With the nuclear disaster in Japan quieting calls for more nuclear power plants in the United States, people are looking elsewhere for energy alternatives. Now wind energy is getting another look.
The main benefit of wind power is that it does not release pollution into the environment. According to the American Wind Energy Association:
On average, each MWh of electricity generated in the U.S. results in the emission of 1,341 pounds of carbon dioxide (CO2), 7.5 pounds of sulfur dioxide (SO2) and 3.55 pounds of nitrogen oxides (NOx). Thus the 10 million MWh of electricity generated annually by U.S. wind farms represents about 6.7 million tons in avoided CO2 emissions, 37,500 tons of SO2 and 17,750 tons of NOx. This avoided CO2 equals over 1.8 million tons of carbon, enough to fill 180 trains, each 100 cars long, with each car holding 100 tons of carbon every year.
The Pennsylvania Wind Working Group points out that wind power is "a free and inexhaustible source of energy." That's a fancy way of saying it is renewable. It writes:
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Unlike fossil fuels such as coal and oil, which exist in a finite supply and which must be extracted from the earth at great environmental cost, wind turbines harness a boundless supply of kinetic energy in the form of wind.
Having more of our power generated by wind would reduce our dependency on foreign oil, a goal of the United States for some 50 years now. We've all seen what living at the whims of OPEC can lead to -- skyrocketing gas prices that can throw our economy into turmoil.
Another benefit is that at a time when unemployment is threatening to drag down our economic recovery, wind farms can create much-needed jobs -- temporary construction jobs, then permanent jobs to maintain the turbines.
It does cost more to build a wind farm than other types of power plants, but much lower operational costs over the years negates the initial investment. Wind power is also getting cheaper to produce. eHow writes:
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According to the U.S. Dept. of Energy, clean wind power costs $55.60 per MWH (megawatt hour). Meanwhile coal energy costs $53.10 per MWH; nuclear power $59.30 per MWH; and natural gas $52.50 per MWH. At the moment, wind power is more expensive than fossil fuels, but those costs are dropping as wind turbines are starting to be produced in mass numbers, making them less expensive. Wind power costs dropped by 80 percent between 1984 and 2004.