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Renewable wind power – is it really a winning energy source?

22 December 2015

The world has relied on fuel for energy for many years. Now, we are commanding alternative, more sustainable options. One renewable energy source that has particularly caught the eye of engineers is wind power. It has been both widely praised and criticised. Here we examine the ins and outs of wind energy to help determine whether it truly is the energy of choice for the future.

The cost of wind energy compared to coal

Wind energy has been scrutinised for its perceived high operating costs and the inherent need for a backup option (should there not be sufficient wind to provide the amount of energy required). On the surface, yes, wind energy’s cost per megawatt exceeds that of coal – the numbers come to $80-$90 pmwh compared to $40 pmwh. But that said, the cost of wind energy is inclusive of the entire system, project investment, ROI and capital. The cost of coal refers only to the cost of the fuel produced. Based on these terms, the energy created as a by-product of wind power is actually free – and it can be argued that critics often manipulate figures shown in the public sphere to their advantage.

Reliability and the risk of unplanned outages

The potential for power shortages associated with wind energy is also heavily criticised, though no attention is paid to the inevitable outage of every type of energy at one point or another – the 1998 Esso natural gas plant explosion, for example, killed two men and resulted in widespread gas outages throughout Victoria (The Guardian, 30 July 2001). Regardless of energy source, a backup option must always be in place. Studies in South Australia have proven that wind can produce more energy than people expect and meet a community’s needs – about 40 per cent of the state’s annual electricity consumption is coming from wind and sunshine (InDaily, June 25 2015).

Fiscal benefits of wind energy for consumers

The financial savings that can be passed on to consumers due to wind energy are often dismissed. The finger is usually pointed at cost, not return. The true figures, however, demonstrate a considerable saving to consumers of up to $91 per year from 2021 onward (Clean Energy Council, 2014).

Meeting the renewable energy target (RET)

Wind energy has been proven to help Australia achieve the RET in far less time than anticipated. The latest estimate of results of the country’s emissions reduction efforts through wind actually accounts for 13 per cent of the target in the forthcoming five years alone.

The creation of jobs = economic growth

The move towards wind-powered energy requires labour – and creating these jobs will boost employment in Australia. Plus, due to the geographical placement of wind farms, tradespeople and maintenance teams will drive funds back into regional businesses.

Playing a part in Australia’s renewable energy future

Research suggests that wind-based energy is often viewed and criticised by those who are uneducated about the topic. Leaders in the engineering field must better communicate its true benefits. To advocate and drive sustainable energy in Australia (and potentially around the world), enrol in our Master of Engineering Management. You will enhance your existing knowledge and understanding of the engineering sector, and develop senior, strategic skills that may lead you to influence energy application in the future.

Call our course advisors on 1300 863 819 to find out more today.