Wind Energy: America's Renewable Resource of the Future
In recent years, public interest in wind power technology has been increasing mostly due to a growing concern about the effects of fossil fuels on the environment. In fact, wind power has been the fastest growing form of renewable energy for the last few years. Wind energy is now being collected all over the world using state-of-the-art wind turbine technology to produce relatively large amounts of energy using nothing but wind.
The thing that makes wind energy so great is the it is produced using only natural and renewable wind. Wind is a wonderful source because it will always be around and it is completely renewable (unlike ethanol or fossil fuels). Wind turbine technology has also rapidly increased over the last decade. Now they are more efficient and produce more power than ever. The only downside is that they are relatively expensive to manufacture and install so there is a need for a large capital investment. This is one reason why, despite its upside, wind power is not more widely used.
How It Works
Wind energy has been used for hundreds of years through the use of windmills to move water and pump grains. In modern times, wind turbines have been used to produce electrical energy by turning a blade or blades to capture usable power. When the wind hits the turbine blades, they begin to spin because of a pressure difference created on either side of the blade. This spinning motion transfers the energy from the wind into electrical energy which is then moved and stored.
Traditionally, turbine blades are mounted high in the air and atop a tower. There are a variety of ways that the blades can be shaped and mounted. The most common way is to have three blades which are aerodynamically shaped, mounted on a horizontal axis so that they spin perpendicular to the ground. Wind turbine towers can be as tall as 450 ft (from ground to hub) and have blade diameters of up to 400 ft. Of course as wind turbines become bigger they also produce larger amounts of power. The worlds largest and most productive wind turbine is the Enercon E-126 which was recently installed in Germany. This massive turbine can produce enough energy to fully power up to 5,000 European households using the wind generator alone.
Occurring mostly in European countries, wind turbine generators are also used off-shore to collect power from strong coastal winds. In recent years there have been many technological advances in the aerodynamic properties of wind turbines. They are now being made with advanced composite materials, and by using cutting edge manufacturing processes to ensure that new generation wind turbines are as efficient as possible.
Wind Power Facts
- Wind turbines are nearly 100% environmentally friendly and they do not put any dangerous pollutants into the air we breathe. Turbines do not contribute at all to smog, green house gas emissions, or acid rain.
- Wind energy is local in the sense that it contributes to the economy of the surrounding area. Also wind energy is not subject to foreign conflicts or dependencies such as oil or other traditional fossil fuels.
- Between the years of 2000 to 2006, wind production around the globe more than quadrupled in terms of power generated using wind turbines.
- At the end of 2009, global wind energy production reached an all time high of 70,000 megawatts and it has continued to grow since.
- The country with the most wind power production is Germany. By the end of 2009 their were a total of over 21,000 operating turbines in Germany with a total capacity of over 25,000 megawatts.
- If wind power continues to grow at the same pace it has in the last decade, by the year 2050 the world will receive around 33% of its total power from wind energy.
The Future of Wind Energy
While the United States has been lagging behind many other countries such as Germany in producing clean wind power, wind turbine installation is rapidly becoming more popular. In a poll conducted in October, 2010 it was found that 87% of Americans were in favor of increasing the amount of energy that America generates from wind energy. It is clear that wind energy will play a large role in meeting America's energy needs in the future. Investing in wind energy will create thousands of jobs and help the economy, while at the same time having huge benefits towards the environment. By relying on power generated from wind, the United States will also be able to stop depending on the turbulent Middle East for its oil and gas resources. The more energy we can produce on our own, the better and brighter our future will be because we will have that much more control over it.