In the 21st century, we have seen a lot of championing on environmentally friendly energy sources. Unlike the usual traditional energy sources such as coal, oil, and nuclear reactions that we are used to, wind power offers a great alternative energy source.
Introduction to Wind Energy
Wind energy is referred to as the technology of converting wind into mechanical energy for electricity production. As the wind moves in is natural nature, it has kinetic energy. The kinetic energy is tapped by wind turbines to generate electric power.
Wind energy is mainly classified into 3 types which include:
• Utility-Scale wind: A utility scale wind turbine exceeds 100kW (kilowatts). Electricity generated is connected with the power grid and thereafter distributed to end customers.
• Distributed wind: This is also commonly referred as “small” wind. It generates small scale electricity for a home, small business or a farm that is not linked to the power grid. The wind turbines involved are Single and small, that are of below 100 kilowatts.
• Offshore wind energy: Here, wind turbines are set up on the continental shelves of large water bodies. The offshore wind turbines are usually bigger and can produce more electricity compared to land-based turbines.
How Wind Turbines Work
Wind turbines are machines used for converting the wind’s kinetic energy into electricity. Generally, an ordinary wind turbine is at least 80 meters tall with 3 blades and a nacelle. The nacelle contains a shaft, generator, gearbox, and the controls.
Generally, a modern turbine starts producing electricity after the wind reaches the cut-in speed, which is usually 6mph (miles per hour). Electricity production increases with increasing wind speeds and also depending on the size of the particular turbine. When winds attain too high speeds, approximately 55mph and above, turbines will automatically shut down to prevent damage.
As the wind blows, the blades of a turbine rotate, turning an internal shaft that is linked to the gearbox. This results in an increase in the turbines rotation speed by factor 100, which in turn rotates the generator to produce electric power.
How Wind Energy Is Delivered to the End-User
Wind power generation projects involve many wind turbines that are closely built together, know as wind farms. A wind farm will function as an independent power plant and electricity generated is connected to the grid. Once the power is linked to the primary grid, power operators/electric utilities will convey the electricity to different localities where it is needed.
Small transmission lines referred to as distribution lines links up electricity produced from a wind power project with the primary “network” transmission line. Here, electricity goes over extensive distances to different places where needed. Other small distribution lines are after that used to convey the power to either towns, businesses or homes directly.
Pros of Wind Energy
Renewable and sustainable: Unlike oil and coal, which are depletable earth fossils, wind energy will never run out, which makes it renewable. Wind occurs naturally in the atmosphere and will always be in supply.
Clean and environmentally friendly: Wind energy does not produce greenhouse emissions as opposed to other sources of energy such as oil, coal or natural gas. Although there have been environmental concerns when building large wind farms, once completed, the wind turbines themselves do not consume any fossil fuels.
Cost-effectiveness: Wind energy is totally free. Compared to fossil fuels, it does not require any refining or processing. There is no other source of renewable energy technology that can compare to wind energy in terms of cost.
Space-efficient: Wind turbines can be erected on farms and ranches that are already in existence as long as they are good wind sites. The turbine occupies only a small fraction of land, causing no significant trouble in other activities by the farmers or ranchers. Landowners would generate additional income from the owners of the wind turbines.
Wind energy as a source of employment: Numerous job opportunities have been created as a result of wind energy consultations, manufacturing, installation, and maintenance of wind turbines. This has been a source of livelihood for thousands of people.
Good domestic potential: It is relatively easy for individuals to generate their electricity from the wind.
Cons of Wind Energy
Wind and wind sites fluctuation: The major drawback is that wind energy is an inconsistent source of energy. Even though the wind is a sustainable spring of energy that never replenish, it is not always blowing. This makes it a hectic exercise, which can be expensive and time-consuming for developers to identify a suitable wind site to set up a wind farm.
Visual and noise pollution: Wind turbines are noisy when operating due to the wind vortex caused by the rotating blades and also the mechanical operation of the turbines. Additionally, some people view wind turbines as a blot interrupting scenic landscapes.
A threat to wildlife: Blades of the wind turbines rotate at high speeds hence posing a danger to birds and other flying insects around them. Wind farms have also at times disrupted natural wildlife habitats during construction. However, this can be resolved through technological development and even by siting the wind firms properly.
Interesting Facts about Wind Energy
1. Wind energy was first developed in 200BC through windmills. This was in China and Persia
2. The first wind turbine was made in the 1940s in Vermont.
3. Advanced wind turbine blades can extend to over 300ft long.
4. Wind energy does not require water in its production.
5. The largest wind turbine is 20 stories tall with football field long blades. It is in Hawaii.
6. The taller the turbines, the more the energy produced. This is because the higher you go in the atmosphere, the winds are faster and more constant.
7. China is the largest wind energy producer, followed closely by the United States of America.
8. A wind turbine is different from a windmill. Most people think they are the same and use the names interchangeably. Windmills are meant to produce mechanical energy not generate electricity while on the other hand, wind turbines generate electricity from converting the kinetic energy harnessed from the wind.