The conversion of solar energy into wind energy is one of its byproducts. The generation of electricity via the use of wind is what is meant by the term “wind energy.” Wind turbines are devices that harness the kinetic energy of wind and turn it into a source of electricity that can be used mechanically. After that, mechanical power is converted into electrical power via a generator. Some activities, like pumping water, can also be done by using mechanical power directly.
Wind power has almost universally been recognized as a kind of renewable energy source. When compared to many other types of energy sources, the use of wind to produce electricity has a far less overall effect on the surrounding environment. Wind turbines do not emit pollutants that may pollute the air or water, nor do they need water for the cooling process since they do not need it. Wind turbines may also reduce the amount of power that is made by burning fossil fuels. This means that less carbon dioxide and other pollutants will be released into the air.
Nevertheless, a significant issue must be addressed here: is wind power really a form of renewable energy? In the following paragraphs, we will examine the response to this question, but before we do so, we will provide some fundamental definitions of wind energy and discuss its uses.
What is Renewable Energy?
Let’s look at the history of renewable energy before we go on to the explanation of wind energy and how it works. Renewable energy, often known as clean energy, is energy that originates either from natural sources or from processes that are constantly being renewed. For example, the sun and the wind will keep shining and blowing no matter the temperature or time of day, even if those things affect how often they happen.
Renewable energy sources are now estimated to account for more than one-eighth of total U.S. generation. As we have access to ever more innovative and cost-effective methods to capture and store wind and solar energy, these sources have become an increasingly important supply of electricity. The development of renewable energy sources is also taking place on a wide range of scales, from solar panels put on a residential rooftop that are able to sell electricity back to the national grid to massive wind farms located in offshore locations. In some rural areas, people can only cook and light their homes with the help of renewable energy sources.
On the other hand, non-renewable energy comes from fossil fuels like coal, oil, and gas. It is only possible to get a limited quantity of non-renewable energy sources, and it takes a significant amount of time to replace them. If we were to pump gas at a gas station, for example, we would be using a finite resource that has been refined from crude oil, which has been around since ancient times.
Certain regions of the globe are particularly rich in non-renewable energy sources, which explains why this kind of resource is found in greater quantities in certain nations than in others. On the contrary, every nation has access to the energy provided by the sun and wind. The use of non-renewable energy sources should be prioritized since it may also improve national security by reducing a country’s reliance on imports from nations that are wealthy in fossil fuels.
Numerous non-renewable energy sources pose risks to the wellbeing of humans and the environment. For instance, oil extraction may necessitate the strip-mining of Canada’s boreal forest; the technologies associated with fracking may cause earthquakes and water pollution; and coal power plants pollute the air with their emissions. Most importantly, these behaviors contribute to the warming of the planet.
The History of Wind Energy
Since the beginning of human history, people have been harnessing the power of the wind. As early as 5,000 B.C., they used the wind’s power to propel their boats down the Nile River. By the year 200 B.C., windmills with blades made of woven reed were being used to grind grain in Persia and the Middle East, while China was making use of simple wind-powered water pumps.
By the 11th century, people all around the globe had eventually devised novel approaches to harnessing the power of the wind. Wind pumps and windmills were very important to the people who lived in the Middle East when it came to the production of food. During the medieval period, wind technology was brought to Europe by merchants. The Dutch used large wind pumps in order to dewater lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta. Finally, people from Europe brought the technology necessary to harness wind energy to the Western Hemisphere.
Early settlers in the United States used windmills to grind grain, saw lumber at sawmills, and pump water. During the process of settling the United States, ranchers installed thousands of wind pumps. Wind energy was also widely used in the late 1800s and early 1900s because of the widespread use of miniature wind turbines.
The rural electrification schemes implemented in the 1930s carried electricity lines to the majority of ranches and farms throughout the nation, which led to a decrease in the number of wind pumps and wind turbines in use. However, some farms still rely on wind pumps to provide their cattle with drinking water. Small wind turbines are being put up more often again, mostly as a way to get electricity in remote and rural places.
The Basic Functioning Principles of a Wind Turbine
In the next section, we’ll talk about some of the main functions that a wind turbine is made to do, as well as the different types and uses of wind turbines.
How Does a Wind Turbine Operate?
Wind power is the process of converting wind’s kinetic energy into electrical energy using wind turbines. A wind turbine typically has three blades that are referred to as rotors. These blades resemble propellers. A tall tower is linked to the rotor in some way. The typical height of wind towers used in residential settings is around 20 meters. The tower is so tall because the winds are stronger farther from the ground, and there is less of an effect from being buffeted.
The movement of air over the surface of the planet is caused by fluctuations in temperature and pressure in the atmosphere, which give rise to the phenomenon known as wind. Hence, all of this occurs as a direct consequence of exposure to sunlight; hence, wind energy may be thought of as a subtype of solar power.
