Wind Energy: Pros and Cons

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Rebecca Gillaspy

Dr. Gillaspy has taught health science at University of Phoenix and Ashford University and has a degree from Palmer College of Chiropractic.

Wind energy, also known as wind power, uses the natural air flows in the Earth's atmosphere to generate electricity. Learn about wind energy, including its pros and cons, and explore how wind energy is produced. Updated: 03/02/2022


Wind is something we have all experienced. Wind can drift in as a gentle summer breeze, or storm in as a powerful force capable of leaving destruction in its path. But did you ever wonder what causes the wind to blow? Wind actually gets its start from the sun. When the sun shines down on the earth, the surface of the earth is heated.

Because the earth's surface is made up of different formations, including land and water, the sun heats the earth unevenly. As the different surfaces heat up, the hot air rises and cooler air comes in to fill the void. This explains why it's so windy at the beach. The air above the land heats up faster than the air above the water. So, when the hot air above the land rises, the cooler air from the water rushes ashore.

With the right technology, we are able to harness the energy of the wind and convert it into electricity. In this lesson, we will explore how wind is captured and take a look at the pros and cons of this energy source.

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Wind Energy

Energy is the ability to do work, and we learned that wind is moving air created by the heat of the sun. Wind energy can be simply defined as energy from the wind that can do work and create electricity.

When we talk about energy created by movement of the wind, we are talking about kinetic energy. You can recall this term by remembering that the word 'kinetic' originates from the Greek language and means 'to move.' In order to utilize the kinetic energy of the wind for electricity production, we need a way to harness its power. To do this, we use wind turbines.

Wind turbines are machines with rotors and blades that convert the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy, which is then converted to electricity. The word 'turbine' comes from the Latin language and means 'something that spins.' So you can think of a wind turbine as something that spins in the wind to generate electricity. The mechanical energy produced from the spinning blades of the turbine is transferred to a generator that converts the mechanical energy into electricity.

It might help to think of a wind turbine as the opposite of a fan. A fan plugs into your wall and uses electricity to spin its blades and make wind. A wind turbine works in reverse. It uses the wind to spin its blades to generate electricity.

Wind turbines can work alone, but they are often found together on wind farms, which are areas of land that contain large groupings of wind turbines. The individual wind turbines within a wind farm work together for increased electricity production. Because wind speeds are often higher over water, there are some wind farms built in bodies of water. These wind farms are referred to as offshore wind farms. Offshore wind farms can increase energy production, but are often more expensive to construct than wind farms on land.

Pros of Wind Energy

There are a number of pros to wind energy. Wind energy is renewable energy. This means that as long as the sun continues to shine, we will have wind to generate electricity. Wind energy is also clean and green. Currently, developed countries gain most of their electricity and energy needs from fossil fuels, like oil, coal and natural gas. However, burning fossil fuels creates greenhouse gases that contribute to global climate change. With wind energy, there is no greenhouse gas production during operation.

Speaking of operating wind turbines, we see that wind energy comes with low operating costs. After the wind turbine is built and set in place, the power generated is essentially produced at no cost. We also see that wind energy has a tremendous potential to become a leading energy source. This is thanks to the fact that it is highly abundant, and wind energy can work anywhere the wind speeds are sufficient, which is typically best over 10 miles per hour.

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