WIND VS. COAL
A COMPARISON OF ENERGY GENERATION
HARNESSING THE WIND
• Most wind energy is harnessed via turbines that can be as tall
as a 20-story building with three rotating blades.
• Wind causes the blades to spin, turning a shaft connected to a
generator, which produces electricity.
ENERGY FROM COAL
• Pulverized Coal Combustion systems generate electricity through a careful process
conducted on a mass scale.
• The coal is milled into a fine powder to increase its surface are and allow it to burn faster.
The powdered coal is then blown into a combustion chamber in a boiler, where it is burnt
at high temperatures. The hot gases and heat energy created converts water running
through tubes lining the boiler into steam.
• The steam is moved into a turbine with thousands of propeller-like blades, which are
pushed and cause the turbine shaft to rotate at high speeds. A generator mounted to one
end of the turbine shaft contains carefully wound wire coils. The coils are rapidly rotated
in a strong magnetic field, generating electricity. The steam is condensed and returned to
the boiler for another round of heating.
COST OF WIND ENERGY
• The cost of the turbine itself makes up 70% of the expenses
associated with using wind energy. The remaining 30% is attributed
to the construction and installation of the turbine.
• After the capital costs, the maintenance of the turbine costs very
little, and the expected life is 20 years or longer.
• Wind power is comparatively one of the cheapest forms of energy
production, with prices still declining every year.
• Backyard turbines can be purchased and installed for around $4,000.
COST OF COAL
• Obtaining the actual coal to be used in factories is steadily
becoming more expensive as less and less of it is available to
• Further costs lie in the construction, operation, and
maintenance of factories where coal energy is produced.
• A single unit IGCC factory using CCS has an overnight capital
cost of $6,599 ($/kw).
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF WIND ENERGY
• Wind energy has little to no environmental impact. Turbines
produce no air or water pollution.
• Some people do not like the impact that wind turbines have on
the aesthetics of an area, or complain about the noise that they
make. These are essentially the only drawbacks that could
potentially be labeled as ‘environmental.’
ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT OF COAL ENERGY
• Through the process of creating energy from coal, there are a
great number of negative environmental impacts.
• Acid mine drainage, air pollution from greenhouse gases and
particulate matter, carbon monoxide emission, coal fires, coal
combustion waste, coal sludge (or slurry), forest destruction
from mountaintop removal mining, loss or degradation of
groundwater, radical disturbance of farmland, mercury
emissions, and waste coal are just a handful of these effects.
HAZARDS OF WIND ENERGY
• The only safety concern of wind turbines is their tendency to
kill birds and bats. However, power lines, cars, and high rise
buildings kill many, many more birds and bats than turbines
• Wind turbines are quite safe for humans.
HAZARDS OF COAL ENERGY
• There are several hazards to human life involved with producing coal
• Among those hazards are coal dust in the air, coal fires in factories, flooding
caused by mountaintop removal mining, degradation of groundwater, and
heavy metals released during mining and burning of coal leading to metal
• Coal factories are a dangerous and toxic environment for all biological life.
Careful measures must be taken to create a less dangerous working
situation for people mining coal or working in coal burning factories.
• Wind energy is, overall, a safer, cheaper, and cleaner source of
energy than coal burning. The hazards and damage to the
environment associated with coal burning outweigh the energy
being produced, especially considering the existence of another
option that is better in many fundamental aspects. If the use of
wind energy continues to grow at its current rate, it is
estimated that up to a third of the world’s energy will be
provided by wind generation by 2050.
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6 May 2015.
• "Environmental Impacts of Coal." SourceWatch. SourceWatch, 16 Mar. 2015. Web. 6
• "The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S." The Cost of Wind Energy in the U.S. American
Wind Energy Association. Web. 6 May 2015.
• "The Escalating Cost of Coal." The Escalating Cost of Coal. EDF Energy. Web. 6 May
• "U.S. Energy Information Administration - EIA - Independent Statistics and Analysis."
U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA). U.S. Department of Energy. Web. 6 May
• "Wind Power Information, Wind Power Facts - National Geographic." National
Geographic. National Geographic Society. Web. 6 May 2015.