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Wind Energy: A Love/Hate Relationship

There is a continuous problem in the US surrounding wind farms. As coal prices continue to rise and renewables continue to fall, the US will likely begin switching to renewable energy, if not for the environmental benefits, then for the economic savings.

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Source: Bloomberg

However, there is one problem facing this switch: everybody wants wind energy to supply the power grids, but don't want to see the turbines from their backyards.

A number of wind farm projects - both onshore and offshore - have been delayed or have been halted altogether because of aesthetic impact. Towns in New York state are trying their best to prevent wind farms from nearing their town’s borders to the extent that laws have been created to prevent large-scale industrial wind farms from supplying the grid and restrict locations of wind farms. Some other New York state residents will only support wind farm projects once they have been assured their ocean view will not be disturbed.

Other states’ residents are worried of the potential impacts of wind farms on their livelihoods. A recently approved offshore wind farm in off Long Island that is set to be the biggest wind farm in the US faced opposition from fishermen who thought the turbines that will be attached to the seafloor may impact their catch. Other Long Island residents were concerned that their electricity bills may rise.

The famous Cape Wind project has had to continuously ask for construction extension grants from the state of Massachusetts due to lack of financial backing. Two utilities had agreed to buy 77.5% of Cape Wind's output, but pulled out. These contracts were highly important in helping pay for the $2.6 billion construction. The project also faces litigation issues as residents, fishermen, and businesses that oppose the project find different reasons to sue the project.

It is clear that there is a huge battle between wind farms and their neighbours.  

But, despite residents’ concerns, there are actually huge benefits to wind farms as a source of energy.

Rural communities in New York where wind farms have been implemented often receive payments instead of taxes from host community agreements because of the wind farms. Wind farms built on private land in Iowa earn those landowners around $20 million annually from the energy production.

Additionally, wind farms have increased employment across the country. For example, Iowa employs 8,000-9,000 people, adding $11.8 billion to the state community. This is much higher than the 2,200 people employed in the Iowa mining industry.

Bloomberg estimates that the cost of offshore wind farms will decrease by 71% by 2040, as renewable energy is becoming more popular than experts had realised. The large offshore Long Island wind farm will likely cost less than originally anticipated.

There is also an increasing demand for renewable energy as Fortune 500 companies continue to aim to operate with 100% renewable energy, and electricity providers in states with deregulated electricity are providing options for homes and businesses to run on 100% renewables. Companies like are helping residents in these deregulated states choose their electricity supplier, allowing customers to choose cheaper plans, and plans that get a certain percent of energy from renewables.

Clearly, renewables are and need to be the future for electricity supply if the world wants to be able to sustain the amount of energy used on a yearly basis. Fossil fuels are finite, but renewables are infinite. Rather than imposing fears of potential problems that may arise from the implementation of a wind farm, residents should be doing all they can to support the industry and allow it to continue to develop and improve.

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