The disadvantages of wind farms are; impact on wildlife, capital cost, location constraints, difficulty of offshore installation, hazard risk, aesthetic and acoustic challenges.
This article discusses the disadvantages of wind farms, as follows;
1). Impact on Wildlife (as one of the Disadvantages of Wind Farms)
With respect to the ecosystem, some advantages of wind farms include their contribution to clean energy development and sustainability, with minimal greenhouse emissions, global warming impact, or other forms of environmental degradation .
Collision with turbine blades, as well as with the nacelle and tower of wind turbines, is a cause of multiple bird and bat deaths globally, every year.
To mitigate these effects, various strategies can be employed, including improved blade design, optimal turbine spacing, and the use of sound as a deterrent to wildlife.
The negative impact of wind farms on wildlife has been the basis of strong arguments against the development of wind energy as a renewable alternative to fossil fuels, and has shifted much of the interest in favor of other alternatives like solar, wave power, geothermal and nuclear energy.
2). Capital Cost
A wind farm costs at least $2 billion for the wind turbines, land and installation.
The cost is usually much higher than this minimum, and may range from about $4 billion to $10 billion.
There are various factors that determine the cost of wind farms, including site characteristics, number and size of wind turbines, and type of foundation used .
The size and scale of a wind turbine affects its cost, with home or farm-scale turbines costing generally less than commercial or utility-scale turbines.
Wind farms use utility-scale turbines, that cost at least $1.3 million per megawatt (MW). Given that a wind farm may produce up to 1,000 MW of power, this equates to at least $1.3 billion spent on turbines alone.
Additional costs may come from installation, maintenance, retrofitting, upgrade, and other routine procedures, bringing the cost to several billions of dollars.
It is important to state that wind farms have a fair return on investment (ROI) in the long term. However, the capital and maintenance costs are obviously deterring to many potential users who will like to adopt wind energy for their use.
3). Location Constraints (as one of the Disadvantages of Wind Farms)
The choice of location of wind farms is often a cause of conflicts.
Wind turbines can only be effective when they are installed in a location with sufficient supply of wind energy. Such locations are mainly offshore, and remote lands.
Situating wind farms in such areas created difficulties with regards to the transmission of power after it has been generated.
Also, layout optimization often presents a challenge when deciding where and how to install turbines for a wind farm . This has to do with geographic location and spatial optimization.
The challenge of location and layout, affects how much power is produced. Generally, individual wind farms produce less power than their counterparts in the energy sector.
The biggest wind farm in the world as of 2022 is the Gansu Wind Farm, located in China, which has a capacity of about 20,000 MW . The largest offshore wind farm in the world as of 2022, is Hornsea 2 Wind Farm, located in the United Kingdom, with a capacity of 1,386 MW.
Majority of wind farms in the world do not produce enough power to meet the existing demand in their environs. As a result, they are used as a supportive system for larger facilities that may be fossil fuel or nuclear power plants.
Addressing the problem of location will be a major step toward the improvement of wind energy output.
4). Difficulty of Offshore Installation
Wind farms have the advantage of being both offshore and onshore.
However, offshore wind farms present various challenges in the areas of planning, design, construction, stability, accessibility, operation and maintenance.
Compared to onshore wind farms, offshore wind farms are difficult to construct and maintain. This is especially the case in deep seas, where there may be challenges with laying a stable foundation for wind turbines.
Offshore wind farms can be highly complex due to infrastructural demands, including foundation design and underwater transmission lines.
The action of waves, especially in marine regions with harsh conditions, increases the risk of infrastructural damage for wind farms. Also, fatigue, corrosion and other effects of continuous contact with saltwater can cause significant damage, reducing the safety and increasing the cost for such wind farms.
5). Hazard Risk (as one of the Disadvantages of Wind Farms)
Both offshore and onshore wind farms are exposed and susceptible to natural hazards.
The most common hazard to which these facilities are exposed are those related to wind. Violent wind storms are capable of causing significant damage to wind turbines.
Other hazards affecting wind farms include flooding, hurricanes, and heat waves. The later can cause gradual structural deformation, when the parts of turbines are subjected to severe heat over extended periods.
Soil erosion can affect the stability of wind farms, by damaging foundations and increasing the risk of collapse.
