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Wind Power as an Alternative to Fossil Fuels - Essay Example

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The essay describes the the alternative source of energy, the wind power. According to the International Panel on Climate Change, the burning of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which get released into the Earth’s atmosphere, causing air pollution and climate change…
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Wind Power as an Alternative to Fossil Fuels
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Wind Power as an Alternative to Fossil Fuels According to the International Panel on Climate Change (IPCC, 2007), the burning of fossil fuels produces greenhouse gases such as carbon dioxide and methane which get released into the Earth’s atmosphere, causing air pollution and climate change. There has been a 70% increase in global greenhouse gas emissions due to human activities between 1970-2004.
I believe that wind energy could provide an effective alternative to fossil fuels. Over the past 15 years, wind turbines have become a familiar sight around Europe for a variety of reasons, and I believe there is no reason why wind power can’t be generated on a similar scale in America. Experts predict that wind power has the potential to supply 20% of the USA’s electricity demand. However, according to the Wind Industry Group, wind power currently produces less than 1% of America’s electricity. The aim of this report is to discuss the environmental, economic and social benefits wind power has to offer.
Wind turbines produce electricity through capturing the wind’s kinetic energy with their blades. When the wind blows, it pushes up against the blades, which makes them spin, which powers a generator to produce electricity (National Energy Education Project). Wind farms are located in windy places, such as hillsides exposed to the wind. They can also be located on offshore sites out at sea, where they are able to produce more electricity due to increased wind availability.
Environmental advantages of wind power include the fact that wind energy production is pollution free, which results in it having no effect on air quality or climate change. Wind energy also produces no particulate emissions that contribute to mercury contamination in lakes and streams. They also conserve water resources by using less water in electricity production, e.g. electricity generation through nuclear power uses 600 more times water than wind power. Wind power can also be beneficial to land preservation because their actual ‘footprint’ is small, which means minimal land is required. Wind farms also reduce the need for mining, which often destroys wildlife and ecosystems. Offshore wind farms also have no environmental effects on the land itself. However, marine life must be considered. It is also safer than other alternative energy sources such as nuclear power, with the Fukushima Nuclear Plant disaster fresh in many people’s minds.
Economic benefits of wind farms include the fact that wind is a native fuel that does not need to be mined or transported, which reduces production costs. Wind power can therefore be produced cheaper. The Wind Industry Group also claims that wind energy creates 30% more jobs than a coal plant and 60% more than a nuclear plant per unit of electricity released. Wind power is also getting cheaper to produce from nearly 30 cents per kWh in the early 1980’s to 3-5 cents per kWh today (Wind Industry Group).
Socially benefits of wind farms include that they provide ‘energy security’. For example, countries are less reliant on the Middle Eastern oil rich countries. Local wind turbine projects can also be set up to provide local electricity generation for communities operated by local landowners and small businesses. Developing local sources of electricity in this manner means revenue raised from wind turbine generation is pumped back into the local community. As discussed above, wind farms also provide more jobs for local communities.
In conclusion, the development of wind turbine technology can reduce air pollution and climate change, whilst provide national security and jobs for its citizens. The increasing affordability of wind power, and the minimal environmental impacts it has make it a sustainable energy source over the coming century.
References
International Panel on Climate Change 2007 Report. Available at http://www.ipcc.ch/pdf/assessment-report/ar4/syr/ar4_syr_spm.pdf
National Energy Education Project (accessed April 21st 2011). Available at http://www.need.org/needpdf/infobook_activities/IntInfo/WindI.pdf
Wind Industry Group Report. (accessed April 22nd 2011). Available at http://www.windustry.org/sites/windustry.org/files/2.8%20Wind%20Basics%20PDF.pdf Read More
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