Roger Rivera October 28, 2002 Wind Power

In the society we live in today, many people have the misconception that there is a never-ending supply of energy available for our wasteful use. However, people must realize that the fossil fuels that we have come to depend on for our energy are quickly being depleted. There are several renewable energy resources, most of which come from the sun, that are available for our use. One of these abundant energy resources is the wind. By taking advantage of the wind, and harnessing its power to supply useful energy, people can ensure that they will have energy for as long as the sun continues to heat the earth. The wind is a direct product of the sun. The earth receives 1.74 x 10^17 Watts of power (per hour) from the sun (Tour 1). The sun causes differential heating of earth’s surface and atmosphere, inducing vertical and horizontal air currents that are affected by the rotation of the earth and the contours of the land (Ristinen 133). As the land is heated, the warm air near the surface rises into the cooler atmosphere, causing a pressure gradient between the surface and the upper atmosphere. The lower pressure near the surface causes an inward current of air (wind) from the higher-pressure surroundings. A great example of this is the Land Sea Breeze Cycle, which we feel when we step on the beach (Tour 1). As the warmer air rises into the atmosphere, the cooler air over the ocean

how big the rotors are. Therefore. which are those that flow between the ground and about 100 meters in altitude (Wind 1). the process of converting wind energy into electrical energy requires the use of a wind turbine and a generator.rushes onto the shore. the greater the power that can be captured from the wind. Notice that the power of wind is proportional to the cubic velocity. The amount of energy that the wind transfers to the rotors of a wind turbine depends on the density of the air.1 x 10^-4 V^3 (Ristinen 134). the rotor area. the greater the wind speed. and exactly how much overall area the rotors will take up. This is true because the kinetic energy (0. Therefore. About one to two percent of the energy that the earth receives from the sun is converted to wind energy (Tour 1). the more efficient the designs of the wind turbines and the generators are. The rotor area determines how much energy a wind turbine is able to 2 . the more efficient the process of converting wind energy into electrical energy will be.5 x M x V^2) of a body in motion is proportional to V^2. and the wind speed (Tour 7). When dealing with wind energy. When dealing with wind turbines. and since the flow rate (F= A x V ) of a fluid is proportional to the velocity. The design of the wind turbine is probably the most essential part of converting wind energy to electrical energy. In general. The power of wind (kW/ m^2) is equal to 6. one must take into account how high it is. What is difficult is increasing the efficiency of this process. The process of harnessing the power of the wind is not extremely difficult. and this is the refreshing sea breeze we have come to expect whenever we step on the beach. multiplying these two factors causes the power of wind to be proportional to the cubic velocity. depending on the efficiency of the wind turbine. people are concerned with the surface winds.

a turbine that is twice as large will receive twice as much energy. large turbines can deliver electricity at a lower cost than small turbines because foundation costs and planning costs for a wind tower are independent of turbine size.harvest from the wind (Tour 7). one must build a mid-size rotor. one can choose between a large or small wind turbine. there are times when small turbines are preferred. due to the high costs needed to make the towers taller and stronger in order to hold larger turbines. However. minimizing the power extracted from the wind (Ristinen 135). Large turbines are well suited for offshore wind plants. When planning on the size of the turbine. which will not disrupt the airflow. Therefore. Large turbines are also suited for areas where it is difficult to find sites because one large turbine on a tall tower can use the wind extremely efficiently. reducing the wind velocity by only a small amount. the electricity produced will cost less (Tour 7). but will be able to efficiently extract a large amount of the wind’s power. 3 . and since a large turbine can produce more electricity than a small turbine. On the other hand. for it can disrupt the airflow through its cross section. In addition. thus reducing the effective wind velocity at its location and diverting much of the airflow around itself. it might be more economical in some areas to use smaller turbines. Since the rotor area increases with the square of the rotor diameter. one must be careful not to build the turbine too small. Also. where the ocean currents and differential heating of the ocean can produce gusting winds that can produce a great amount of electricity. Small turbines might be preferred in areas where the local electrical grids may not be able to handle the large electrical output from a large turbine. one must be careful not to build a turbine too large. At the other extreme. thus extracting only a small amount of the power from the wind (Ristinen 135).

this design is extremely unstable due to the same lift principles explained previously. Moreover. two. but it must travel a further distance before it is in the top position. some people have even used a single-blade design for the wind turbine. although it will cost less to build two blades instead of three. as one can see. Wind turbines have been built with one. In addition. Therefore. 4 . this money must go into building a safe and stable weight on the opposite end of the blade in order to balance the weight of the turbine. another factor that must be taken into account when designing a turbine is the number of blades (rotors). when building a windmill one must consider the landscape of the surrounding area. and many people argue that small turbines do not disrupt the landscape as much as large turbines (Tour 7). the money saved will have to be invested into placing better shock absorbers for the blades due to the increased instability of the design. As the top blade gets pushed back due to force of the wind. the other blade is lifted. As one can see. but it is not the only factor that must be taken into account. a two-blade design is less stable because as the top blade is pushed back.Moreover. Moreover. Also. On the other hand. the other two blades are lifted and caused to turn. the reason that the three-blade design is the most popular is because it is the most stable design when taking into account the lift force of the wind. although one can save money by building one blade instead of three or two. However. The three-blade design is the most popular because it is the most stable when it comes to the lift caused by the wind (Tour 68). the size of the turbine is an essential part of its design. or three rotors. Repeating this process every time a new blade is in top position causes the fast rotation of the wind turbine.

