Course:CONS200/2021/Is wind energy sustainable? The environmental benefits and downsides of wind turbines

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Is wind energy sustainable? As early as 5000 BC, people used the wind to move ships along the Nile (Dang, 2009)[1]. By 200 BC, simple wind pumps were being used in China, while in Persia and the Middle East, grain was being ground by windmills with woven reed blades (Dang, 2009)[1]. New ways of using wind power eventually spread around the world (Dang, 2009)[1]. By the 11th century, people in the Middle East were making widespread use of air pumps and windmills to produce food (Dang, 2009)[1]. Traders and crusaders brought wind technology to Europe(Dang, 2009)[1]. The Dutch developed large air pumps to drain the lakes and marshes of the Rhine Delta (Dang, 2009)[1]. Immigration from Europe eventually brought wind technology to the Western Hemisphere (Dang, 2009)[1]. American colonists used windmills to grind grain, pump water, and cut firewood in sawmills (Dang, 2009)[1]. Settlers and ranchers installed thousands of wind pumps as they settled in the western United States (Dang, 2009)[1]. In the late 19th and early 20th centuries, small wind generators (wind turbines) were also widely used (Dang, 2009)[1]. As the rural electrification program of the 1930s extended power lines to most of the country's farms and ranches, the number of wind pumps and wind turbines decreased (Dang, 2009)[1]. However, some ranches still use air pumps to supply water to livestock. Small wind turbines are becoming more common again, mainly to provide electricity in remote and rural areas (Dang, 2009)[1]. Due to modern technology, wind energy is definitely sustainable. People have invented wind turbines to convert wind into an energy resource we use nowadays. Wind power is a clean energy source that we can rely on for the long term, which means sustainable. Wind turbines can produce reliable, economical and pollution-free energy. It is affordable, clean and sustainable. A single wind turbine is enough to power a home.

Wind turbines working principle(case study in one particular country like the US)

So how do wind turbines work? The principle of a wind turbine is simple. In the United States, for example, wind turbines do not use electricity to generate wind power the way fans do. Instead, they use wind power to generate electricity (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. The wind turns the propeller-like blades of a turbine around a rotor, which turns a generator to generate electricity (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. Wind, a form of solar energy, is caused by three simultaneous events: the sun's uneven heating of the atmosphere, irregularities in the Earth's surface, and the Earth's rotation (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. In the United States, airflow patterns and wind speeds vary widely, depending on water, vegetation and terrain (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. Humans use wind, or kinetic energy, for many purposes: sailing, flying kites, and even generating electricity (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. Wind turbines use the aerodynamic force generated by their rotor blades to convert wind energy into electricity, working in a similar way to the rotor blades of an airplane wing or a helicopter (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. As the wind passes through the blade, the pressure on one side of the blade decreases (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. The pressure difference between the two sides of the blade produces lift and drag. Lift is greater than drag, causing the rotor to rotate (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. The rotor is connected directly to the generator (in the case of directly driving the turbine) or through a shaft and a series of gears (gearboxes) to accelerate rotation, allowing the use of smaller generators (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2]. The aerodynamic force is converted into the rotation of a generator to generate electricity (Musial & Butterfield, 2004)[2].

Wind Farms

What is a wind farm? “A wind farm is a group of wind turbines that use the same location to generate electricity” (Robert and Jochen, 2011)[3]. Any kind of human behavior will have impacts on the environment. As the original pattern of natural ecology has been artificially changed, it will have good and bad effects and varying degrees of severity.

Downsides of wind turbines

Impact on bird habitats:

Wind farms have a significant impact on birds living in their surrounding areas, and given that birds are sensitive to environmental changes, they may cause migration from the location of the wind farm (Song et al., 2021)[4]. Wind turbines affect different bird communities. The impact is also different. For example, A study from March to May 2019 (that is, the breeding season of magpies), locate nests in each grid and record the information. The results show that wind turbines directly affect the density of magpies’ nests. (Song et al., 2021)[4] The mortality of birds caused by collisions around wind turbines has increased and may lead to habitat degradation.

