Is Wind Power Renewable Or Non?

Is wind power renewable or non?
Briefly introduce wind power and the debate over whether it is renewable or nonrenewable.


Wind power harnesses the wind to generate electricity using wind turbines. It is considered a renewable source of energy because wind is continuously replenished and will not run out. However, there has been some debate over whether wind power truly qualifies as renewable. This is mainly centered around the lifespan of wind turbines and the materials required to build them. While the wind itself is endless, the infrastructure to capture it has a finite lifetime. This article will examine the nature of wind as an energy source and the key factors that determine if wind power is best categorized as renewable or nonrenewable.

According to the National Geographic, renewable energy is energy generated from natural processes that are constantly replenished. This includes sunlight, wind, water, and geothermal heat. The key aspect that makes renewable energy different than fossil fuels is that it comes from virtually inexhaustible sources.

Definition of Renewable Energy

Renewable energy comes from sources that are naturally replenished over periods of days to years. The most common renewable sources are sunlight, wind, water, and geothermal energy. These energy sources are constantly renewed through natural processes and will not run out for the foreseeable future. This makes them different from non-renewable fossil fuels like coal, oil, and natural gas, which take millions of years to form naturally.

The key defining aspect of renewable energy is inexhaustibility and replenishment. Renewable energy sources are considered inexhaustible because they are maintained through natural processes, with lifecycles measured in days to years. Some examples include:

  • Sunlight – replenished daily through the Sun’s nuclear fusion
  • Wind – driven by atmospheric circulation and temperature gradients
  • Hydropower – renewed through the water cycle of evaporation, condensation, and precipitation
  • Geothermal – maintained through heat flow from Earth’s interior outwards

Because these sources are constantly replenished naturally on human timescales, they are considered renewable and virtually inexhaustible when compared to non-renewables like fossil fuels. This replenishment makes renewable energy an important sustainable energy solution.

Wind Power Basics

Wind power works by using energy from the wind to turn large turbine blades connected to a generator. As wind blows across the blades, lift is created like on an airplane wing, causing the blades to turn. This rotational motion spins a shaft connected to a generator, which converts the mechanical energy into electrical energy (How Wind Power Works, The amount of wind energy that can be captured depends on the wind speed and the swept area of the turbine blades. Modern wind turbines can operate at wind speeds between 7-55 miles per hour, with peak power generation occurring around 30 mph. Large utility-scale wind turbines now have rotor diameters over 400 feet across, allowing them to capture enormous amounts of energy.

Inexhaustibility of Wind

Wind is considered an inexhaustible resource because it is continuously replenished through natural processes and will not run out on human timescales. The sun’s uneven heating of the atmosphere, the rotation of the earth, and the planet’s geography all drive the patterns of wind flow across the globe. As long as the sun continues to shine, the earth keeps spinning, and geographical features like mountains, valleys, and bodies of water exist, wind will keep blowing.

Unlike finite resources like fossil fuels, the earth’s wind supply is practically limitless relative to human energy demand. Global wind patterns may shift regionally over long timescales due to gradual climate change, but the winds are in no danger of disappearing altogether. With proper siting and turbine spacing, only a fraction of the wind energy flowing over land is actually captured and converted to electricity by wind farms. The remaining kinetic energy in the wind continues flowing to generate more renewable electricity indefinitely.

Replenishment of Wind

Wind is considered a renewable energy source because it is constantly replenished through natural processes. The main driver of wind is the heating of the atmosphere by the sun. As the sun heats different parts of the Earth’s surface, it causes air circulation and movement. Warm air rises and cooler air rushes in to take its place, creating wind currents. This heating and rising of air creates convection currents in the atmosphere. These convection currents are responsible for the global wind circulation patterns that we observe.

The process of solar heating driving wind circulation happens continuously. The sun heats the Earth’s surface every day, causing air masses to rise and fall. This creates a constant replenishment of wind currents in the atmosphere. As long as the sun continues to shine, new wind resources will be created through this natural process of atmospheric circulation. Even as wind energy is used, the wind patterns are constantly being renewed through this convective process. This is why wind can be relied upon as a renewable resource.