the installation costs are typically $125. the size of the turbine. but give much less power output. An average 600 kW turbine costs about $450. When building a turbine one can choose between a large or small generator.000 to build. a large generator is extremely efficient at high wind speeds. which provides the mechanical energy.000 per 5 . as well as lower its costs and increase the profits. At the other end. On the other hand. As a general rule. Wind power generators convert wind energy (mechanical energy) to electrical energy. what does an average wind turbine cost to develop? The Danish Wind Industry Association considers an average turbine to be a 600 kW turbine developed in an area with average annual wind speeds of at least 12 mph (Tour 102). the total costs ends up being $575. This is because a generator with larger coils and/or a larger and more potent internal magnet requires more force to start in motion. the generator is connected to the electrical grid. one can clearly see that when designing a windmill. one can calculate a wind turbine’s cost to be $1. Therefore. In addition. and the size of the generator must all be taken into account in order to maximize its efficiency.Furthermore. Smaller generators require less energy to turn than larger ones. the size of the generator is another integral part of the efficiency of a wind turbine (Tour 69). Therefore. The generator is attached at one end to the wind turbine. the size and number of rotors.000. An important part of the design of a generator is placing an effective cooling system near the generator to prevent overheating. One may wonder. one must not combine a large turbine with a small generator because it will capture only a small fraction of the energy content of the wind at high speeds. but it is unable to turn at low wind speeds (Tour 69). thus making it inefficient (Tour 69). When these two figures are added.000.

and overall.5. Tehachapi. Considering the need for the use of renewable energy resources.kilowatt electrical power installed (Tour 102).2. So.600 MW of installed wind power capacity and produces about 3 billion kWh of electricity each year (Wind 1). according to a recent study (Wind 1). as if there was no need of alternate sources of energy. However. farming. wind power is a domestic renewable source of energy that generates no pollution and has little environmental impact. an average wind turbine’s annual maintenance costs are about 1. Moreover. 6 . This is barely enough electricity to meet the annual residential needs of one million people. why is it that the United States does not use wind power as a major source of energy? The United States currently has more than 1. and forestry (Wind 1). or any environmental risks due to wind power use? On the contrary. Up to ninety-five percent of land used for wind farms can also be used for other profitable activities including ranching. is it that the United States has no areas capable of providing more wind power? On the contrary. the Great Plains contain a great amount of wind resource (Wind 1). and create an estimated 440 to 460 jobs per each billion kWh of annual wind energy generation. North Dakota alone has enough suitable wind resource to supply thirty six percent of the electricity consumed in the United States. Therefore. Increasing the use of wind power as a renewable source of energy in the United States would decrease the dependency of the country on fossil fuels. the United States government is yet to begin building wind farms in this section of the country. why is the United States government holding back? Are there any drawbacks. Even more interesting is the fact that over ninety percent of this power is produced by three wind farms in California: Altamont Pass. and Palm Springs (Ristinen 139).0 percent of the original cost (Tour 102).

than by flying into wind turbines (Tour 94). Finally. Many studies also reveal that at a distance of 300m (100 ft) a neighbor will experience only about 35 decibels of sound due to a wind turbine (Tour 89). these are minor details that can be taken care of. some people argue that wind power is not a continuous source of energy due to the variability of the wind. the Danish Ministry of the environment performed a study in 1998 that revealed that birds are more likely to die from flying into electric power lines. For example. a large turbine can be put in to replace the numerous small turbines. However. if people worry that numerous wind turbines will ruin a scenic landscape. unlike other renewable energy resources. such as solar power. sound from wind turbines. many environmentalists around the world believe that windmills cause the death of numerous birds annually (NWTC 1). In addition. wind turbines do not place birds at a greater risk than they already are due to overall human interaction.Although wind power has many advantages. Worldwide. or flying into the electric power line poles. the wind turbine sound can be greatly reduced. but they do not realize that most rapid variations will to some extent be compensated for by the inertia of the wind turbine rotor (Tour 7). Therefore. and the death of birds due to wind turbines. which allows windmills to produce electricity throughout the day (Ristinen 133). However. the wind blows day and night. people also worry about wind turbines and the landscape. Moreover. 7 . They are correct in saying that the wind does vary. This is about the same as the amount of background sound that one experiences when he/she is in a quiet home (Urone 410). and since a large turbine turns at a lower rate and speed than small turbines it will attract less attention (Tour 88). by just increasing the tip speed of the wind rotors.

org/tour/index. It causes no pollution and has little effect on the environment. one of these being wind power. New York: John Wiley and Sons.. 8 .. 16 Oct. Robert>. maybe not even another hundred years. Kraushaar. California: Brooks/Cole. 16 Oct. 2001. and the growing interest in renewable energy resources. the decreasing cost of wind power. 16 Oct. Jack J. one can be assured that wind power will soon become a feasible energy source in the United States.htm>. people must realize that fossil fuels will not last forever.To conclude. 2002 <www. we must begin to make use of the alternate energy sources that available for our use. as well as throughout the world. Works Cited Ristinen. 1999. Urone.nrel. The National Wind Technology Center (NWTC). Inc.. 2002 <www. Paul P. College Physics: Second Edition. Energy and the Environment.windpower. Wind power is a renewable energy source that can be used for as long as the sun continues to heat the earth. Wind Energy.html>. Therefore. due to the availability and advantages of wind power. 2002 <www. Therefore. Guided Tour on Wind Energy..

• Most of the information and data in this paper was taken from 9 .

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