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New study underscores environmental benefit of wind farms: 'Remains crucial to continue'

"The wind turbine technology employed in New Zealand is consistent with that used internationally."

"The wind turbine technology employed in New Zealand is consistent with that used internationally."

Photo Credit: Meridian Energy

A new study reported by Tech Xplore found that a wind farm can offset the polluting gases generated across its 30-year life span in only two years of use, compared to thermal power plants.

The study, published in the Journal of the Royal Society of New Zealand, examined the Harapaki wind farm in Hawke's Bay, New Zealand. It also examined current wind farm studies, transporting and decommissioning data, and construction data, including manufacturing individual parts. 

The study found that the total amount of polluting gases created in making this wind farm would take 1.5 to 1.7 years to offset. In addition, the time it would take to generate the amount of energy equivalent to the energy used to create the farm would be between 0.4 and 0.5 years. 

Isabella Pimentel Pincelli — who is the lead author of the paper and a member of the Sustainable Energy Systems research group, Wellington Faculty of Engineering, at Te Herenga Waka Victoria University of Wellington — said: "The wind turbine technology employed in New Zealand is consistent with that used internationally."

Installing and transporting the wind farm parts accounted for 10% of the gas pollution. 

The Chair in Sustainable Energy Systems at Wellington and co-author of the paper said it "remains crucial to continue implementing improvements aimed at limiting negative environmental impacts while maximizing positive contributions throughout the supply chain of onshore wind plants." 

He added that the manufacturing phase of wind turbines is the biggest culprit in polluting gases and energy and is crucial for targeting solutions. 

One solution the team is exploring is recycling the blades when they reach end-of-life. Currently, they are dumped in landfills, but recycling them could further reduce pollution.

The U.S. Department of Energy is working on a solution through a competition in which companies create wind turbine recycling ideas. Twenty teams were awarded $75,000 to create prototypes and will be eligible for $600,000 to work with DOE labs. The goal is for the teams to develop commercial solutions.

Wind farms don't just reduce polluting gases. They also reduce the cost of energy bills. One study found that wind power could save consumers between $65 and $200 annually. Wind turbines also help to reduce smog and acid rain, and they don't pollute the drinking water.

While some critics point to birds killed by wind turbines, MIT and others have explored that and found it's "only a fraction as many as are killed by house cats, buildings, or even the fossil fuel operations that wind farms replace." 

Wind power doesn't have to be a foreign concept. Your community can also be cleaner by using wind turbines if it isn't already, and change happens when people speak up to make it happen

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