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. The amount of energy that the wind transfers to the rotors of a wind turbine depends on the density of the air. and since the flow rate (F= A x V ) of a fluid is proportional to the velocity. which are those that flow between the ground and about 100 meters in altitude (Wind 1). The rotor area determines how much energy a wind turbine is able to 2 . depending on the efficiency of the wind turbine. one must take into account how high it is. the greater the power that can be captured from the wind. This is true because the kinetic energy (0. the rotor area. The power of wind (kW/ m^2) is equal to 6. multiplying these two factors causes the power of wind to be proportional to the cubic velocity. and this is the refreshing sea breeze we have come to expect whenever we step on the beach. The design of the wind turbine is probably the most essential part of converting wind energy to electrical energy. When dealing with wind turbines. and exactly how much overall area the rotors will take up. Notice that the power of wind is proportional to the cubic velocity.5 x M x V^2) of a body in motion is proportional to V^2.1 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. the greater the wind speed. In general. When dealing with wind energy. About one to two percent of the energy that the earth receives from the sun is converted to wind energy (Tour 1). What is difficult is increasing the efficiency of this process. Therefore. and the wind speed (Tour 7). The process of harnessing the power of the wind is not extremely difficult. the more efficient the designs of the wind turbines and the generators are.rushes onto the shore. how big the rotors are. the more efficient the process of converting wind energy into electrical energy will be. Therefore.

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

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

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

2. and Palm Springs (Ristinen 139). Moreover. and overall.kilowatt electrical power installed (Tour 102). 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. or any environmental risks due to wind power use? On the contrary. is it that the United States has no areas capable of providing more wind power? On the contrary. This is barely enough electricity to meet the annual residential needs of one million people. Up to ninety-five percent of land used for wind farms can also be used for other profitable activities including ranching. farming. Considering the need for the use of renewable energy resources. North Dakota alone has enough suitable wind resource to supply thirty six percent of the electricity consumed in the United States. Even more interesting is the fact that over ninety percent of this power is produced by three wind farms in California: Altamont Pass. Tehachapi. as if there was no need of alternate sources of energy. So. 6 . and create an estimated 440 to 460 jobs per each billion kWh of annual wind energy generation. Therefore. why is the United States government holding back? Are there any drawbacks.5. However. and forestry (Wind 1). the Great Plains contain a great amount of wind resource (Wind 1). the United States government is yet to begin building wind farms in this section of the country. 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. according to a recent study (Wind 1). 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 1.600 MW of installed wind power capacity and produces about 3 billion kWh of electricity each year (Wind 1).0 percent of the original cost (Tour 102).

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

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

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

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