A wind turbine is used to capture energy from the wind, which may subsequently be used as a source of renewable power. Wind is responsible for the rotation of the rotor; when the rotor spins, the movement of the blades triggers a generator, which then creates energy. The rotational action of the blades is creating kinetic energy. This is the power that is converted into electricity by our system.
Magnets are moved through a stator, a fixed coil of wire, to convert the energy from the wind into electricity. The generation of electricity via alternative current (AC) takes place whenever the magnets go past the stator. After that, it is converted into DC electrical current. Batteries that store electrical energy may be charged using this method, or supplies can be fed into a grid-interactive converter so that energy can be fed into the power system.
Types of Wind Turbines
The two main types of wind turbines are those with a horizontal axis and those with a vertical axis.
The vast majority of wind turbines are of the horizontal axis, which have a design similar to that of a propeller with blades rotating around a horizontal axis. This kind of wind turbine may either be upwind (where the wind strikes the blades first) or downwind (where the wind strikes the tower last) (the wind beats the tower before the blades). Upwind turbines have a yaw drive and motor that turn the nacelle so that the rotor keeps facing the wind even if the wind changes direction.
On the other hand, some wind turbines with a vertical axis have not yet penetrated the utility-scale market (defined as having a capacity of 100 kW or more) to the same level as turbines with a horizontal axis. There are two primary categories for turbines with a vertical axis:
- Drag-based turbines, also called Savonius turbines, have rotors made up of solid vanes that spin around a vertical axis.
Lift-based turbines, also known as Darrieus turbines, are characterized by their vertical orientation and tall airfoil form (some seem to have an eggbeater shape). At the National Wind Technology Center, which is part of the National Renewable Energy Laboratory, a number of lift-based turbines are now undergoing independent testing as part of the Windspire project.
Applications of Wind Turbines
Wind turbines can be used for many things, from making electricity for a single home to taking advantage of offshore wind resources.
- Electricity output from enormous wind turbines may vary anywhere from 100 kilowatts to several megawatts and is often used by utilities to provide power to the grid. Utility-scale wind turbines are often organized into wind farms, where they work together to produce enormous quantities of power. There may be as few as a few or as many as hundreds of turbines on a wind farm to provide enough electricity for tens of thousands of residences.
- Small wind turbines, which typically have a maximum output of one hundred kilowatts, are installed in close proximity to the locations that will use the electricity generated by the turbines. This may include placement close to residential areas, water pumping stations, or communications dishes. Miniature turbines are sometimes fastened to diesel engines, solar systems, and batteries in order to generate additional power. These systems, known as hybrid wind systems, are often utilized in remote locations that cannot be connected to the national grid since it is not possible in such locations.
- Offshore wind turbines harness the strong and consistent winds that may be found off of coasts in a number of different nations. The resource potential of the winds that blow over the coastal seas of the United States has the potential to generate more than 4,000 gigawatts of energy, which is over four times the producing capacity of the current electric power system in the United States. Although it is obvious that not all of these resources will be used, this presents an excellent opportunity to provide electricity to communities along the coast with high population density.
The Reasons for the Importance of Wind Energy
Wind energy is a valuable and important source of energy for a number of reasons, such as:
- It is possible to maintain it. We have always had access to wind, and this will not change in the foreseeable future. While some days may have more wind than others, it will always be a limitless energy source. This indicates that its durability is ensured and that it will never run out.
- It is an alternative and competitive source of energy for the house. Wind energy, which may be provided to homes by utility companies, can be an effective hedge against the unpredictability of fuel prices. This is a better choice than fossil fuels, whose prices change based on how many resources are available and how much people want them all over the world.
- It is a factor that leads to the creation of employment. The wind sector was responsible for the creation of 120,000 jobs across all states in 2019.
- According to projections made by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics, the number of jobs associated with wind energy will rise by 96% between the years 2016 and 2026, making it one of the occupations in the United States that will expand at the quickest rate.
- It is far less hazardous than similar products. Using wind power instead of fossil fuels reduces the quantity of nitrogen oxides and sulfur dioxide released into the atmosphere during combustion. These reductions in air pollution saved money that would have been spent on medicine for respiratory problems and asthma, resulting in $9.4 billion in additional profits for public health in 2018.
- It generates money in both a direct and indirect manner. Ninety-nine percent of wind farms are located in rural areas. Wind farms in these areas contribute to the tax base, which generates additional cash that may be used to finance local law enforcement, improve infrastructure, and provide employment opportunities. For example, Invenergy’s High Sheldon wind farm started making electricity in 2009, and the project’s earnings were enough to keep the company from having to pay municipal taxes for the first eight years of the facility’s life.
- Wind energy projects provide more than $1.6 billion in annual payments to private landowners in addition to giving money to state and municipal governments.
- It offers great value for the money. In point of fact, there is no charge for it. The prices of different types of energy sources, such as fossil fuels, fluctuate often. On the other hand, the cost of wind power is often locked in for an extended period of time—typically about 20 years—at a predetermined rate. Wind farms can often pay for their carbon footprint in less than six months, which results in decades of zero-emission electricity that can replace the energy produced by fossil fuels.
