Over the past decade, U.S. wind power has tripled, making wind energy the country’s largest renewable energy source.
Today, you’ll find over 60,000 wind turbines operating across 41 states, Puerto Rico, and Guam. These have a combined capacity of a spectacular 109,919 megawatts, according to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA).
Pretty impressive, right?
With so many questions about the utility and cost-effectiveness of renewable energy sources, it’s natural to be curious about the viability of renewables. Read on as we discuss wind energy (also called wind power), along with how wind turbines generate electricity to power homes and other places around the world.
Wind. Breeze. Air current.
No matter what you call it, wind is the movement of air caused due to differences in air pressure – it’s something you can’t see, but definitely feel. While it might seem like a simple part of the natural world, wind is comprised of elaborate mechanisms.
How Does Wind Work?
You may have noticed people use direction and speed to describe wind. This is because wind is the gust of air created by gases moving from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas.
Meteorologists call this wind-causing force the “pressure gradient force.“ The higher the pressure gradient force (aka the difference between the pressures), the faster the wind generation and the more potent its force.
There’s also something known as the Coriolis Effect that causes wind to move at a curve instead of a straight line. It’s an effect where the rotating currents of air experience a force known as the Coriolis force, which acts perpendicular to the direction of motion and the axis of rotation.
How Is Wind Made?
Wind is caused by differences in atmospheric pressure.
The sun’s rays warm both the Earth’s surface and the atmosphere. While some parts of the planet experience a warmer climate as they receive the direct rays of the sun, other parts are colder since they get indirect sun rays.
What’s more, the air we breathe contains hundreds of millions of tiny particles. The weight of each of these particles is stacked on top of each other, having a weighing effect on the Earth’s surface. This creates something known as atmospheric pressure.
Atmospheric pressure is a force that changes according to how warm or cold the surface of the Earth is. For instance, when the surface warms up, the air closest to the surface will also become warmer. This, in turn, will cause the particles to rise upwards and eventually spread out.
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When the warmer air starts to rise, the cold air particles start to sink into these low-pressure areas. It’s this movement of air particles that makes the wind.
Contrary to popular belief, humankind has used wind as a substitute for electric power for centuries. In fact, it’s the first man-made method of clean energy generation. But how did people begin harnessing the power of the wind? Windmills.
How Do Windmills Work?
There was a time when windmills would simply grind grains and pump water. But today, they pull energy from the breeze.
Windmills have horizontal and vertical axis blades that can drive a grindstone or wheel; they’re attached to an axle that is connected to either gears or a pump. These turbine blades, also known as sails, are large and strong. Once the wind starts to blow, they catch the air and begin rotating. The turbine sails are connected to a drive shaft. Hence, when the blades turn, so does the driveshaft.
Where Are Some Windmills Located?
You might have already seen windmills in movies or real life. Here’s a list of some of the most famous windmills, along with their location:
- De Liefde Windmill in Sakura, Japan
- Windmill in Naganuma Futopia Park in Tome, Japan
- Partington’s Mill in Auckland, New Zealand
- De Molen Windmill in Foxton, New Zealand
- Hortobágy Windmill in Debrecen, Hungary
- Kiskundorozsma Windmill in Szeged, Hungary
- Betty’s Hope Mills in Antigua, North America
- Morgan Lewis Mill in St Andrew, Barbados
- Moulin du Distrillerier Damoiseau in Le Moule, Guadeloupe
- Rudes Windmill in Otaņķi, Latvia
You‘ll find hundreds of other windmills around the world, from structures that were built in the early 20th century to more recently established ones.
Where Is the World’s Biggest Wind Farm?
The Gansu Wind Farm in China is the largest onshore wind farm in the world. It had a wind power capacity of over 6,000 megawatts back in 2012 and plans to increase it to 20,000 megawatts in 2020.
However, this may change soon.
The construction of the Dogger Bank Wind Farm began in Yorkshire, England, in January 2020. Once completed, it’ll become the world’s biggest wind farm. This beast of a wind project is estimated to have 3.6 gigawatts (or 3,600 megawatts) capacity.
