Harnessing the power of the wind: exploring examples of wind energy
A significant step in the quest for a clean and sustainable future is to harness the power of the wind. Wind power is clean, won’t run out. Also, you might find the amount of power it generates surprising: a modern turbine can produce 2-3 megawatts (M.W.) per year, which is enough to power over 1,000 houses.
In this blog post, we will explore examples of wind energy, the types of wind farms and their advantages and disadvantages, the different designs, and the history of wind energy.
Examples of wind energy
Wind energy has been used since ancient times. After all, what pushed the sails of one of the earliest ancient Egyptian sailboats used along the Nile River more than 5000 BC? More recently, the same force lifts kites, allows land surfers to race across the beach, and spins windmills.
Here’s a list of the uses of wind energy, some of which you might not have thought of before:
- Pumping water (wind pump)
- Milling grain (windmill)
- Sailing boats
- Sports, especially water sports:
- Land surfing
- Kite surfing
- Generating electricity (wind turbines)
- Horizontal-axis turbines
- Vertical-axis turbines
What are wind turbines?
Wind energy, also referred to as wind power, is a renewable source of energy that taps into the kinetic energy of the wind to generate clean and sustainable power. The process involves capturing the wind’s energy with the help of wind turbines.
The wind drives the large rotor blades of each turbine. The rotational motion of the blades is converted into electrical energy using a generator. This generated energy can be utilised to meet the energy needs of both households and businesses.
Wind turbines are usually built close together to make wind farms. The largest wind farms might have over 100 turbines.
By harnessing the power of the wind, we can reduce our carbon footprint, promote energy independence, and contribute to a greener future.
Where are wind farms located?
There are two main types of wind farms, onshore and offshore wind energy. Keep reading to find out what they are and some of the advantages and disadvantages of each one.
Onshore wind farms
Onshore wind energy refers to the generation of electricity from wind turbines located on land, and they are mostly found on plains, hills, or coastal regions. Onshore wind farms are situated on land, away from bodies of water. They are often strategically positioned in areas with consistent and strong wind resources to maximise electricity production.
Onshore wind farm advantages
- Small carbon footprint
- Less expensive than offshore wind farms
- Quick installation
- Easier Maintenance
Onshore wind farm disadvantages
- Intermittent or no wind
- Threat to wildlife
- Visual impact
- Noise Pollution
Offshore wind farms
Wind turbines generate offshore wind energy similarly to onshore wind energy. The only difference between the two is that the turbines are installed in the middle of the ocean to utilise the strong winds that blow offshore. As a result, offshore wind can be more productive than onshore wind due to the stronger winds and the blades being hit with more force.
Offshore wind farm advantages
- More efficient than onshore wind farms
- Reduced environmental impact
- More space
Offshore wind farm disadvantages
- Higher cost
- Maintenance and repairs can be more challenging
- Less local involvement due to costs
Wind energy technology
Wind energy technologies have undergone significant advancements in recent years, making them more efficient, reliable, and cost-effective. We will explore the two most common technologies employed in harnessing wind power, ranging from horizontal to vertical axis.
Horizontal-axis turbines are the most commonly used type of wind turbine. They can be single-bladed, double-bladed, or triple-bladed. The blades are aerodynamically designed to rotate by the force’s aerodynamic lift, similar to how an aeroplane flies. The aerodynamic lift force works once they are exposed to winds around a blade’s higher and lower segments. The horizontal-axis turbines can be used in any direction of wind through the furling system, and the system rotates the face of the rotor to come perpendicular to the wind’s direction.
A vertical-axis turbine is designed where the main rotor shaft is set transverse to the wind while the main components are located at the turbine’s base. Unlike horizontal-axis turbines, the blades of vertical-axis turbines rotate around a vertical axis.
The advantage of this is that it allows the generator and gearbox to be located near the ground, making it easier for service and repair. Another advantage is that the turbine can capture wind from any direction, which makes it less dependent on wind direction.
Wind energy history
Wind energy has been used to propel boats along the River Nile since 5000 BC (Source: U.S. department of Energy). By 200 BC, wind-powered water pumps were used, and windmills with woven-reed blades were grinding grain.
In 1887, Professor James Blyth of Anderson’s College, Glasgow, built the first wind turbine for electricity production. He experimented with three different turbine designs, the last of which is said to have powered his Scottish home for 25 years.
Charles F Brush designed and constructed a larger and heavily engineered machine between 1887 and 1888 in the U.S.
In 1899, the Danish scientist Poul la Cour improved the wind turbine by building it with a few rotor blades, giving better results and increasing energy production.
Then in 1919, the German Physicist Albert Betz formulated Betz’s Law, indicating that a wind turbine can convert 59% of kinetic energy into mechanical energy. This theory is still used as the basis for building wind turbines today.
It wasn’t until 1941 that the first turbine to produce more than 1 M.W. of power was installed. The scientist Palmer Cosslet Putnam was the precursor for this turbine built in Castleton, Vermont, USA. This turbine worked for approximately 1000 hours until the blades failed.
It wasn’t until 40 years passed before turbines with such power were designed. Then, in 1973, an oil crisis triggered research in the U.S. and Denmark into more extensive utility-scale wind dynamos that could be connected to electric grids. In 2008, the U.S. had reached 15.4 gigawatts, and by 2012 the established capacity was 60 gigawatts.
Currently, wind-powered generators work in many different size ranges, ranging from small stations for battery charging at remote homes to offshore wind farms that produce electric power for national electrical networks.
Advantages of wind energy
Wind energy offers numerous benefits as a sustainable and renewable source of power generation. Here are some of the advantages of wind energy:
Wind turbines do not pollute water or the air, resulting in less smog, less acid rain, and fewer greenhouse gas emissions. The need for burning more fossil fuels for energy is reduced and replaced with clean, renewable energy such as wind, and you can reduce your carbon footprint.
Wind is an abundant natural resource available in many parts of the world. With the right infrastructure and wind conditions, wind turbines can be installed and utilised in various onshore and offshore locations.
Wind energy development creates thousands of long-term, high-paying jobs in fields such as wind turbine component manufacturing, legal and marketing services, maintenance and operation, construction and installation, transportation and logistics services.
Low Operating Costs
Wind energy has low operating costs due to no associated fuel costs; once the wind turbine is installed, the actual cost will be maintenance and repairs.
Is your company involved in wind energy?
At Sterling TT, we have decades of experience in the power generation industry and are committed to future energy sources.
If you are looking for heat exchange solutions for renewable energy, get in touch with one of our expert team members who can assist you.