- It is an efficient use of water’s worth. In contrast to other renewable sources, wind turbines do not need the use of water either to produce energy or for cooling reasons. Wind energy prevents the waste of billions of liters of water annually, which is evidence that it does not contribute to water pollution. Wind energy production cut the amount of water used by power plants by about 103 billion gallons, which is the same as 723 billion water bottles, in the previous year.
What Makes Wind a Renewable Resource?
Wind is considered to be a renewable source of energy since there is empirical evidence to suggest that there is an infinite supply of wind. The same is true for solar energy since the sun will always shine, and there will always be wind; the quantity at any given moment depends on the time of day and the conditions outside.
Wind energy created via wind farms does not pollute the environment in the same way as many other types of conventional fuels, such as nitrogen dioxide, nitric oxide, or sulfur dioxide, as well as smog or smog acid rain, do. According to projections made by the Department of Energy (DOE) of the United States, wind power may cut greenhouse gas emissions by 12.3 gigatonnes by the year 2050.
Wind power is one of the most environmentally friendly forms of energy production. It does this by converting the kinetic energy that is ordinarily present in the wind into the electrical energy that can then be used to power everything and everything that operates on the basis of electricity. Wind power is a sustainable kind of energy since it does not result in the production of waste or the release of greenhouse gases, acid rain, soot, smog, or global warming as a byproduct of its operation. Wind power is among the most dependable and environmentally friendly forms of energy that we are able to harness, alongside solar and waste-to-fuel conversion.
Wind farms can indirectly save money for the government by reducing the expense of importing fossil fuels, which is a cost that may add up quickly. Those stockpiled sums of money may be put to use by bolstering domestic infrastructure, which will contribute to our growing capacity for self-sufficiency.
In 2019, wind energy accounted for around 7.2% of the total electricity generation in the United States. This amount of electricity is enough to provide power to 27.5 million homes. Furthermore, wind energy accounted for approximately 42% of the total amount of power generated by renewable energy sources.This was a big jump from a few years ago, when wind energy in the US could power 15 million homes.
Is Wind Power Considered a Clean Energy?
The answer to this question in its simplest form is “yes.” Wind energy is considered a kind of clean energy since it does not produce any carbon emissions. “clean energy” refers to several methods of generating power that produce no or very few carbon emissions. On the other hand, green energy is made up of renewable energy sources (like the sun and the wind) that don’t release any carbon during any part of their operation.
It is vital to differentiate between these two concepts since many forms of renewable energy (also known as “green” energy) actually contribute negatively to the natural environment. For instance, we may generate power by combusting waste products like trash. Garbage-to-energy will continue to be considered a renewable source even though, obviously, we have been supplying non-recyclable waste for many years, and until this changes, we will continue to provide waste. Although it is a solution, the smoke it creates adds to the climate’s variability and negatively influences the atmosphere.
What are some of the ways that wind energy may benefit us?
The same reasons that make wind energy so important to our society also benefit us. It saves money and water; but most importantly, it has a much smaller negative impact on the environment than the non-renewable alternatives it replaces. The wildlife in the areas surrounding wind turbines is virtually completely unharmed by these structures. Wind energy is resistant to droughts since it does not need any water for its production, making it an ideal choice for regions of the nation that are prone to experiencing dry spells. In addition, the wind blows from a source that will never become inaccessible to us; hence, our resources will never be depleted.
The Future of Wind Turbines
The use of wind power is going to become more common. We have compiled a list of some potential future directions wind energy might go.
- In most cases, it is possible to acquire wind energy. According to the Wind Vision Report, wind has the potential to become a practical source of renewable power in all fifty states by the year 2050.
- Wind power contributes to the maintenance of a healthy domestic supply chain. By the year 2050, wind power has the potential to underpin approximately 600,000 jobs in the realms of production, installation, preservation, and supporting services.
- Wind energy is inexpensive. It is anticipated that the electric utility industry will be less susceptible to shifts in natural gas and coal fuel prices if there is a greater proportion of wind energy produced. Wind energy production contracts generally give pricing that is set for a period of twenty years. Long-term pricing for wind energy is anticipated to save customers $280 billion by the year 2050. This will be done by making the country less sensitive to price jumps and supply problems.
- Wind power helps cut down on harmful pollutants entering the atmosphere. Wind energy capacity that was operational in 2013 prevented the emission of more than 250,000 metric tons worth of air pollutants, including nitric oxide, nitrogen dioxide, sulfur dioxide, and particle components. By the year 2050, wind power could get rid of 12,3 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide equivalent emissions.
- Wind power helps to preserve the nation’s water supplies. By the year 2050, wind energy will have the capacity to save 260 billion gallons of water, which is about comparable to 400,000 swimming pools of Olympic size.
- The implementation of wind energy leads to increases in municipal income. By the year 2050, the amount of new tax income that local municipalities would earn through land leasing fees and property taxes is expected to surpass $3.2 billion annually.