Top 5 Important Facts About Wind Energy
Wind energy has become one of the most important and remarkable alternatives for the generation of electricity from renewable energy sources. This source of energy presents several advantages that make the most suitable technology for utility-scale projects.However, many people argue false statements about wind energy to discredit the benefits of this amazing energy source. Here we will show you some wind energy facts and explain why those arguments are nothing but myths.
Fact #1 Wind Energy is the most competitive energy source
A typical argument from fossils’ advocates is that wind energy is much more expensive than fossil sources. The truth is that since fossil fuel plants require coal, oil and natural gas to work, the operation and maintenance costs are very high. When you summarize the expenses over a lifetime and take a look at the levelized cost of energy (LCOE), then you realize that wind energy is not only competitive, but it’s cheaper than installing a generation plant based on coal, natural gas or combined cycle technology. Saying that wind energy is expensive is nothing but a renewable energy myth.
Fact #2 Today’s Wind Turbines can be less noisy than a car
Since wind turbines are huge devices that have large moving blades, it is logical that they will create some noise. There is no point in denying it.
However, the effects of this noise have been widely exaggerated and sometimes is hard to separate fiction from reality.
The sounds created by wind turbines are related to the changes in wind speed due to blades moving at different heights, these have been classified as tonal and low-frequency sounds. In fact, when comparing these sounds, with other typical sounds that can be found on the streets of a city, researchers have found that a wind energy farm is not as louder as it is believed (see chart below).
Moreover, environmental regulations related to noise limits, demand that wind turbines do not exceed 5dB above ambient background noise and developers take interest in this topic since severe penalties can be established.
The conception behind noisy wind energy was established years ago when no strict regulation existed on the topic and when previous designs focused only on optimizing aerodynamics, leaving behind the noise effect. However, today the wind energy fact is that with new technology developments there is a reduction on the effects of noise by improving the gearbox design, using anti-vibration mountings, adding acoustic damping of the nacelle and liquid cooling of the generator. All of these advancements lead to minimal decibel levels while at the same time maximizing performance.
Fact #3 Fossil Fuel Plants are more dangerous for birds than wind turbines
The typical misconception against wind turbines is that they represent the greatest danger for bird species around the globe, mainly due to collisions with the blades or towers. However, those who argue such statements, seem to forget the effect caused on birds by other conventional sources of energy.
Moreover, when comparing causes of death for birds, researchers have found that it is more probable that a bird dies due to a collision with a building, due to electric shock hazard with a power line or due to predation by cats than due to wind turbines collisions.
The truth is that none source of electricity supply is entirely benign for the birds' species, but the effects of wind turbines are substantially lower than conventional sources and other human activities.
Fact #4 Wind Energy will not damage the power grid
Due to the intrinsic variability of the wind resource, it is often believed that wind power exposes great risks for the power grid since the transmission system needs to be balanced at all times and radical ups and downs in available power from wind farms could lead to blackouts or a lower quality of service.
However, the truth is that the wind resource is highly predictable and as time and data are collected, forecast methods improve their accuracy.
Independent System Operators (ISO's) are responsible for keeping the quality and balance of the grid. When they receive forecasts of available wind resource, it is possible to estimate the available power at a specific time. Forecasts are performed every day and every hour to improve the accuracy of the estimation, the closer it is to the time of injection, the more accurate it is.
So far, forecast methodologies have proven to be effective allowing the ISO’s to plan the operation of the system in the short-term based on the uncertainty of available wind power (provided by mathematical forecast error deviations) and by using a mix of other renewable energy sources and fossil fuels as a spinning reserve in the grid. In the future, when a higher share of wind energy feeds the power grid, it will be possible to mix the grid between more controllable sources like hydropower, biomass or storage, and intermittent sources like solar and wind.
The Final Wind Energy Fact
The most important wind energy fact is that this green energy source is leading the renewable energy market with installations that keep growing each year. Back in 2007 the estimations on worldwide installations for onshore wind energy barely reached the 100 GW, but today the global capacity on wind power reaches over 540 GW. That represents an increase of nearly 550 % in one decade.
On the other hand, the offshore market is also taking a bigger impulse in Europe, where the UK is the leading country promoting this technology. Back in 2007 the global capacity on offshore wind power only reached 1.1 GW, but today has been increased to almost 19 GW. Developments will continue as installations and investments on wind power from Germany, the US, China, and the UK will proceed on the remaining years of the decade, with very promising renewable energy targets for 2030 not only in these countries but also all over the world.