If you’ve ever driven past a wind farm and seen what appears to be a field of massive white fans gently rotating, then you’re familiar with one of the easiest ways to create wind energy.
Those large fans are called wind turbines and are actually very simple tools that convert kinetic energy from the wind into usable electricity for homes and businesses. While most household fans run on electricity from your home, wind turbine “fans” actually create the electricity used to power your home!
We will give you a detailed view of exactly how wind turbines work as well as how wind energy could potentially power our lives in the future. Let’s start with a brief overview of the basics of wind energy.
Wind Energy Basics
Wind energy is actually considered a form of solar energy as it is produced by the uneven heating of the earth’s atmosphere from the sun and irregularities on the earth’s surface. This heating, combined with topographical differences across the earth’s terrain, cause wind patterns and speeds to shift depending on their location. This is why some areas are a perfect location for wind farms and others are not, their geography creates ideal conditions for optimal wind power.
However, there are many factors to consider when it comes to harnessing wind power over the long-term. These factors include geographic location, wind speed and consistency, construction costs and subsidies, the type of wind turbine used, labor and operating costs, and the regulatory environment.
Before a new wind farm can be constructed all of these factors must align to make it economically beneficial for both the energy company and consumers alike.
Now let’s look at how an individual wind turbine works.
Wind Turbines 101
The individual blades of a wind turbine operate much like an airplane wing. As wind blows along both sides of each blade, their shape causes the air pressure around them to become uneven, allowing them to begin spinning as a result.
These spinning blades are connected to the main shaft which spins an internal generator that produces electricity as a result. In theory, this offers wind turbines the ability to produce continuous electricity as long as the wind continues to blow. As wind energy increases with altitude, wind turbines are often built as tall as possible for optimal output. The larger the turbine, the more electricity it can produce.
A computer within each turbine keeps the blades positioned in a way that allows them to capture the greatest amount of wind energy. Blades often aren’t able to spin fast enough on their own simply by capturing wind energy, so an internal rotor shaft is attached to a series of gears that increases the blades’ rotation speed enough to start producing sufficient electricity.
In areas with enough wind, each wind turbine can spin enough throughout a given year to produce sufficient electricity to power over 100 homes in an area.
These wind turbines must also be positioned in a way that allows them to capture the most amount of wind energy possible. Upwind turbines are designed to face into the wind while downwind turbines face away. The use of one over the other will depend on a variety of geographic factors.
In high wind areas, you may see hundreds of individual wind turbines together, often called a wind farm. As high wind areas are not restricted to land alone, many farms are actually located over open water. In recent years, offshore wind projects have increased significantly in coastal areas around the world.
At Powervine Energy, we purchase energy from renewable sources of energy such as wind, solar and hydroelectric power for our customers as part of all our plans.