The benefits of renewable energy seem to outweigh their own costs, at least more so than nonrenewable resources. Many fossil fuels have downsides, such as running low on resources and reserves, releasing carbon into the atmosphere (contributing to global warming), and an overall decrease of air quality. Wind energy not only combats these downsides, but includes a few added benefits, such as increasing the public awareness on sustainability, and combating the effects of climate change. Other countries around the world are looking towards wind energy as a viable alternative, and parts of the United States are as well.
The burning of fossil fuels releases many pollutants in the air. When fossil fuels are burned, CO2 (carbon dioxide), one of the main greenhouse gases (a gas that traps heat in the atmosphere), is released into the air. When you turn on your car and drive to work or school, pollutants such as SO2 (sulfur dioxide, a contributor to acid rain and a respiratory pollutant) and NOx (nitrogen oxides, another contributor to acid rain and respiratory diseases) are released into the atmosphere. Many health issues can arise from breathing in these chemicals, such as asthma, bronchitis, and nasal congestion. These chemicals can also react with other chemicals in the atmosphere, such as oxygen, to form secondary pollutants. One such secondary pollutant is O3 (ozone), which at the ground-level, can affect human health, by effects such as eye irritation and increased asthmatic attacks. The use of renewable energy will help to facilitate a reduction in these human health issues occurring all over the country (Energy Policy).
China is an example of one such country that is utilizing wind energy. During rapid industrialization and urbanization, policies are being put in place to substitute coal-fired power plants with wind power. These policies have already helped increase the wind power capacity, and now the Chinese government is focusing on policy reform. This reform includes stressing policy in different areas of the country, since wind power may be more viable in certain locations than others (Energy Policy). Wind energy can also complement other forms of renewable energy. For example, Brazil is looking towards renewable resources to help with energy consumption. In 2011, hydroelectric power (electricity generated from falling or fast-running water) accounted for about 90% of their electricity generation. However, this power is subject to seasonal regimes. Wind energy can be used in conjunction with the hydroelectric plants to increase energy reliability (Journal of Sustainable Development of Energy, Water, and Environment Systems).
In the United States, national-level policy for wind power is difficult. The federal government could step in to create different programs and policies, but all states have different socio-political interests (Environmental Policy and Governance). To remedy this, a strategy like the reform in China that was discussed before might help – providing different incentives to different regions of the country (for example, areas with rich wind resources vs. non-rich wind resources) might encourage policies in different states. Another option for the United States is the investment in small-scale wind energy (such as small wind turbines for a single house or building), rather than large wind farms, which can be costly. These “small wind” energies can provide an economically competitive cost over traditional fossil fuels, allowing for the United States to grow and explore these renewable resource opportunities (Energy Policy).
The road to renewable resources, especially wind energy, is worth it. Countries around the globe, such as the United States, China, and Brazil, have already taken part in this movement. Not only will there be benefits of reduced environmental and human health effects, but as a society, we will be leaving our children a better world than the one that was given to us.
To learn more about global energy and our environment, be sure to click here!
©2018 Weather Forecaster Joseph Fogarty