For reference, wind farms are also known as wind parks, wind power stations, or wind power plants. A wind farm is a group of wind turbines situated in the same location for power generation.
If windmills are the older form of wind technology, wind turbines are the latest innovation. Many people use the terms interchangeably, but a windmill is technically a bit different from a wind turbine.
The traditional use of windmills was to grind grain, pump water, and carry out other related tasks. While it’s true that windmills generate mechanical energy, they can’t create electricity.
On the other hand, wind turbines comprise more than 8,000 parts to harness the wind’s kinetic energy and convert it into electricity.
What Is a Wind Turbine?
You’ll instantly notice how different wind turbines look from the windmills you typically see in history books. Wind turbines are large, modern windmills used for generating electrical power energy and ensuring this energy is created in a less wasteful manner.
The first electricity-generating wind turbine was invented back in 1888 and was just about 50 feet tall. The main purpose of creating them was to reduce the world’s increasing dependence on fossil fuels for energy. The whole point of using renewable power like hydropower, solar power, and wind power is to preserve depleting fossil fuel resources.
Wind turbines are designed to have three blades that rotate by channeling the kinetic energy of the wind with massive rotor diameters. The moving blades, in turn, spin a motor that converts this kinetic energy into electrical energy for home and office use.
This clean source of renewable energy is not only cost-effective, but it can also help create jobs, with the wind sector currently employing more than 100,000 workers.
How Tall Are Wind Turbines?
Wind turbines are sleek, thin structures made up of steel or aluminum. The three turbine blades are made of wood-epoxy or fiberglass reinforced polyester.
And they are tall. Very tall.
Typically, window turbines can be around 90 meters or 295 feet tall. You’ll also find smaller turbines (shorter than 80 feet) that are commonly used for residential and small businesses.
Where Are Wind Turbines Located?
The wind industry is finally thriving. In the United States alone, wind projects can generate power for 15 million homes.
Wind industries aim to set up wind turbines in the same location to produce electricity more efficiently. Some of these wind plants are clustered into a windy area on land (onshore wind farms), while some are located in water (offshore wind farms).
Here’s a list of the biggest wind farms in the world where a number of wind turbines are placed together for efficient wind energy generation:
- Jiuquan Wind Power Base, China
- Jaisalmer Wind Park, India
- Alta Wind Energy Centre (AWEC), California, US
- Muppandal Wind Farm, India
- Shepherds Flat Wind Farm, Oregon, US
- Roscoe Wind Farm, Texas, US
- Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, Texas, US
- Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm, Texas, US
- Walney Extension Offshore Wind Farm, UK
- London Array Offshore Wind Farm, UK
Other countries are also doing an effective job of utilizing wind energy technologies. Denmark, for instance, has the highest wind power generation in the world, reaching 47% in 2019.
Where Is the World’s Largest Wind Turbine Located?
Located in Rotterdam, the Netherlands, the Haliade-X is the world’s largest and most powerful offshore wind turbine.
When completed, the prototype will stand 260 meters or 853 feet tall from base to blade tips, with a capacity of 12 megawatts. Moreover, as a part of its testing, it recently set a world record by being the the first one to ever produce 262 megawatt hours of clean energy in a single day (it recently broke its own record with 288), which can easily power around 30,000 homes.
Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy is a sustainable, renewable energy source. Fossil fuels, when burned to produce energy, can contribute to climate change due to the release of carbon dioxide. While many homes have already started to use solar power, wind energy (sometimes called winergy) is also gaining popularity.
What Is Wind Power?
Wind energy or wind power is the process of generating electricity through the wind. For instance, wind turbines capture the kinetic energy of the wind and convert it into electricity.
There are three main types of wind power:
- Utility-Scale Wind: This refers to big wind turbines — ones that have a capacity of at least 100 kilowatts to multiple megawatts. The end-user receives electricity after it’s delivered to the power grid through transmission lines or power system operators.
