When we think of wind what comes to your mind: a nice summer breeze, taking a drive with the top down, getting a refreshing gust from your portable fan on a warm day? The truth is the power of wind can provide a vital key to unlocking the means to finding alternative forms of energy.
But what’s the deal with alternative energy, anyway? We have a vague idea that these types of enhanced natural resources can save our planet, but we also have heard that alternative energy may have some disadvantages that may not be as talked about as they should be. The fact is alternative energy encompasses a myriad of sub-topics that include water, geothermal, biofuel, nuclear, and solar energy.
How Does Wind Energy Work / Looking at its different sides…
Wind is one of the most versatile elements on Earth. It can be light and gentle, cherishing and saving us from burning hot sun, but it can also reveal its other face, uprooting trees and destroying buildings. The wild energy of wind always captivated humans, and they did and still do their best if not to get control over wind than at least to use its unbridled power for their own purposes.
It was wind that helped sea-men cross oceans on their sailing vessels; it was wind that helped our ancestors to turn wheat grain into flour; and now it is wind, that helps us to produce electricity in one of the most natural and environmentally friendly way.
How Does Wind Energy Work / Where Wind Comes From
Generally speaking, wind is nothing but a movement of air over the surface of our planet. In order to find out what makes the air move let us recall a little bit of school physics. When the sun shines, it warms everything on Earth, including air; but the key is that the sun does not warm everything equally.
Consequently, there are multiple areas with different temperatures of air. For example, in California it is always much warmer than in Alaska, and, furthermore, during a day the air above the water (sea or lake) is always lower than the temperature of air above the land.
According to the laws of physics, hot air always moves up, creating some “vacant places” for air from colder area to move in. When the air masses move from one place to another, we feel the wind. By the way, the speed of air movement or wind velocity depends on the difference of air pressure: the bigger the difference is – the higher the wind velocity is.
At the coastlines it is always windy because of the difference in air pressure above the land and water. That is the reason why many wind power plants are located at the coastline.
How Does Wind Energy Work / How Wind Generates Electricity
In order to understand how wind power is turned into electricity, let us recall a simple windmill, commonly used in the past by millers to grind seeds and grains into flour. In fact, the principle of work of old windmill and modern wind machines are pretty much similar. Both have blades, which are rotated by the power of wind.
The only basic difference is that instead of the millstone, the blades of modern wind machines move the huge turbines, which convert kinetic energy of wind into electric energy.
Nowadays, horizontal-axis wind turbines are most widely used. These machines look like huge but slim windmills: an electric generator with blades is mounted on top of a very high tower. Wind machine towers need to be as high as it is possible in order to catch the wind with highest velocity and thus generate as much electricity as possible.
Modern wind machines are very “clever” devices, equipped with gear box for transforming slow rotation of the blades into quicker rotation of the generator and wind sensors, which point the blades right into the wind every time when it changes its direction. The sizes of wind machines vary greatly – from tiny turbines for powering one building and to huge wind machines with height of 198 meters and diameter of 126 meters. A group of wind machines is usually called a wind farm.
How Does Wind Energy Work / A Bit of Wind Economy
Nowadays, wind energy as the method of transforming wind power into electricity is gaining popularity around the world. Statistically, wind already produces about 1.5% of the electricity, consumed in the whole world, but this share is growing constantly, and we already have countries, such as Germany, Spain and Denmark, which respectively receive 7%, 11% and 19% of the total electricity needs from clean and safe wind farms.
In order to better illustrate the prospects and potential of wind energy, let me bring a bit of statistics here: according to official data the global power consumption from all available energy sources is equal to 15 TW per year, and the amount of energy, which can potentially be generated by wind power only, is 75 TW.
How Does Wind Energy Work / The Future
The popularity of wind energy grows rapidly not only among environmentalists; it has already been recognized in governmental and business circles as an alternative energy source with high effectiveness and economic potential. The point is that wind represents virtually an unexhausted source of power. It belongs to renewable energy resources, just like solar or geothermal energy. When electricity is generated with the help of wind, it does not harm air, water or soil.
Of course, the use of wind energy still provides enough space for further development and improvement. The cost of wind-generated electricity still remains higher than the cost of electricity generated from conventional energy sources. However, this industry develops rapidly, and there is no doubt that in the nearest future wind may transit from alternative into major source of energy.
How Does Wind Energy Work / Sources
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