Wind energy

What is it?

Wind energy is the process of harnessing the power, or motion, of the wind to generate electricity. It is kind of a type of solar energy because wind is caused by the sun. 




How does it work?



Unlike solar energy, the process of generating energy via wind power is surprisingly simple. However, there are many different controlling parts that show how the turbines are complicated. The turbine has 3 propellers, similar to those on a ship. Those propellers turn when the wind blows because the wind pushes them. The turbines are connected to a rotor that spins a generator that generates electricity. These are the different parts of the wind turbine:
  • Blades: Lifts and rotates when wind is blown over them, causing the rotor to spin.
  • Rotor: The blades and hub of the turbine together form the rotor.
  • Low-speed Shaft: Turns the rod at about 30-60 rotations per minute (that is not very fast).
  • Gear Box: Connects the low-speed shaft to the high-speed shaft and increases the rotational speeds from about 30-60 rotations per minute (rpm) to about 1,000-1,800 rpm; this is the rotational speed required by most generators to produce electricity. The gearbox is a costly (and heavy) part of the wind turbine and engineers are exploring "direct-drive" generators that operate at lower rotational speeds and don't need gearboxes.
  • High-speed Shaft: Drives the generator.
  • Anemometer: Measure the wind speed and transmits data to the controller.
  • Controller: Starts up the machine at wind speeds of about 8 to 16 miles per hour (mph) and shuts off the machine at about 55 mph. Turbines do not operate at wind speeds above about 55 mph because they may be damaged by the high winds. It is also used to help prevent wildlife from being harmed.
  • Pitch System: Turns (or pitches) blades out of the wind to control the rotor speed, and to keep the rotor from turning in winds that are too high or too low to produce electricity.
  • Brake: Stops the rotor mechanically, electrically, or hydraulically, in emergencies.
  • Wind Vane: Measures wind direction and communicates with the yaw drive to orient the turbine properly with respect to the wind.
  • Yaw Drive: Orients upwind turbines to keep them facing the wind when the direction changes. Downwind turbines don't require a yaw drive because the wind manually blows the rotor away from it.
  • Yaw Motor: Powers the yaw drive.
  • Tower: Made from tubular steel, concrete, or steel lattice. Supports the structure of the turbine. Because wind speed increases with height in the air, taller towers enable turbines to capture more energy and generate more electricity. This is the rod you see that supports the turbine.
  • Nacelle: Sits atop the tower and contains the gearbox, low- and high-speed shafts, generator, controller, and brake. Some nacelles are large enough for a helicopter to land on.

Are there different types of turbines?


Yes. There are different types of wind turbines. Upwind wind turbines face the wind, while downwind turbines face away from the wind.




The Presence of Wind Turbines in America and the Rest of the World


Wind energy produced 6% of the energy in the American power grid in 2017. This is also 37% of renewable energy in America. In some European countries such as Denmark and Portugal, wind power generates more than 20% of their total energy.

How is it renewable energy?


Wind turbines do not use wind, so the wind will naturally continue. 




Can you install it in your home?


Yes and no. You cannot large scale install wind turbines at an average home. This is because they have to be very tall to catch the wind. They are typically 328 feet tall. Therefore, it would be hard to install. You can, however, install smaller wind turbines. They do not produce as much energy, but it is still clean energy. They are easily installed at home. However, if you do not want to go through the hassle, or you just need more energy, you can get your energy from wind power. Companies generate energy from things called wind farms. Wind farms are similar to solar farms. They are large plants of hundreds of wind turbines. They generate electricity for the grid. Think of it as a clean energy power plant. You still have to pay for energy, but it is cheaper and, of course, it helps combat climate change.




What are the benefits of wind energy?



Wind energy has many benefits. Here are the main ones, economic and environmental:
  • It is a clean, renewable energy
  • Getting energy from wind farms is cheaper than non-renewable energy
  • If you install a wind turbine, you will get tax breaks, making it cheaper to install

The Negative Impacts of Wind Turbines on the Environment


Just like with hydroelectricity, wind turbines have negative impacts on the environment even though they help stop climate change. Birds can fly into their rotors. This is only a large problem if there is a large wind farm, but birds in the area will also learn to adapt.
 While talking about how wind turbines work, we came across a part called the controller. This part was put into place to help stop wildlife from being injured. For example, the controller shuts off the turbine at wind speeds below 8 miles per hour. Biologists have found that bats, a type of animal that could be affected by wind turbines, like to fly in low wind speeds. With the turbine shutting off at low wind speeds, we can help prevent most bat deaths by With research, biologists are finding different ways that they can help prevent wildlife deaths.
Some wind turbines can reach to heights of 650 feet!
Wind turbines can also be generated offshore. While this technology is in its early stages, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center sees promise in this arena of research.
One wind turbine can power up to 50 homes!
Wind turbines can also be generated offshore. While this technology is in its early stages, the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center sees promise in this arena of research.

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