According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, “wind will never run out. It’s renewable. Winds are caused by the sun unevenly heating the surface of the Earth. As long as the sun shines, there will be winds.” (

Lifespan of Wind Turbines

The lifespan of a modern wind turbine is usually between 20-25 years, though some turbines have operated reliably for over 30 years with proper maintenance (1). The technological innovations and improved design of wind turbine blades over the past couple decades have helped extend the average lifespan of turbines compared to earlier generations (2).

Many factors affect the longevity of a wind turbine, including the quality of its components, frequency of maintenance, and exposure to extreme weather events. As turbines age, repair costs tend to increase while energy production decreases. At some point it becomes more cost effective to replace old turbines through a process called repowering.

Repowering involves replacing first-generation wind turbines with state-of-the-art models that have larger rotors and taller towers. This improves efficiency and boosts the energy output. Various studies have found repowering can increase annual energy production at a site by 25-35% (3). So while individual turbines have limited lifespans, wind power systems can be rejuvenated and continue generating emission-free renewable energy.




Growth of Wind Power

Wind power has experienced dramatic growth in recent years. According to the American Wind Energy Association, the amount of electricity generated from wind power in the United States has increased over 10-fold in the last decade, from about 25 billion kilowatt-hours in 2009 to about 338 billion kilowatt-hours in 2020. This represents over 8% of total U.S. electricity generation in 2020.

Certain states have seen even more substantial growth and now rely heavily on wind power for electricity. For example, Iowa generated over 57% of its electricity from wind in 2020, up from just 6% in 2009 according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Kansas and Oklahoma also produced over 45% and 31% of their electricity from wind in 2020, respectively.

Industry research indicates the growth is expected to continue, with projections that wind capacity could grow another 3-4 times by 2050. According to one forecast, wind power could provide over 35% of U.S. electricity by 2050, up from around 9% today (Source). This ongoing growth demonstrates the renewable, inexhaustible nature of wind as an energy source.

Comparisons to Nonrenewables

In contrast to finite fossil fuel sources like coal, oil, and natural gas, wind power is considered a renewable energy source. Fossil fuels take millions of years to form naturally and exist in a fixed amount on Earth. Once used up, fossil fuel reserves cannot be replenished (1). Wind power, on the other hand, is constantly replenished through the natural process of wind caused by the sun’s radiation heating the earth’s surface unevenly (2). The wind resources available for energy production are virtually inexhaustible. Unlike coal or oil, wind power will never run out.

While fossil fuels are limited and can be depleted, wind energy is abundant and available indefinitely. The wind blows everywhere on the planet and can be harnessed anywhere using wind turbines. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the world’s wind resources are sufficient to supply global energy demand several times over (1). The wind won’t stop blowing for the foreseeable future, making wind power a sustainable long-term energy solution compared to finite nonrenewable sources.




Environmental Benefits

Wind power provides significant environmental benefits compared to nonrenewable energy sources like coal, natural gas, and nuclear power. As a renewable energy source, wind power emits minimal air pollution and greenhouse gases. According to a 2017 study, wind power emits 96% less SO2, 98% less NOx, and 98% less CO2 than natural gas per unit of electricity generated. Wind turbines also do not require mining or drilling for fuel, avoiding habitat destruction and emissions from extraction. The Environmental Benefits of Wind Power report found the environmental benefits of wind in the U.S. were roughly equal to the costs, thanks to avoided emissions. Wind power helps combat climate change by displacing fossil fuel electricity generation without emitting greenhouse gases. As more regions switch to wind power, the environmental advantages will continue to grow globally.


In conclusion, there is a strong case for classifying wind power as a renewable energy source. Wind is powered by the sun’s heating of the atmosphere and the rotation of the earth. As long as the sun shines and the earth rotates, wind will continue to blow across the planet. The wind resource is essentially inexhaustible and replenishes itself naturally. While wind turbines have a lifespan of around 20-25 years, they can be replaced as needed to continue harnessing wind power. As a clean source of renewable energy with minimal environmental impact, wind power offers many advantages over fossil fuels and other nonrenewable sources. The wind power industry continues to grow at a rapid pace around the world, displacing more carbon-intensive forms of energy generation. Despite intermittency challenges, wind has proven itself as a sustainable, renewable power source that will play a major role in the global energy transition.

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