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Wind Energy
Source: Sustainable Society USA  Author: Patrick Chen  Date: 2007-08-11  

Wind Energy Basic 

The Sun constantly delivers vast amount of energy to the earth. Part of that energy transformed into wind energy. When the Sun heats up the air, the heated air rise up and creates a low pressure zone.  Then cooler air near by flows in to fill the vacuum.  The flow of the air contains energy. This is referred to as wind energy.   

People have been using wind energy for thousands of years. The windmill and sail boat are just two examples.  Today, wind turbines are used to convert wind energy into electricity. A typical modern, large-scale wind turbine is composed of a rotor, a shaft, a gearbox, and a generator.  The kinetic energy of the wind is converted to rotational motion by the rotor, normally a three bladed assembly.  The gearbox greatly increases the rotational motion so that the generator can produce electricity.  You may check this link for details on how wind turbines works: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_how.html  
 

Wind Energy Today 

Wind turbines utilize one of the cleanest energy sources, the wind, to generate noting short of the electricity that drives modern life.  If implemented correctly, wind energy generators are very environment friendly compared to other energy sources such as fossil fuels. Wind energy also offers other advantage such as low cost, domestic availability, and a limitless source. That is why wind energy is one of the fastest growing markets in the energy sector. For the last ten years, it has been growing at an annual rate of more than 20%.  In 1997, the world-wide capacity of wind energy was about 7,000 MegaWatts.  That number has reached 73,904 by the end of 2006, contributing about one percent of the world's electricity needs. 
 
 

Wind Energy Future 

According to a comprehensive research down by Standford University, global wind power generated at locations with mean annual wind speeds greater than or equal to 6.9 m/s at 80 meters altitude is found to be about 72 TeraWatts (about equivalent to 54,000 tons of oil) for the year 2000. Even if only about 20% of this power could be captured, it could satisfy 100% of the worlds electricity needs for all purposes (6995-10177 tons of oil equivalent) and over seven times the world's electricity needs (1.6-1.8 TeraWatts). For more detail, please see: http://www.stanford.edu/group/efmh/winds/global_winds.html  

In order to fully realize the great potential of this clean energy, there are several barriers need to be overcome.  First of all, the cost. Cost per unit of energy produced by wind energy was estimated in 2006 to be comparable to the cost of new generating capacity in the United States for coal and natural gas.  With wind, the cost was estimated at $55.80 MegaWatts/hour. With coal, the cost was estimated at $53.10/MW/h. Compared with fossil fuel energy, the wind energy industry is still in its infancy.  This is the main reason why wind energy still costs more than fossil fuel energy.  Government support is a must if we want to speed up the growth of wind energy. Wind Energy costs would go down even more when high efficient wind turbines are mass produced.   

Another barrier is the intermittent nature of the wind.  The amount of electricity can be obtained by a wind turbine depends on the wind speed of the time.  Technologies are being developed to reduce the fluctuation of the electricity provided by wind energy farm. An efficient and low cost energy storage device would be a good solution. Researchers have also determined that our electrical grid has the capability to absorb fluctuations caused by wind electricity farms as long as it consists of less than ten percent of the total electrical profile.  

It is also very important to make sure that a wind energy facility does not cause lasting damage to the environment.  With the right choice of location and type of wind turbines, the possible negative impacts to the surrounding environment can be minimized.  Those possible negative impacts include the land use and thus interference with the wildlife, and the visual/audio impact to humans. 

As a clean and everlasting energy source, wind energy will play a bigger role in our society but only with the support of people to push for economic incentives through the Government AND through purchase of cleaner energy.
 

Major Players in Wind Energy: 

Organizations: 

American Wind Energy Association: http://www.awea.org/

European Wind Energy Association: http://www.ewea.org  
 

Wind Turbine Manufactures: 

Vestas: http://www.vestas.com/vestas/global/en/

GE Energy: http://www.gepower.com/businesses/ge_wind_energy/en/index.htm

Acciona-energia: http://www.acciona-energia.com/default.asp

Bergey Windpower: http://www.bergey.com/ 
 

Wind Energy Operators: 

Airtricity: http://www.airtricity.com/america/  
 
 

Some Interesing Information from http://www.ifnotwind.org/  
 

Wind energy could supply about 20% of the nation's electricity, according to Battelle Pacific Northwest Laboratory, a federal research lab. Wind energy resources useful for generating electricity can be found in nearly every state. 
 

Wind energy will generate over 17 billion kilowatt-hours in the U.S. in 2005, enough electricity to power 1.6 million homes. 

Each wind turbine provides farm or ranch income annually - $2,000-4,000 per megawatt - and uses only 2-5% of the land for turbines and access roads. 
 

Each megawatt (MW) of wind energy capacity installed in the U.S. provides 2.5-3 job-years of employment. 
 

In 2006, U.S. wind farms will be saving over 0.5 billion cubic feet of natural gas per day. 
 

To generate the same amount of electricity as a single 1-megawatt (MW) wind turbine, a traditional fossil fuel or nuclear power plant requires, on average, withdrawing about 60 million gallons of water per year from a stream or river.  
 

To generate the same amount of electricity as today's U.S. wind turbine fleet (6,740 MW) would require burning 9 million tons of coal (a line of 10-ton trucks 3,437 miles long, from Seattle to Miami) or 28 million barrels of oil each year. 
 

Wind energy could provide 6% of our nation's electricity, or about the same as hydropower, by 2020. 
 

Up to 2,500 megawatts (MW) of new wind energy capacity will be installed in 2005.  
 

Wind energy installations in 2005 will result in a $2-3 billion investment in our economy.  
 

A New York study found that if wind energy supplied 10% (3,300 MW) of the state's peak electricity demand, 65% of the energy it displaced would come from natural gas, 15% from coal, 10% from oil, and 10% from electricity imports. 
 

As many as 215,000 new jobs would be created by adding 50,000 MW of new wind installations in the U.S. - a $50 billion investment that could provide electricity for as many as 15 million homes with 39 million people. 


 
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