put wind turbines in the factory’s backyard. “It bypasses the entire system. It bypasses all the copper that has to be in all those lines, all the aluminum in those lines, all the different transmission lines, switch gears, interstate issues. Those wind turbines help power that factory and the cables run directly underground and right into it,” Kent said.
Kent also maintains that there’s a lot of room to grow wind projects around the country. He estimates there are 53,000 big factories in the U.S. and, of those, approx one-quarter to one-third would be good candidates for onsite wind turbines.
So, can wind energy save the planet? It’s already been a successful solution for several countries around the world. Denmark, for example, aims to reduce its greenhouse gas emissions by 70% by 2030 and 100% by 2050 by using onshore wind energy, in combination with other green technologies and energy sources.
The U.S. has pledged to build enough offshore wind by 2030 to power 10 million homes with clean energy and help cut 78 million metric tons of CO2 emissions.
The wind energy sector still has some problems in need of addressing, though, like a shortage of terrestrial critical minerals, recycling the blades, bats and birds flying into the blades, noise pollution, and space constraints. But experts are working to find solutions to these issues.
As for the potential negative impact on wildlife, wind projects rank way lower in that department than power plants. A 2013 report estimated that, in 2009, wind turbines killed approximately 20,000 birds in the U.S. That is a drop in the bucket compared to nuclear plants, which killed approx 330,000, and fossil fueled power plants, which killed more than 14 million.
So, while a big wind turbine popping up in your neighborhood might seem like a faraway concept, it really might not be. And if one does, remember it’s safe and is providing reliable, clean, and cheap energy in the process.