Wind energy - opportunities and challenges

Wind energy makes a major contribution to advancing the energy revolution and is being consistently further developed thanks to rapid technical progress in Germany. More than 15% of electricity in Germany is already generated using wind energy.

When wind power is used to generate electricity, no carbon is emitted – this would otherwise have a negative effect on the environment. For this reason, there are many who support wind energy from a climate protection perspective. However, wind turbines are expensive and loud and cannot be built just anywhere. Find out what advantages and disadvantages wind energy entails and how it can be used as an energy for the future.

Advantages of wind energy

Wind energy is one of the key pillars of renewable energies

Wind enerfy is available everywhere

Wind energy is one of the renewable energies alongside hydropower, biomass, geothermal energy and solar power. It is renewable because it is available free of charge everywhere. No raw materials need to be extracted or imported from abroad to generate electricity. Wind energy makes use of solar radiation, which creates temperature differences in the air. Wind helps to even out these differences. This means that we can use wind as an energy source provided the sun shines and there are temperature differences. We have summarised how wind energy production works here.

Expanding wind energy reduces dependence on fossil fuels. This is now more important than ever.

Wind energy creates independence

As already stated, no raw materials need to be imported to produce wind energy, unlike power generation from fossil fuels. This makes wind energy particularly attractive for countries that lack raw materials. When energy is generated from crude oil, this oil needs to be imported from countries such as Russia or the US first. This involves high transport costs among other things. High renewable energy usage also helps reduce crimes against humanity. For example, acts of war are no longer financed due to the purchase of fossil fuels. When oil tankers transport oil on the open sea, oil may spill and spread in the ocean if the tanker capsizes. This has fatal consequences for marine wildlife. Wind, in contrast, has already completed its journey.

Wind energy creates jobs

It is not only wind turbine construction which creates jobs. Research and maintenance do too. EWE currently employs more than 9,000 employees. It created Alterric GmbH in cooperation with the Aloys Wobben Foundation. This joint venture is now one of Europe’s largest green electricity producers. Alterric GmbH currently employs a workforce of 300 worldwide, including nature experts, wind farm planners and many more. The professional field related to wind energy is varied with the result that more than 120,000 people were employed in the wind power sector in 2018. Consistent expansion and promotion of renewable energies can create thousands more jobs. This is how climate protection and the economy are winning together – hand in hand for a climate-neutral energy revolution.

Public participation can significantly increase acceptance among many citizens

Wind turbines are clean and efficient

Wind turbines used to generate energy are a clean source of energy, unlike coal-fired power plants or other energy plants. No raw materials that emit CO2 and cannot regenerate are burned or used to produce energy.

Turbines are also highly efficient and, after a few months, have already generated more energy than that required to construct and operate them. This is usually the case after seven months. These conditions are impossible to achieve for fossil fuel energy plants since they continuously require more raw materials for energy production. It goes without saying that we are not talking of clean energy here – think of coal or nuclear power stations. This is also why nuclear phase-out should be continued.

Incidentally, when a wind turbine is built, communities on whose land turbines have been built can collect rent for the land. The general public can also take shares in wind turbines, meaning many people can benefit from wind farms. You can find out how a wind turbine works here.

Disadvantages of wind energy

Wind energy is not constantly available and is difficult to store

Wind energy is not a reliable energy source as a great deal of wind is required to generate energy. If wind speeds are low or there is even no wind at all, other energy sources must be used. This is a great disadvantage that must be taken into account when generating electricity from wind. This challenge also needs to be considered when using solar power.

Unlike other types of energy, wind energy is also difficult to store. This is where electricity storage systems can be used, although they do take up a great deal of space. We are talking about numerous systems the size of ship containers here. Moreover, turbines can only supply electricity to small towns. If we wish to use wind energy, a large number of wind farms would have to be built to deliver an output comparable to other types of power plants. This would also require more space.

The need to ensure high efficiency determines the location of turbines

Wind turbines are loud and expensive

A wind turbine’s location determines how efficient electricity generation is. Locations with high wind speeds offer ideal conditions. These are commonly found in open areas, in the mountains and offshore. However, if wind turbines are located in the mountains, they can spoil the idyllic landscape among other things. Wind turbines cannot be built near residential areas since turbines are too loud and cast a shadow. Constructing offshore wind farms, on the other hand, involves even greater effort and is more expensive than onshore wind farms, even though they are more efficient in generating electricity. Planning construction of a wind turbine thus involves many approvals and compensation measures. The aforementioned approvals also slow down the expansion of wind energy.

Wind turbines kill birds

The need to ensure high efficiency determines the location of turbine, Birds being killed by the large rotor blades often present a challenge when wind turbines are being discussed. However, special attention is paid to this factor when construction is planned to ensure the risk is low. Wind farms must therefore not be built near nature reserves. However, some risk still remains.

Benefits at a glance
  • Free an available everywhere
  • Clean and sustainable
  • Creates jobs in a variety of professional fields
  • Energy-efficient
  • No imports or growing of raw materials required
  • Independence
Disadvantages at a glance
  • Wind energy isn't available all the time
  • Wind energy is difficult to store
  • Wind turbines generate noise
  • Wind turbines have an effect on the landscape
  • May have an influence on fauna and environment

Wind energy as the energy for the future

Wind energy is a key component in energy and climate policy because no carbon is emitted when electricity is generated and no fuels need to be imported. Wind energy, along with other forms of renewable energy, is particularly important for achieving the goal of the energy revolution and bringing about the shift away from fossil fuels. Many old turbines are already being replaced by newer ones which generate electricity efficiently. This is called repowering. The energy revolution cannot be achieved with energy from wind alone. It requires many different solutions that guarantee a reliable, sustainable  energy supply when combined.

In Germany, wind power is the top renewable energy source and accounted for a total of 15% of Germany’s electricity supply in 2021. Germany already has many wind turbines. However, wind power needs to be expanded further to supply entire cities with electricity. Offshore wind turbines in particular should be advanced further since this is where strong winds can be expected all the time. This development and the increased use of offshore turbines would also help to improve the landscape.