Are Wind Turbines Worth The Money?

Are wind turbines worth the money?

With climate change accelerating and energy prices skyrocketing worldwide, there is growing interest in renewable energy sources like wind power. Wind turbines can generate clean electricity without emitting greenhouse gases. But are they really worth the upfront costs and potential drawbacks? This article will examine the costs and benefits of wind turbines to help determine if they are a worthwhile investment.

Background on Wind Energy

Wind power has been utilized for thousands of years, with the earliest known use in 200 BC in China where simple wind-powered water pumps were developed (1). By the 7th century, vertical-axis windmills were grinding grain in Persia and the Middle East (2). Windmills were later adopted in Europe during the Middle Ages for grinding grain and pumping water. The first electricity-generating wind turbine was built in Scotland in 1887 by James Blyth.

Modern wind turbines work by converting the kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power through rotating blades connected to a rotor. Most large-scale turbines have a horizontal axis with two or three blades facing into the wind. The blades capture the wind’s energy and transform it into rotational motion to spin the rotor. This rotational energy then turns a generator to produce electricity. Wind turbines can be either onshore (on land) or offshore (in water). Key components include the rotor blades, shaft, gearbox, generator, tower, and control systems.

Costs of Wind Turbines

The upfront costs to purchase and install a wind turbine are substantial. According to WeatherGuardWind, a typical utility-scale wind turbine with 2-3 MW of capacity costs between $2-4 million. The source cites that wind turbines cost around $1,300,000 per MW of capacity. Today’s Homeowner confirms this estimate, stating costs hover around $1 million per MW and that an average turbine costs $2.5-$4 million.

In terms of maintenance, wind turbines require regular upkeep and inspections. Routine maintenance costs are estimated at $30,000-50,000 per turbine per year according to industry experts. Major component replacements may be needed after 5-10 years, incurring additional expenses. Overall, maintenance costs tend to be low compared to fossil fuel power plants.

Cost Savings from Wind Energy

Wind energy helps reduce electricity costs in a couple key ways. First, wind turbines have low operational costs because there are no fuel costs. As stated by the U.S. Department of Energy’s WindExchange program, “wind turbines do not require fuel to run, so project developers and utilities are protected from fluctuations in fossil fuel prices” ( This provides stability in energy costs once a wind farm is operational.

Second, wind energy projects benefit from federal tax credits and incentives to offset installation costs. According to research from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, “Wind turbine prices are averaging $775 to $850/kilowatt (kW). The average installed cost of wind projects in 2020 was $1,460/kW, down more than 50% over the last decade” ( So tax credits like the federal Production Tax Credit, which provides 2.5 cents per kWh of electricity produced, help make wind power cost-competitive.

Environmental Benefits

Using wind energy to generate electricity provides significant environmental benefits compared to fossil fuel-based energy generation. The two main environmental advantages are reduced carbon emissions and improved air quality.

Wind turbines produce power without emitting greenhouse gases like carbon dioxide (CO2) or other air pollutants. According to the U.S. Energy Information Administration, using wind energy avoided an estimated 189 million metric tons of CO2 emissions in 2019 alone (source). Replacing fossil fuel electricity generation with wind energy results in lower emissions of CO2, nitrogen oxides, sulfur dioxide and particulate matter. This leads to cleaner air and reduces the negative impacts of air pollution on human health and the environment.

The U.K. Local Government Association states that a single 2 megawatt wind turbine can reduce CO2 emissions by over 2,000 tonnes per year compared to a conventional power plant (source). Wind power helps combat climate change by displacing electricity from high-emission sources and reducing dependence on fossil fuels.

