|Fig. 1: The Tauren Wind Farm in Oberzeiring, Austia. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)|
It is no secret that fossil fuels will not last forever, and that alternative sources of energy must be found to decrease reliance on, and eventually replace, the use of coal, oil and natural gas. Wind energy and its potential as a renewable energy resource is currently a hotly debated topic, with strong points of view on either side of the issue. This report will review the arguments put forth by both proponents and opponents of wind energy use.
Proponents of wind energy cite mostly environmental and economic benefits.
Wind is created when the sun heats earth's atmosphere. Wind energy is harvested when wind turbines turn the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power. This process is much less environmentally harmful than burning fossil fuels, in terms of its infinitely renewable nature and the fact that it does not produce harmful byproducts. Harvesting wind energy involves no fuel, no greenhouse gas, no air pollution, no toxic substances, no water pollution, and minimal water use. 
Furthermore, turning to wind energy could free us from the political and economic troubles involved with fossil fuels. Using fossil fuels as the primary energy resource in the United States involves negotiations and potential conflicts with unstable countries.  Furthermore, the limited supply of fossil fuels drives up fuel prices, a notion that would be avoided if America turned to wind energy instead - which is free to generate, aside from the setup and maintenance cost of wind turbines. 
Large corporations have begun to take note of wind energy's economic and energy-related advantages. Procter and Gamble, a corporation that manufactures many well-known household items such as Tide and Febreze, recently teamed up with EDF Renewable Energy to build a wind farm in Texas. The company asserts that this single wind farm will power all of its North American manufacturing plants. The wind farm, which is located in Cooke County, will produce 370,000 mega-watt hours of electricity per year, which is enough to power almost 34,000 homes annually. The plant, scheduled to be operational by the end of 2016, is expected to help reduce Proctor and Gamble's energy emissions by 200,000 metric tons per year. 
Arguments against of wind energy focus mainly on economic, environmental, and aesthetic disadvantages.
While wind energy may be free to generate, the initial cost of the equipment required to support wind energy generation is substantial. Construction of turbines and wind facilities, especially those located offshore, are quite expensive to establish.  According to the United States Offshore Wind Collaborative, offshore wind farms are roughly twice as expensive as land-based ones, costing approximately $4,600 a kilowatt (while land-base systems cost around $2,400 a kilowatt).  Furthermore, harsh marine environments provide a barrier to establishing offshore systems - equipment must be strong enough to survive against hurricane winds, corrosive salt, and heavy waves. 
Other opponents are concerned that wind farms would be harmful to natural habitats and the ecosystem. In order to set up wind turbines, many opponents argue that destruction of many animals' natural habitats would be necessary.
The noise levels and aesthetic degradation brought on by establishing and running wind farms is also a significant concern for opponents. A medium-sized 250 kW wind turbine inhibits human habitation within 200-300 m due to the noise levels produced. 
Whether or not the United States decides to turn to wind power or another fuel resource, it is imperative that we ease our reliance on fossil fuels. Investigation and further research into other renewable fuel sources is necessary.
© Sylvie Sherman. The author grants permission to copy, distribute and display this work in unaltered form, with attribution to the author, for noncommercial purposes only. All other rights, including commercial rights, are reserved to the author.
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