Table of Contents
- The Historical Origin of Wind Power
- The Benefits and Drawbacks of Wind Power
- Geographic Sustainability for Wind Power in Canada
- Cost-Effectiveness of Wind Power
Efficiency is key to success in societies where there is competition for scarce resources. Such is the case for our society, so it is important for us to constantly evaluate the way we complete tasks and live our lives. An urgent and growing problem that is threatening the livelihood of every single square inch of the planet - and everything living on it - is climate change. The severity of the situation becomes clear when it is quantified. In this case, from 1997 to 2007, natural gas consumption “increased by 30.2% from 2026.4 to 2637.7 million tons of oil equivalent” on a global basis (Shepherd, W., & Zhang, L., p. 205). Our over-reliance on fossil fuels to create energy producers such as natural gas has altered the planet’s climate and all life upon it. Not only are the fossil fuels which we so heavily rely on nonrenewable, but they cost a lot of money to obtain. The negative economic factor of fossil fuel usage is apparent in this statement from the International Energy Agency’s that “for every year the world delays taking significant action to curb climate change, we will have to spend an additional $500 billion down the road” (as cited in Brune, p. 4). On the West Coast of Canada, we can begin to reverse the environmental and economic effects of fossil fuel consumption by utilizing the wind power, an abundant renewable resource.
The Historical Origin of Wind Power
Wind energy has been around since the fourth century B.C.E., when the Egyptians used it to move their sailboats. In the past 100 years, This technology was then modified so that it could pump water and mill grain. Wind power became a main source of energy for labour sites in both England and the United States, but following the industrial revolution, it fell by the wayside. Interest in wind energy was not renewed until the world realized the dangers of relying on fossil fuels (Weber, T.W., & Myers, A, p. 1-6). Since then, a device called the “wind turbine” was invented so that we can take advantage of a free and renewable resource in order to create electricity. The sun warms every part of the earth differently, which creates a difference in air pressure. Wind, or air in motion, is the result of hot air rising and cooler air rushing in to replace it. A wind turbine has two or three rotor blades that are turned by the force of the wind. While the blades are moving, energy is being transferred to the rotor, which is connected to the wind shaft, so the wind shaft spins with the rotor. The kinetic energy from the movement of the wind is then transferred to rotational energy as the rotor and shaft spin together. On the other end of the shaft there is an electrical generator which is powered by the energy coming from the shaft (Weber, T.W., & Myers, A, p. 7-8). Devices like the wind turbine allow us to draw upon the clean and renewable resources that the earth offers, and it costs us very little. The energy is good for the environment and the operating cost is minimal. All factors considered, it is clear to see that the main source of energy for the west coast of Canada should be wind energy because it’s good for the environment, cost effective, and efficient in our climate.
The Benefits and Drawbacks of Wind Power
Of course, there is no solution that can reach one hundred percent efficiency; any solution is going to have negative aspects to it. Wind energy is no exception: it is expensive to transition into, it may not maintain as many jobs as the current energy industry, wind is intermittent and not necessarily reliable, and it may negatively affect the economy. Because we are so deep-rooted in fossil fuels, transitioning into alternative energies such as wind energy will be a costly endeavor. Since we are undoing methods of energy production that have been integral to our economy for decades, we have to consider where we might create holes in our economy and how the market might shift. Another problem with the idea of wind energy is that it might be too low maintenance, to the point where after the shift away from fossil fuels there may be a shortage of jobs in the industry. A main point that proponents of fossil fuels make is that wind is intermittent and can not reliably provide energy to an area. These are all valid and reasonable points and we should factor all of these into the decision making process. Not all of these points have answers, but the advantages outweigh the disadvantages and after this transition the entire world will be better off.
The most undisputable advantage of wind power on the west coast of Canada is its benefit to the environment. For decades scientists have known that renewable resources should be the main source of energy for the planet due to the fact it does not deteriorate the climate and it’s reversing effect on climate change. Wind power plants do nothing to harm the quality of air and the don’t require the removal and cleaning of wastes, such is the case with fossil-fuel and nuclear-generation plants. Because the carbon emissions are exactly zero, climate change will begin to reverse when fossil fuel is substituted for wind energy. This is good for our area especially because the rising tide brought upon us by climate change will eventually drown entire municipalities on our coastlines, causing civilian and economic casualties. Climate change alters our ecosystems: earlier springs cause birds to nest early, which drives down their survival rate because of the lack of food. Fortunately, wind turbines do not cause climate change because they do not emit greenhouse gases and therefore do not cause acid rain (Weber, & Myers, p. 15). It is common for opponents of wind energy to argue that the loud noise and large nature of the turbines disturb ecosystems and nullify agriculture as a use of the nearby land. This is incorrect: wind turbines have no effect on wildlife. The land can still be used as farmland and farm animals can even wander right up to the turbine without being unsettled by the sight or sound of the machine (Shepherd, & Zhang, pg. 217-218).. The benefit of wind power to the environment is undeniable making wind power the obvious choice as the main source of energy for our coastal region.
