Energy is as essential to human existence as water, air and food but the challenge for mankind in the 21st century, is to find energy sources that are eco-friendly and don’t continue to deplete the earth’s non-renewable resources. The pace of research into alternative and sustainable energy sources has increased considerably over the past ten years, creating new and exciting possibilities.
This research focuses on ways of harnessing “free” and readily available energy sources, in an economical and environmentally-friendly manner. Wind blows in every country around the world and across the vast oceans. When scientists looked at harnessing the power of the wind, as sailors have done for centuries, they found that it was possible to convert this power into a usable energy source.
Farmers have been using wind power for centuries to drive windmills that pumped water and ground grain. Small wind generators have been used on sailing boats and pleasure craft to generate electricity and charge batteries.
How Does Wind Power Work?
Wind turbines harness the power of the wind. These are tall towers with huge blades fixed at the top. The towers are typically 20 feet tall (6m) with the diameter of the blades measuring ten feet (3m) across, but can be larger or smaller than this. The force of the wind turns the blades which rotates a shaft that is attached to a generator, producing earth-friendly power. Wind speeds of at least nine miles per hour (14 km/hour), on average, are needed to power generators to produce electricity.
The most common application of wind turbines is in rural areas, where the open landscape allows for maximum air flow with minimum disruption to people. They have also been established off-shore in some areas. In urban areas, a wind turbine would need to be mounted above the height of surrounding buildings in order to get sufficient wind velocity to turn the blades. There will probably be quite strict regulations regarding the use of wind turbines within a residential area.
How Effective and Cost-Efficient are Wind Turbines?
In rural areas, wind power is a cost-effective method of power generation; in fact, it is possibly the most cost-effective renewable source of power available in these situations. While the initial cost of building the turbines and setting up the power generation system is quite high, the system has very low on-going costs, with basic maintenance being the only running cost. As long as the wind blows, power is generated. As research and mass-production continue to lower the cost of wind turbines, more people and companies are taking advantage of this earth-friendly method of power generation.
The biggest wind turbine built to date in theUnited Statesis capable of generating sufficient clean energy to power approximately 600 houses. A small turbine in an average backyard can generate enough power for that one household or even a small business. Generally, turbines are grouped together to create ‘wind farms’, with the potential to create large amounts of clean energy that is fed into the electricity grid.
What are the Disadvantages of Wind Power?
There are many opponents to wind power, mainly on the grounds that they wouldn’t want one in their neighborhood. The turbines emit a noise which, when it comes from a wind farm of multiple turbines, can resemble the noise of a small jet engine. There are also objections to the visual pollution to the landscape, especially in rural settings. The other main problem is the danger to wildlife, with birds often being killed or injured after flying through the blades and being hit.
The main disadvantage of wind power is the actual unreliability of the wind itself. This free resource rarely blows at a constant velocity, making consistent power generation a problem. Also, the power generated by wind power has to be used immediately as it can only be stored in batteries, making it a short-term answer to eco-friendly power.
However, despite these limitations, it has been estimated that, at the current rate of growth of the wind power industry, it will be generating around 30% of the world’s energy by the year 2050.
So, what do you think about wind power as a source of energy?