Economic Benefits

Wind energy projects provide significant economic benefits to local communities. According to the U.S. Department of Energy’s WINDExchange, wind farms create new jobs related to the development, construction, operation, and maintenance of the wind turbines and supporting infrastructure.1 These are often high-paying skilled jobs such as engineers, construction workers, technicians, and manufacturing workers.2

Wind projects also provide new sources of income for local landowners. Turbines are usually installed on privately owned farms or ranches, and the landowners receive regular lease payments from the wind companies for hosting the turbines on their land. This provides a stable supplemental income for farmers and ranchers.1

Limitations of Wind Power

Wind power has some limitations that need to be considered. Two key limitations are intermittent generation and land use conflicts.

Wind turbines produce energy only when the wind is blowing within certain speeds. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, wind turbines generate energy around 65% to 90% of the time, but can go days or weeks without generation during calm weather 1. This intermittent generation creates difficulties for integrating large amounts of wind onto the electric grid. Additional techniques such as energy storage or transmission connections may be needed to smooth out the variability.

Wind farms also require large land areas, since turbines must be spaced apart for maximum efficiency. The turbines, access roads and other infrastructure can sometimes conflict with land uses like aviation, telecommunications, migration pathways, and local communities. Land use conflicts often require siting wind projects in remote locations far from energy demand centers. Transmission lines are needed to bring the power to market, adding to costs.

Public Opinion on Wind Turbines

Public opinion surveys show that overall support for wind power is high in the United States. A 2021 Pew Research Center survey found that 77% of U.S. adults favor expanding wind power, including 39% who strongly favor it (Pew Research Center, 2021). However, there are segments of the population that remain opposed or concerned about wind turbines.

Those who oppose wind turbines tend to cite concerns over noise, visual impacts on the landscape, harm to wildlife, and declines in property values. For example, a 2016 study found that the introduction of a wind farm within 8 km of residences can reduce housing prices by up to 12% (Gray et al., 2016). Opposition is often localized near proposed wind farm sites. Despite overall high support nationally, projects still face organized opposition from nearby residents.

Alternatives to Wind Power

While wind power offers many benefits as a renewable energy source, there are other alternatives that can also help reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Two major options are transitioning to other renewable sources like solar and hydropower, as well as improving energy efficiency across homes, buildings, and transportation.

Solar power harnesses energy from the sun and converts it into electricity through panels made up of photovoltaic cells. According to the Sierra Club, the amount of solar energy that hits the earth in one hour could power the entire planet for a year (Sierra Club, 2020). Solar power capacity is rapidly expanding as costs have fallen dramatically in recent years. Solar energy is decentralized and can allow homeowners and businesses to become energy producers.

Hydropower utilizes the movement of water to generate electricity through turbines in dams or river systems. It provides around 7% of America’s total electricity and is a stable, renewable source (Green Mountain Energy, 2022). Existing hydropower infrastructure could also be upgraded to boost capacity. Wave and tidal energy are other emerging hydro resources.

In addition to switching electricity production to renewables, we can also greatly reduce energy consumption through efficiency. Simple improvements like sealing air leaks, adding insulation, upgrading to LED lighting, and replacing outdated appliances can significantly lower energy use in homes and buildings. Smarter urban planning and electric vehicles are other ways to curb demand. Pursuing both alternative supply and efficiency will enable the deepest carbon reductions.


After reviewing the pros and cons, it’s clear that wind turbines are worth the investment for many regions. The upfront costs of turbines can be high, but over time they provide clean energy at lower ongoing costs than fossil fuels. Wind energy reduces air pollution and carbon emissions while creating local jobs and energy independence. Although wind power has limits, as part of a diverse energy mix it provides environmental and economic benefits. Investing in wind turbines allows us to tap into the inexhaustible supply of wind while securing a more sustainable future.

There are valid concerns about visual impacts, sound, and effects on wildlife that must be addressed through careful siting and environmental regulations. With proper planning and mitigation, these drawbacks can be minimized. No energy source is perfect, but the scales tip in favor of utilizing wind power where feasible as part of transitioning to a cleaner energy system. The long-term savings and reduced environmental footprint make wind turbines a worthwhile investment.

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