Geographic Sustainability for Wind Power in Canada
Living on the west coast of Canada means we are home to active winds, open farmland, elevated spaces, and many other geographical aspects that all synergize well with the integration of wind power. High wind speed is required at the height of the turbine (Shepherd, & Zhang, pg. 86), which is of course present bearing in mind our proximity to the ocean. There is also open farmland on our coast and many places to put a wind turbine where it will not be intrusive to the general population. A common argument against the use of wind power is that it can not be relied on because wind is a variable commodity. However, just because it is variable does not mean it is unpredictable; forecasted outputs generally almost exactly match actual outputs (Lovins, 2:08). In other coastal regions around the world, wind energy is being used in combination with other renewable sources of energy to create a more sustainable system of energy production. It is possible to use the specific attributes of our coastal region to our benefit as we convert our energy production to wind power; the evidence is in european countries such as Portugal, Spain, and Denmark, where they are already benefiting (Lovins, 3:40). Demographically speaking, it is likely that the installation of wind turbines will not pose much of a problem as long as they are constructed in places that do not affect the residents’ and tourists’ enjoyment of the natural beauty that is the west coast. This, combined with all of our other geographical attributes, add up to a region that is symbiotic with the utilization of wind power.
Cost-Effectiveness of Wind Power
Arguably the most complicated and disputed advantage of wind energy is its cost-effectiveness. Switching over to renewable energies such as wind power saves money, works efficiently with other renewable energies, and is already economically efficacious. Although there is a high cost to initially install wind turbines, once they are installed they draw power from an enormous pool of free energy. As mentioned earlier, since we will have to solve the climate change problem eventually, every year we delay fixing the issue the cost of the fix increases by an alarming amount (Brune, p. 4). On top of that, the cost of wind power is on a decline, so much so that in countries that enjoy subsidies, such as Canada, wind power is cheaper than coal (Shepherd, & Zhang, pg. 233). Not only is it cheaper, but combined with other renewable energies, wind power can help to deliver completely renewable electricity year-round (Lovins, 3:11). The giant power plants that run on the main electric grid are actually shut down about ten to twelve percent of the time due to maintenance; therefore, the current means of producing electricity does not involve every cog in the machine working perfectly at all times (Lovins, 2:30). Our electrical grid requires the choreography of plants that are not operating and plants that are fully operational. Through similar choreography, the different renewable energy sources alone can combine to provide electricity that is reliable and readily available at all times (Lovins, 3:11). Wind energy is beginning to mark its place in the global economy and is the fastest growing mode of energy production across the planet (Kukreja, p. 9). In the past three years renewable energy won a quarter trillion dollars in private investment in the United States, and in 2016 China added more renewable energy than the United States has in total (Lovins, 0:27). Because of the depreciating costs, appreciating value, and the efficiency resulting from the consolidation with other renewable energies, wind power is a cost-effective source of energy.
The issue of climate change due to fossil fuel usage is remaining prominent and it will continue to remain prominent until something is done to reverse its effects; Newton’s first law. The clear solution for the problem on the west coast of Canada is wind power. The wind power industry is growing so fast that it will be able to cover one third of the world’s energy demands by 2050 (Kukreja, p. 8). On the west coast in particular, people are realizing the viability of hosting wind energy due to our synergistic geography, wind power’s economic feasibility, and the benefit to the environment. How will governments fund large-scale energy production conversions? How will we untie the economic knot that is the fossil fuel industry? Is it even possible to dismantle an industry that is incredibly profitable and backed by high-level politicians? All of these are important questions that require answers, but it is important that we pursue this future further so that it can be a reality. Quite simply, renewable energy is the best course of action for the future, and on the west coast, that energy is wind energy. Wind energy is cost-effective, compatible with our geography, and healthy for the environment, and that is why it should be the main source of energy for the west coast of Canada.