What Is Wind Energy?
Wind energy is the fastest-growing green energy, harnessing the wind through wind turbines and converting it into electricity.
But first, let’s talk about where the wind comes from. You may be wondering how the wind is created, given that it is always there. The wind is something that we can’t see but can feel. Simply speaking, the wind is the air that is in motion. It can blow in any direction, but most of the time, horizontal wind movement is more prevalent than vertical flow.
Several gases circulate through the Earth’s atmosphere in various layers, all of which are balanced and have a specific role. The wind is caused by pressure fluctuations in the atmosphere that pass between the present air masses. In an effort to balance the difference in the pressure, the wind travels from high-pressure areas to low-pressure areas.
The wind is affected by a variety of physical forces all over the globe. This involves the rotation of the Earth, the Coriolis effect, which causes an object’s path to appear as a curve, and variations on the Earth’s surface.
The surface of the Earth is covered with land, water, and vegetative areas, all of which absorb different levels of solar energy, affecting the wind flow pattern. Rough surfaces cause the wind to flow slower, while smooth surfaces cause it to flow faster.
How Does Wind Energy Work?
Wind energy is generated as a result of the sun’s uneven heating of the Earth’s surface. The air over land heats up more than the air above the sea throughout the day. Warm air rises and expands as it rises above the ground. The lighter air is replaced by the colder air over the seawater, which is much heavier, resulting in wind. This is what we know as the Sea Breeze. The wind, on the other hand, blows in the reverse direction at night because the air cools faster over land than it does over water, resulting in the Land Breeze. These two elements make up a local area’s regular wind cycle. The atmospheric winds that govern the Earth follow a similar trend, with equatorial regions receiving more solar energy than areas near the poles.
The word “wind energy” refers to the method of harnessing the natural wind resource to produce electricity or mechanical energy. As previously said, the wind is caused by changes in air pressure, and its speed is dependent on topography and surface cover. As a result, not all regions are suitable for generating wind energy. In general, areas along the coast and offshore are good for harnessing wind energy because wind speeds are higher and there are fewer obstructions such as trees and houses.
Wind energy is harnessed by wind turbines that operate oppositely as a fan. The wind allows the wind turbine’s blades to turn, spinning the shaft. The shaft then spins the generator that produces electricity.
Wind turbines are classified into two types: horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs) and vertical- axis wind turbines (VAWTS). The most common type of wind turbine is the HAWTS. HAWTS have two or three long, thin blades and are built to face the wind directly. On the other hand, VAWTS are characterized by short and wider angled blades.
Small wind turbines will generate 100 kilowatts of electricity, which is enough to power a home and water pumping stations. Medium wind turbines can reach a height of 80 meters with an approximately 40 meters long blade. Wind turbines of this kind can generate up to 1.8 megawatts of electricity. Larger wind turbines can be as tall as 240 meters, with blades as long as 162 meters. The power output of these turbines varies from 4.8 to 9.5 megawatts. The energy produced can be used right away, connected to the grid, or stored for later use.
Wind farms, or wind turbines that are clustered, will produce enough electricity to fuel thousands of homes and businesses. They are usually found near windy areas, such as mountain peaks or beaches.
Advantages of Wind Energy
1. Clean and Renewable Energy
The product of the process of harnessing the wind does not give off carbon and other air pollutants since it does not rely on fossil fuels to operate. The wind is a renewable source because the Earth never runs out of it.
2. Low Operational Cost
After initial installation, wind turbines have low maintenance and operational cost. Wind turbines do not require fuel or power to work. This reduces the cost to operate wind farms as compared to operating other renewable energies.
3. Continuous Development
The efforts given on the continuous development of wind energy have transformed wind turbines into efficient wind energy tools to harness the wind. The functionalities and structure of wind turbines are being developed as technology progresses, with the aim of generating even more energy with less maintenance required.
4. Space Efficient
Wind turbines cannot be located too close to one another, so the ground in between the turbines can be used for a variety of purposes, such as making it a tourist attraction. Wind turbines may also be constructed on existing farms, with the owner receiving compensation in the form of a lease or contract. Farmers can earn extra money from this, and the turbines don’t take up much space, so it doesn’t interfere with their farming operations.
Something to look forward to…
“The efforts given on the continuous development of wind energy have transformed wind turbines into efficient wind energy tools to harness the wind.”
Disadvantages of Wind Energy
Wind turbines produce noise, which is why they are mostly used in rural areas where only a limited number of residents are affected; however, this is not a problem for offshore wind turbines. With the advent of technologies, however, progress has been made in reducing noise. When compared to previous designs, the new ones make less noise.
2. Poses Danger to Some Wildlife
Wind turbines can be a danger to some wildlife animals in the air such as bats and birds that may be killed or injured if they come into contact with the turbine blades. Aside from that, the noise from the turbines can also affect the animals on the ground.
3. Expensive Installation Cost
A site assessment should be conducted before the installation to determine if the location is suitable for wind turbines. Manufacturing and installing wind turbines, as well as underground power lines, all add to the construction cost, which is expensive at first but reduces over time when it comes to operation and maintenance.
4. Intermittent wind
The wind is not consistent or predictable. Since wind speed varies, it’s difficult to say how much energy can be generated at any given time. The energy storage methods should be focused on in the event that wind power is not enough for the required needs.
Final Thoughts on Wind Energy
In comparison to other sources of renewable energy, wind energy is much more established. It offers a renewable and long-term energy supply to various facilities and establishments. There are several advantages and disadvantages of using wind energy that we must consider at the moment, but we should foresee more development in this field as technology advances, which can surpass our expectations. It will be fascinating to see how wind energy develops in the future, and maybe we will discover more about it. So, let us support clean and sustainable energy!
Something to ponder about…
Wind and other clean, renewable energy will help end our reliance on fossil fuels and combat the severe threat that climate change poses to humans and wildlife alike.Francis Beinecke