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

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

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

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

thus making it inefficient (Tour 69). When building a turbine one can choose between a large or small generator.000 to build. As a general rule. a large generator is extremely efficient at high wind speeds.000 per 5 . but it is unable to turn at low wind speeds (Tour 69). but give much less power output. An average 600 kW turbine costs about $450. An important part of the design of a generator is placing an effective cooling system near the generator to prevent overheating. On the other hand. which provides the mechanical energy. one can clearly see that when designing a windmill. In addition. Smaller generators require less energy to turn than larger ones.000. When these two figures are added. one can calculate a wind turbine’s cost to be $1. At the other end. 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. the size and number of rotors. the size of the turbine. The generator is attached at one end to the wind turbine. as well as lower its costs and increase the profits. the generator is connected to the electrical grid.Furthermore. and the size of the generator must all be taken into account in order to maximize its efficiency. the total costs ends up being $575. 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). Wind power generators convert wind energy (mechanical energy) to electrical energy. One may wonder. the installation costs are typically $125. the size of the generator is another integral part of the efficiency of a wind turbine (Tour 69). Therefore. Therefore.000. This is because a generator with larger coils and/or a larger and more potent internal magnet requires more force to start in motion.

Considering the need for the use of renewable energy resources. according to a recent study (Wind 1). Tehachapi. the United States government is yet to begin building wind farms in this section of the country. is it that the United States has no areas capable of providing more wind power? On the contrary. and Palm Springs (Ristinen 139). wind power is a domestic renewable source of energy that generates no pollution and has little environmental impact.5. why is the United States government holding back? Are there any drawbacks. and forestry (Wind 1). or any environmental risks due to wind power use? On the contrary. and create an estimated 440 to 460 jobs per each billion kWh of annual wind energy generation. This is barely enough electricity to meet the annual residential needs of one million people. North Dakota alone has enough suitable wind resource to supply thirty six percent of the electricity consumed in the United States. an average wind turbine’s annual maintenance costs are about 1. farming. and overall.0 percent of the original cost (Tour 102). as if there was no need of alternate sources of energy. 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.kilowatt electrical power installed (Tour 102). Moreover.2. So. Even more interesting is the fact that over ninety percent of this power is produced by three wind farms in California: Altamont Pass. Up to ninety-five percent of land used for wind farms can also be used for other profitable activities including ranching. However. 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 Great Plains contain a great amount of wind resource (Wind 1). 6 .600 MW of installed wind power capacity and produces about 3 billion kWh of electricity each year (Wind 1).

such as solar power. 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). In addition. by just increasing the tip speed of the wind rotors. This is about the same as the amount of background sound that one experiences when he/she is in a quiet home (Urone 410). However. 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. than by flying into wind turbines (Tour 94). 7 . Therefore.Although wind power has many advantages. many environmentalists around the world believe that windmills cause the death of numerous birds annually (NWTC 1). They are correct in saying that the wind does vary. the wind turbine sound can be greatly reduced. and the death of birds due to wind turbines. a large turbine can be put in to replace the numerous small turbines. However. some people argue that wind power is not a continuous source of energy due to the variability of the wind. which allows windmills to produce electricity throughout the day (Ristinen 133). wind turbines do not place birds at a greater risk than they already are due to overall human interaction. and since a large turbine turns at a lower rate and speed than small turbines it will attract less attention (Tour 88). sound from wind turbines. the wind blows day and night. people also worry about wind turbines and the landscape. if people worry that numerous wind turbines will ruin a scenic landscape. For example. unlike other renewable energy resources. 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). Moreover. these are minor details that can be taken care of. or flying into the electric power line poles. Worldwide.

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

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

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