Aesthetic Impact

Wind turbines affect natural aesthetics, because of its huge body, wind turbines will attract people’s attention and affect the appreciation of the natural landscape.

Noise interferes with human health

According to a groundbreaking research report published by an American doctor, living too close to a wind turbine can cause heart disease, tinnitus, dizziness, panic attacks, migraines and lack of sleep (Margareta 2011)[5]

More Land Areas

By 2030, it is predicted that the land area required for each terawatt of electricity produced by wind energy in the United States (72.1 hectares [ha]) is much larger than that of oil and natural gas (44.7 and 18.6 hectares, respectively) .” (Jones, Pejchar, & Kiesecker, 2015)[6]

What are the benefits: less impact on the environment

●  Replace fossil fuels as renewable energy sources. For example, “ Mexico’s wind power generation capacity is 71 GWS, which accounts for 40% of the country’s installed capacity, including natural gas, coal and hydropower.”(Vance, 2012)[7]

●  Wind energy is a clean energy which can reduce greenhouse gas emissions. "A widely praised benefit of wind energy is that it can greatly save greenhouse gas emissions, including carbon dioxide. The process of carbon dioxide, thereby regulating the concentration of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere, thereby affecting the global climate. ." ((Jones, Pejchar, & Kiesecker, 2015))[6]

Sustainable development of wind energy Conditions for sustainable development

●  "By increasing the farmland protection forest nets around potential nests and the distance from the wind turbines, it provides more favorable nesting sites for magpie (and other species with similar nesting habits) in the wind farm" (Song et al., 2021)[4]

●  Developed the muffler for wind turbines. (O'Carroll, 2008)[8]

●  Minimize the use of private land, and you can go offshore to build more wind turbines

●  Develop a reasonable land lease and planning system, and reach cooperation with indigenous and privately owned land.

●  Political stimulation "National and international incentives and subsidies have greatly increased the growth of wind power generation. For example, the state has introduced carbon compensation policies to enterprises, allowing them to invest in clean energy in the development of regions to offset carbon emissions taxes." (Ragheb, 2020)[9]

Comparing with other types of renewable energy sources and non-renewable energy sources

There are several types of renewable energy that are being applied in America. They all have their own advantages and disadvantages. For power efficiency, hydroelectric energy is with no doubt the most powerful renewable energy that has been used (Pandey, 2016)[2]. Hydroelectric power remains a major portion in U.S. electricity production, especially in Washington, Oregon and California, accounting for about 7 percent of total electricity generation (Pandey, 2016)[2]. Similar to wind power, its fuel source is free and its production would not cause carbon emissions. And building the wind turbines would cause fairly amount of carbon emissions (Correa-Álvarez, 2016)[10]. However, the dams built to create hydroelectric reservoirs in the middle and lower reaches of the river would disrupt the ecosystems upside and down. And it can cause significant carbon emissions by constructing those dams (Pandey, 2016)[2]. As compared to another one of the most wide-use of renewable energy-solar, wind is less available and efficient. Solar remains the fastest-growing source of renewable power due last decade. As of the third quarter of 2018, the United States had 60 gigawatts of solar capacity, enough to power about 11.3 million homes. And its material and space cost of production is cheaper than wind turbines (Tyagi, 2020)[11]. Material costs have fallen by more than 60% in the past decade. And solar panels can be mounted on the roof, making it suitable for urban areas (Tyagi, 2020)[11]. There are other promising ways to produce renewable energy, such as capturing the energy of waves and burning molecular hydrogen, but they have yet to enter widespread commercial use.


