Want to stay on top of all the space news? Follow @universetoday on TwitterNo doubt about it, the ‘in’ thing now is being ‘green’. Thus, we’re seeing more and more advocates pushing for the use of renewable energies. One of them is wind energy a.k.a. wind power. I’m sure some of you are wondering how wind power works and why we should use it. Grab a cup of coffee while I lay down the basic concepts.
Wind power is very similar to hydropower (the one that makes use of waterfalls) in that they both make use of a rotary engine called a turbine. While hydropower harnesses potential energy from water dropping down a tall waterfalls, wind energy makes use of kinetic energy from high velocity winds.
In both cases, the turbine converts the potential energy or kinetic energy into electrical energy a.k.a. electricity. It is important for the turbine to be placed in a location where there is a constant flow of the said fluids (air or water, whichever the turbine is designed for). Otherwise, you wouldn’t be able to store much energy.
Let’s have a slightly more detailed discussion as to how wind power works.
First, wind is captured by a contraption that looks pretty much like a regular fan, known as a wind turbine. A typical wind turbine is made up of three long and slender blades. The blades are attached to a rotor connected to a main shaft that operates a generator. The blades capture the wind, which subsequently spins the shaft and allows the generator to produce electricity.
For wind power generation to compensate the cost of installation and maintenance, it should be situated in a place where transmission lines are available, land acquisition is reasonable, land used is more beneficial than when used for other purposes, and of course, wind is constantly available. Wind speeds of over 160 kph is ideal.
Also, since only one wind turbine won’t be enough to provide ample electricity for an entire community, the land area must be sprawling enough to accommodate an array of these machines. Thus, countries like Denmark, Spain, Portugal, Germany, and the Republic of Ireland place them in thinly-populated and windy areas.
Of course, if the electricity to be generated will only be used to supply one building or household, one turbine will suffice. The Earth is capable of producing 72 TW or 72,000,000,000,000 Watts of power. That’s way above humanity’s current consumption. Also, since wind never gets consumed, it has that advantage over more traditional sources of energy that use fossil fuels.
You can read more about how wind power works here in Universe Today. Here are the links:
There’s more about it from USGS:
- Wind Power-Related Research Projects at Patuxent Wildlife Research Center
- Wildlife Friendly Wind Energy
Here are two episodes at Astronomy Cast that you might want to check out as well:
- Galileoscope, Black Hole Time, and What Exactly is Energy?
- A Universe of Dark Energy