Are Wind Turbines Too Big?

This blog entry was written by Allie Brown, former Clean Energy Advocacy Manager at SACE.

Guest Blog | November 12, 2014 | Energy Policy, Wind
Wind turbines and cattle coexist. Credit: Michael J. Okoniewski

New wind turbine technology is a game changer for wind energy opportunities in the Southeast. In just five years, wind turbines have greatly evolved to be more suitable across the region. Taller turbines and longer blades are capable of capturing more wind, which results in harnessing more electricity and reducing costs.

But are these wind turbines too big? 

This is one of the most common arguments advanced by anti-wind energy activists. Yet, unlike conventional power plants, wind energy is a clean, renewable source of electricity that requires no water to operate and emits no air pollution. And while tall, modern wind turbines often coexist with many other farming activities on the land including cattle grazing, crop production and even tourism.

We’ll refute this argument once and for all by making a fair comparison of the size of a wind turbine with other electricity sources. Let’s pretend wind turbines were replaced in the shape and form by coal. In our fact sheet below, we decided to call these fictitious power plants “coalbines.”

One wind turbine weights about 600 tons. That sounds like a lot, but each wind turbine can generate about as much electricity as needed by 600 homes. In the grand scheme of things, it’s a little weight for a lot of power. Alternatively, how much power would 600 tons of coal provide? 600 tons of coal generates approximately 1,105 megawatts. However, the equivalent wind turbine generates 7,200 megawatts–about 6.5 times more energy than if “coalbines” existed.

Our fact sheet below shows exactly how a wind turbines and a fictitious “coalbines” would compare:

While “coalbines” are fictitious, the amount of pollution generated by coal plants, and even coal mining, is not. The reality is that wind turbines reaching greater heights can produce more electricity, thus displacing other, less environmentally friendly energy resources. Wind turbines, while big, are extremely powerful and each modern turbine has the ability to power the equivalent of 600 homes a year!

Want to learn more about wind turbines vs. “coalbines?” Check out our more detailed infographic here.

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