In conclusion, wind energy can be sustainable as wind is an inexhaustible and renewable source of energy (Sustainable Authority of Ireland, n.d.)[12]. Moreover, due to advancements in technology and innovation, wind turbines and blades are able to withstand a variety of weather conditions, thus making it a reliable source of energy. However, there are conditions to be met for wind energy to be sustainable. These conditions include proper and informed site choice, wildlife protection from dangers of wind turbines, including different stakeholders such as indigenous and private landowners,  and economic incentives for private enterprises to switch to wind energy. In respect to the disposal problems that come at the end of their operational life, many nations are now repurposing materials from wind blades (Gignac, 2020).[13] In addition, there have been many recent developments in recycling of wind turbines and blades (Gignac, 2020)[13]  and emergence of alternative recyclable materials for the construction of recyclable wind blades (Fialka and E&E News, 2020)[14].


Please use the Wikipedia reference style. Provide a citation for every sentence, statement, thought, or bit of data not your own, giving the author, year, AND page. For dictionary references for English-language terms, I strongly recommend you use the Oxford English Dictionary. You can reference foreign-language sources but please also provide translations into English in the reference list.

Note: Before writing your wiki article on the UBC Wiki, it may be helpful to review the tips in Wikipedia: Writing better articles.[15]

  1. 1.00 1.01 1.02 1.03 1.04 1.05 1.06 1.07 1.08 1.09 1.10 1.11 Dang, Thanh (2009). "Introduction, history, and theory of wind power". Introduction, history, and theory of wind power.
  2. 2.00 2.01 2.02 2.03 2.04 2.05 2.06 2.07 2.08 2.09 2.10 2.11 2.12 Musial, W. (2004). "How Do Wind Turbines Work?". How Do Wind Turbines Work?. Cite error: Invalid <ref> tag; name ":1" defined multiple times with different content
  3. Robert Gasch, Jochen Twele (2011). Wind Power Plants: Fundamentals, Design, Construction and Operation. p. 11. ISBN 978-3-642-22938-1.
  4. 4.0 4.1 4.2 Song, N., Xu, H., Zhao, S., Liu, N., Zhong, S., Li, B., & Wang, T. (2021). "Effects of wind farms on the nest distribution of Magpie (PICA PICA) In agroforestry systems of Chongming ISLAND, CHINA". Global Ecology and Conservation, 27 – via Elsevier Science Direct.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  5. Pagano, Margareta (23 October , 2011). "Are wind farms a health risk? US scientist identifies 'wind turbine syndrome'". INDEPENDENT. Check date values in: |date= (help)
  6. 6.0 6.1 Jones, N. F., Pejchar, L., & Kiesecker, J. M. (March 2015). "The Energy Footprint: How Oil, Natural Gas, and Wind Energy Affect Land for Biodiversity and the Flow of Ecosystem Services". OXFORD Academic. 65: 290–301 – via OXFORD Academic BioScience.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  7. Vance, Erik (January 26, 2012). "The 'wind rush': Green energy blows trouble into Mexico". The Christian Science Monitor.
  8. O'carroll, Eoin (August 22, 2008). "Scientists develop silencer for wind turbines". The Christian Science Monitor.
  9. Ragheb, M. (2020). POLITICAL ASPECTS OF WIND POWER. pp. 1–12.
  10. Correa-Álvarez, Mariana (2016). "Structural design of carbon/epoxy bio-inspired wind turbine blade using fluid/structure simulation". International journal of energy research. 40: 1832–1845.
  11. 11.0 11.1 Tyagi, Himanshu (2020). Solar Energy Systems, Challenges, and Opportunities. Springer Singapore. ISBN 98-1150674-4.
  12. Sustainable Authority of Ireland (n.d.). "Wind Energy".
  13. 13.0 13.1 Gignac, J (2020). "Wind Turbine Blades Don't Have To End Up In Landfills".
  14. Fialka, J; E&E News (2020). "New Wind Turbine Blades Could Be Recycled Instead of Landfilled". Scientific American.
  15. (2018). Writing better articles. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Jan. 2018].


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