Renewable Energy - The Power of Wind
By: Matthew Hick
The power of wind can be used to provide energy for people across the world.
You see a sailboat gliding across the ocean pushed by its harmless wafts, you get some relief on a hot day from it’s gentle breeze and a pinwheel starts spinning to a youngsters delight from it’s puff of air. There are also cases of umbrellas being turned inside out, shingles being blown off rooftops and tornados causing ruins from its strong gusts. By using it to our advantage, we can turn it into a renewable source of energy, which will not cause pollution and will produce a clean energy alternative to harmful fossil fuels.
Wind energy has existed through time. Ancient peoples used it for sailing ships, grinding wheat and pumping water. Today, wind energy is the world’s fastest-growing energy source and we are able to use it to produce electricity. This source of energy is a renewable resource that became popular during the oil crisis of the 70’s.
Wind energy is captured through the use of wind turbine machines. There are two types that are available. The horizontal axis machine consists of propellers with three blades. It is usually around 20 stories tall and 200 feet wide. The vertical axis machine consists of blades that go from bottom to top. They are 100 feet tall and 50 feet wide. Propellers on wind turbines are large so as to capture a great volume of air. They can be angled or turned to face the wind for maximum effect.
The machines work by using the blades to hold the wind’s kinetic energy. The wind turns the blade. The blade is connected to a drive shaft that turns a generator to produce electricity. Wind turbines need wind speeds over 12 miles/hour to be successful. When winds get too high the turbines are able to keep the blades from being damaged and turning too fast through the use of a brake.
Wind power plants consist of about a dozen wind turbines machines and are called wind farms. These farms are owned and operated by businessmen known as Independent Power Producers. The electricity produced on a wind farm is collected and transmitted through long distance high power lines. It is important to locate these farms in ideal areas where the most wind can be captured. This is why you will find them located in high altitudes and open areas such as hilltops, open plains and shorelines.
The advantages to wind power are many. It is a clean form of energy that is non-polluting and does not produce global warming effects. Although large, it allows for land use under the wind turbines for farming. Some disadvantages are it can have a damaging effect on the wild bird population. Also, some people consider them eyesores.
As new technologies emerge, wind power will become a more cost effective source of energy. The government currently issues tax credits for its use and there are green pricing programs available. There is also a renewed concern for the environmental damage that the uses of fossil fuels create. As we search for an alternative to fossil fuels, the answer to our energy problems may just be blowing in the wind.
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