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How does wind energy work? | KnowledgeisKey

Summary

In this article we will explain to advantages and disadvantages of wind energy and briefly explain the types of wind turbine and how they convert wind into electricity

By, Gavin Whale | Date: 14/06/2017 | Updated: 02/07/17

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Fun Facts:

The edges of wind turbine blades move at speeds of up to 200mph. 4% of the worlds energy is provided by wind power.

wind turbine with a scenic background

In this article we will explain to advantages and disadvantages of wind energy and briefly explain the types of wind turbine and how they convert wind into electricity for your home. Wind turbines are actually  relatively simple, they convert the energy from wind into electricity. They do this by harnessing the movement energy from wind, having it push specially shaped blades around a rotor. This rotor is joined to a shaft that has a generator joined to it which creating electricity. Do not worry if you want to know more there is a more detailed explanation later on in the article.

How is wind formed

Wind is caused by difference in atmospheric pressure. Atmospheric pressure is a measurement that is given for the amount that air is pressing down on the Earth's surface. Air will always move from areas of high and low pressure to negate the differences in atmospheric pressure and this is what causes wind.

What is Wind energy

Wind energy is energy that has been created from air flow. It is a renewable energy source with a considerably less damaging effect to the environment than energy created from non renewable sources such as the burning of fossil fuels. Wind energy produces no greenhouse gas emissions, does not require water and does not require vast amount of land. Wind energy can also be referred to when talking about more traditional uses of wind energy such as wind being used for windmills to grind grain.

How does wind energy work? Wind turbine electricity production

Diagram on how wind turbines work, Wind turbine design
  • Wind blows in the direction of the wind turbines rotor blades

  • The shape of the rotor blades causes them to rotate when wind is blowing on them, as they rotate they cause the central axel at the centre of the blades to turn.

  • Within the main body of the turbine (Called the Nacelle), there is a gearbox that converts the low speed rotation of the axel into higher speed rotations to drive the generator.

  • The generator which is located behind the gearbox converts the kinetic energy into electric energy.

  • Wind vanes and Anemometers attached to the wind turbine take measurements of wind speed and direction, this information is then used to turn the wind turbine into the direction of the wind to maximise efficiency. If there is too much wind or turbulent wind these measurements will also to used to indicate when the brakes need to be applied to stop the rotors from turning.

  • The electricity produced by the generator in the wind turbine is sent by a cable down through the tower of the turbine to a transformer.

  • The transformer converts the electricity to a higher voltage so that it can be used by the nearby buildings it is powering, if the wind power generated for the power grid it is sent to a substation first where it will be converted into a higher voltage.

  • The electricity is then ready to be consumed by homes and businesses.

Sunset over a wind farm

Wind energy Pros and Cons

Pros

  • No carbon dioxide emissions once constructed.

  • No pollution of air or water.

  • No fuel costs when operating.

  • Renewable energy source.

  • Oil and gas price changes have no impact on the cost of wind energy

  • Wind farms can be built almost anywhere/ Wind is present almost everywhere in the world.

  • Jobs are created in the manufacture, operation and maintenance of wind farms.

  • Wind energy is currently one of the cheapest forms of renewable energy sources.

Cons

  • Cost a lot initially to build, however this is also true for nuclear and fossil fuel power plants.

  • To be cost effective subsidies are required from governments.

  • Power grids and other electricity infrastructure needs investment and improvement to cater for wind farms.

  • The electricity produced is variable, there is not a constant supply it depends on the strength and frequency of wind.

  • Though wind farms are good for the environment in terms of emissions they are described as eyesores and can be loud.

  • In wind energy productions current state it does not have the capacity to produce enough power for a countries needs all year round.

  • Has a negative impact on jobs and industries related to fossil fuels, such as mining.

  • To work efficiently wind turbines need to be spaced far apart from each other, this takes up a lot of land, wind farms can be placed out at sea to combat this though is considerably more expensive.

Types of Wind Turbine

There are two main varieties of modern wind turbines, the horizontal axis and vertical axis. At this moment in time horizontal axis turbines are the most common. Horizontal simply means that the rotating axis of the wind turbine is horizontal to the ground. Most of the time they produce more electricity from wind than vertical axis turbines, but in turbulent winds they fail to produce electricity efficiently.

Vertical axis wind turbines have their axis rotating vertically, perpendicular to the ground. They tend to be used more for residential wind energy production, they are capable of harnessing wind energy from any direction that wind is blowing and are a better option is a location is prone to turbulent winds.

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