- Offshore Wind: This refers to wind turbines that are set up in large bodies of water, which makes them larger than land-based wind turbines (onshore wind turbines), allowing them to generate more offshore wind energy.
- Distributed or Small Wind: This refers to small wind turbines, having less than 100-kilowatt capacity. These are individual structures commonly used to power farms, houses, and small businesses. The turbines aren’t connected to the power grid.
How Does Wind Power Work?
Wind farms are the main source of wind power, having tens to hundreds of turbines. These turbines can have a horizontal axis or a vertical axis, which affects the amount of energy they produce.
Horizontal-axis turbines have a motor shaft that is horizontally placed at the top. They have a higher wind-to-power conversion ratio. Plus, their higher mounting gives them the ability to harness larger wind speeds. In contrast, vertical-axis turbines have the electrical generator at the base of the tower, not the top. This reduces any excess pressure on the generator when catching the wind.
The electricity generation process is similar to that of wind turbines, where the turbine blades capture the kinetic energy of the blades and rotate This converts the kinetic energy to mechanical energy, which, in turn, spins the attached generator to produce electricity.
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Renewable energy is the most resilient energy source. Since it comes from natural sources or processes, wind energy is sustainable with no chances of the Earth running out of air.
Is Wind Renewable or Nonrenewable?
Similar to solar energy, hydroelectric power, biomass, and geothermal energy, wind energy is an excellent renewable alternative to reduce the consumption of nonrenewable fossil fuels, such as coal, oil, and natural gas.
Wind energy turns the blades of the modern wind turbines, feeding an electric generator that produces power. The energy source is also incredibly cheap since governments offer production tax credit in a bid to accelerate wind energy development. Plus, the fact that there’s an unending supply of wind takes the possibility of scarcity out of the equation.
Furthermore, wind energy can stop about 12.3 gigatons of greenhouse gases by 2050, according to the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE).
For these reasons, wind power is one of the best solutions to meet worldwide energy demand. It’s clean, affordable, and unlike fossil fuels, it generates zero toxic emissions.
Wind Energy Is the Future
The time is now to use clean energy sources and transition towards a renewable energy future for our planet’s well-being.
Wind farms are already being set up to successfully harness wind’s kinetic energy and limit fossil fuel use.
There‘s certainly a lot of potential where renewables are concerned, which is why if we take the initiative to avoid using exhaustive natural energy resources and promote energy efficiency, we’ll be able to protect our environment.
Brought to you by justenergy.com
- Wind Facts at a Glance. American Wind Energy Association.
https://www.awea.org/wind-101/basics-of-wind-energy/wind-facts-at-a-glance. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- Winds Of Change Blow Through China As Spending On Renewable Energy Soars. The Guardian.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2012/mar/19/china-windfarms-renewable-energy. Updated March 19, 2012. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- Gansu Wind Farm. Forbes.
https://www.forbes.com/pictures/mef45ehmdh/gansu-wind-farm/#5f4074ca7145. Accessed October 23, 2020.
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https://www.sserenewables.com/news-and-views/2020/01/construction-commences-for-dogger-bank/. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- 2020 USEER INTRO.
https://static1.squarespace.com/static/5a98cf80ec4eb7c5cd928c61/t/5ec31d59dc7b9101c99f9bcf/1589845342903/2020+USEER+EXEC+0517.pdf. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- Denmark sources record 47% of power from wind in 2019. Reuters.
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-climate-change-denmark-windpower/denmark-sources-record-47-of-power-from-wind-in-2019-idUSKBN1Z10KE. Uploaded January 2, 2020. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- GE’s Haliade-X Generates Record-Breaking 288 Mwh in 24 Hours.
https://www.renewablesnow.com/news/ges-haliade-x-generates-record-breaking-288-mwh-in-24-hours-686457/. Published February 7, 2020. Accessed October 23, 2020.
- Wind Vision.
Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy. Accessed October 23, 2020.