WIND ENERGY- harnessing the power of wind.

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Weathercock

Moving air is wind! Wind is the flow of air or any gas from one area to the other as a result of pressure and temperature differences. Simply put, heated air rises and cool air rushes in to fill that area thus creating movement of air-wind. Anything that moves generates kinetic energy. Wind energy has been harnessed since ancient times, be it to ride the seas or keep oneself cool. It has also been used in windmills to run mills for centuries. Wind energy is a renewable and clean source of energy.

The modern windmills use wind, like water to turn turbines and generate electricity. Larger the blades and turbine higher the power produced from wind. Dutch companies started manufacturing the modern wind turbines in 1979. The companies at the forefront of this development were Kuriant, Vestas, Nordtank, and Bonus. The US department of Energy estimates and aims to attain Wind generated power to be 20% energy used in the US by 2030. If the plan works as per schedule the Department of Energy believes by 2030 we can reduce our dependence on natural gas for power by 50% and coal by 18%.

 

According to The American Wind Energy Association, the U.S. wind energy industry is continuing to establish new installations at a breakneck pace in the first quarter of 2008, putting 1,400 megawatts (MW) or approximately $3 billion worth of new generating capacity in place. These Alternative energy wind turbine power plants are capable of supplying 400,000 homes with clean and green energy.

 

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Wind Turbine

Wind energy generation is optimum if there is free flow of wind, so open pastures or wind farms are ideal for wind energy generation. For any energy to be produced using wind there needs to be 7-10 miles per hour minimum speed. An ideal location would have near consistent wind flow without major turbulence.

 

The seas would be the best source except for the humongous cost factor of creating an offshore wind farm. Copenhagen has offshore wind turbines which are already functional. An experimental offshore farm is planned off the shore Cape Cod in Massachusetts (Called Cape wind project) which is expected to be up and running by 2010. This wind energy off-shore farm is expected to have 130 turbines and when fully functional provide power for all of the cape and surroundings islands. Cape Wind will provide clean, Alternative Energy capable of replacing 113 million gallons of oil per year.

 

A BRIEF HISTORY OF WIND ENERGY

  • Egyptians were using wind energy to propel sailboats to ride the Nile over 7000 years ago.
  • The earliest known wind energy harnessing using wind mills were found in ancient Iran.
  • In 200 BC the Chinese were harnessing wind energy using wind mills to pump water.
  • Wind energy harnessing using wind mills were made more efficient and refined by altering the paddle like blades by the Dutch and they started using wind turbines to drain lakes and marshes and also in flour mills.
  • Wooden Wind turbines were used to pump water in rural America which also helped spread the railroads by providing water for the steam locomotives.
  • Wind energy has always been used to dry clothing and dry spices and food for long term storage.
  • The oil embargo and crisis of the 1970’s rekindled America’s interest in all Alternative Energy in a major way and thus wind turbine research too restarted.

     

Interesting facts about wind energy:

  • Under very favorable conditions the wind farm capacity factor (annual output) for wind energy output is between 20-40% at the best, as wind is not constant.
  • The leading Wind energy producer in the world is Germany followed by Spain and the United States.
  • Approximately 40% of the greenhouse gases in the US are courtesy fossil-fuel power plants. By using wind energy to generate 20% of the power we stand to reduce 25% of greenhouse gases from our atmosphere.
  • Wind energy generation does not require water for cooling that will also help reduce our water consumption by 17% by 2030.
  • Large number of wind turbines in the same location working together to create power is called a wind farm.
  • Wind energy is fueled by the wind, so it’s a clean fuel source. Wind energy doesn’t pollute the air like power plants that rely on combustion of fossil fuels, such as coal or natural gas. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions that cause acid rain or greenhouse gasses.
  • Wind energy is a domestic source of energy, produced in the United States. The nation’s wind supply is abundant.
  • Wind energy relies on the renewable power of the wind, which can’t be used up. Wind is actually a form of solar energy; winds are caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotation of the earth, and the earth’s surface irregularities.
  • Wind energy is one of the lowest-priced Alternative Energy technologies available today, costing between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending upon the wind resource and project financing of the particular project.
  • Wind turbines can be built on farms or ranches, thus benefiting the economy in rural areas, where most of the best wind sites are found. Farmers and ranchers can continue to work the land because the wind turbines use only a fraction of the land. Wind energy power plant owners make rent payments to the farmer or rancher for the use of the land.
  • As of 2007 December the largest Wind farm is the Horse Hollow wind farm in Taylor and Nolan counties in Texas. It is spread across 47000 acres and has a capacity of 735 Mega Watt.
  • There are still studies being conducted on how wind farms may affect the migratory patterns of birds in the region.

SOME DISADVANTAGES

 

  • Wind energy has to compete with conventional generation sources on a cost basis. Depending on how energetic a wind site is, the wind farm may or may not be cost competitive. Despite the fact that the cost of wind energy has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, wind turbine technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators.
  • The major challenge to using wind energy as a source of power is that the wind is intermittent and it does not always blow when electricity is needed. Wind energy cannot be stored (unless batteries are used); and not all winds can be harnessed to meet the timing of electricity demands.
  • Good wind energy sites are often located in remote locations, far from cities where the electricity is needed.
  • Wind energy resource development may compete with other uses for the land and those alternative uses may be more highly valued than electricity generation.
  • Although wind energy plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to other conventional power plants, there is some concern over the noise produced by the rotor blades, aesthetic (visual) impacts, and sometimes birds have been killed by flying into the rotors. Most of these problems have been resolved or greatly reduced through technological development or by properly siting wind energy plants.

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