Why Use Wind Power?
People choose to use wind energy for a variety of reasons, including perhaps the most important one—they want to! More specific motivations include environmental, financial, independence, reliability, and social.
Energy and our energy choices have a huge impact on our physical environment. More than half of the electricity used in the United States is generated by burning coal. This coal is sourced by strip mining, pit mining, shaft mining, and mountaintop removal. All of these methods of extraction, and the burning of coal, have a deleterious effect on the ground, water, and air, not to mention the health of workers and nearby residents. Other major sources of electricity nationally are natural gas and nuclear energy, both of which have environmental damage and risk involved in fuel extraction and use.
While all energy producing endeavors have an impact, wind energy (as well as other renewables) have a lower impact overall, if well designed and implemented. There is embodied energy in wind-electric systems, but the fuel is free and recurs daily, and the ongoing impacts on the environment are negligible.
Wind-electric systems can also be of financial benefit, depending on the situation. Off-grid system owners regularly see that having wind electricity in the windy season is more cost effective than utility line extension or increased generator usage. If you live on-grid, you will need a combination of a good wind resource, high utility rates, and decent incentives to compete with subsidized dirty energy.
Our country was founded on independence, and there is a strong independent streak that runs through America even today, especially in rural environments. While people value working together and helping each other, they don’t like the dependence on governments, utilities, or charity—they want to take care of themselves. Having a wind-electric system can fulfill this motivation, regaining control of energy generation and bills.
Some wind-electric system owners primarily want reliability. These systems—especially hybrid systems with solar-electric arrays and batteries—can provide very reliable electricity, more reliable than the utilities in many cases. On a personal level, this can allow people with medical conditions, businesses with critical loads, and public service organizations to continue functioning during storms and utility outages. Looking at the situation from another perspective, grid-tied wind-electric systems contribute to the stability of the utility grid, not only supplying the owners with electricity, but sharing their surplus with their neighbors via the grid.
Last and not least, many people want to use wind electricity because, “it’s cool!” When you think about it, many if not most of the buying decisions we make are not based strictly on dollars or “sense,” but on our own personal preferences, our own need for fun, status, beauty, and interest. Having a wind generator over your home brings all of that and more, and is a strong statement of your individuality, your values, and your forward thinking.