Wind farms themselves also pose safety risks to their surroundings, especially with regards to the possibility of total or partial collapse.
6). Unpredictable Energy Availability
Although wind farms can constitute a profitable aspect of energy development in a circular economy, the supply of wind energy to these farms (in order for them to generate electricity) is not predictable .
This factor of unpredictability is one of the biggest disadvantages of wind farms and wind energy in general. It implies that it is not possible to make any accurate predictions or plans around wind farms.
Unpredictable wind energy supply means that no long-tern forecasting can be done, and that the amount of power that will be supplied from these wind farms at any given time, cannot be planned.
Some arguments in favor of wind energy have been raised, and most of these state that wind can be predicted over a long period of time based on climatic trends. Still, over any definite time frame, it cannot be said that wind farms are totally reliable for residential or industrial use, or in cases of emergency.
There are various factors that make wind farm performance to be highly variable, including wind speed, wind direction, humidity and temperature, as well as the condition of turbines.
The underlying and most basic cause of variability is the inconsistent nature of wind. This leads to intermittent power supply, with continuous and abrupt disruptions. As a result, wind farms cannot be used as a sole source of power, and must be supported by a more ‘reliable’ system such as hydroelectric power plants, or fossil fuel plants.
7). Aesthetic and Acoustic Challenges (as one of the Disadvantages of Wind Farms)
Two factors affecting the public image, as well as attitudes and acceptance of wind energy are the visual aesthetics and noise (acoustic) problems of wind turbines.
These drawbacks are especially high for wind farms, which are comprised of multiple turbines in a single location.
Noise pollution often results from friction and turbulence as the turbine blades rotate . With regards to aesthetics, many people consider wind turbines to be an eyesore when installed within view.
Some studies have shown that the noise and aesthetic effects of wind farms may differ between rural, quiet areas and suburban areas . In any case, these problems have limited the adoption of wind energy.
New designs of wind turbines are being carefully planned and structured to reduce these problems of noise and aesthetic disturbance.
Disadvantages of wind farms are;
1. Impact on Wildlife
2. Capital Cost
3. Location Constraints
4. Difficulty of Offshore Installation
5. Hazard Risk
6. Unpredictable Energy Availability
7. Aesthetic and Acoustic Challenges
1). Belyaev, L. S.; Marchenko, O.; Solomin, S. V. (2005). “A study of wind energy contribution to global climate change mitigation.” International Journal of Energy Technology and Policy 3(4). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1504/IJETP.2005.008398. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
2). Deshmukh, S.; Bhattacharya, S.; Jain, A.; Paul, A. R. (2019). “Wind turbine noise and its mitigation techniques: A review.” Energy Procedia 160:633-640. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1016/j.egypro.2019.02.215. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
3). Fiumicelli, D. (2011). “Wind farm noise dose response.” Acoustics Bulletin 36(6):26-34. Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/286378072_Wind_farm_noise_dose_response. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
4). Higgins, P.; Foley, A. M. (2013). “Review of offshore wind power development in the United Kingdom.” Environment and Electrical Engineering (EEEIC). Available at: https://doi.org/10.1109/EEEIC.2013.6549584. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
5). Petrescu, R. V.; Aversa, R.; Apicella, A.; Petrescu, F. I. (2017). “Green Energy Production PERMANENT GREEN ENERGY PRODUCTION.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316043707_Green_Energy_Production_PERMANENT_GREEN_ENERGY_PRODUCTION. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
6). Samorani, M. (2010). “The Wind Farm Layout Optimization Problem.” Available at: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-642-41080-2_2. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
7). Thaxter, C. B.; Buchanan, G. M.; Carr, J.; Butchart, S. H.; Newbold, T.; Green, R.; Tobias, J.; Foden, W.; O’Brien, S.; Pearce-Higgins, J. W. (2017). “Bird and bat species’ global vulnerability to collision mortality at wind farms revealed through a trait-based assessment.” Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284(1862):20170829. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1098/rspb.2017.0829. (Accessed 6 September 2022).
8). Zafar, U. (2018). “Literature Review of Wind Turbines.” Available at: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/329680977_Literature_Review_of_Wind_Turbines. (Accessed 6 September 2022).