Many people accept that they are beholden to public utility services like gas, water, and power companies that provide them with convenient home amenities. However, when you start to compare energy prices, it won’t take long to realize that clean, green energy is cheaper to produce. That’s in addition to the eco-friendly aspects of solar, wind, and water energy.
That said, we can’t all afford the major expense of installing solar panels or a residential wind turbine at home. The good news is that there are energy providers seeking alternatives to burning fossil fuels.
This is due in large part to the passage of laws calling for increasing percentages of clean energy over the next several years. However, there are also more and more consumers demanding energy alternatives that do less harm to the planet.
Many of us have a fair notion of how and why solar panels work. However, most do not have the faintest clue how the wind can be converted into usable energy, even if you’ve seen the fields of turbines running alongside certain highways. How do wind farms work and what can they mean for our future? Here are a few basics.
How Does a Turbine Work?
What is apparent about wind turbines is that they have two or three propeller-like blades that can catch the wind, causing them to turn. These blades connect to a shaft, which turns a rotor. It is this movement that creates energy that is then stored in a generator to be sent out to users and power homes and businesses.
There are other types of wind turbines, as well. While the type described above operates on a horizontal axis, there are also vertical axis models that look sort of like a two-dimensional egg beater stuck into the ground by the handle (although they may have three blades, as well).
Wind turbines also come in a variety of sizes. Some of them are designed for residential use and intended to power a single home, while others are industrial-size and meant to provide power to several hundred homes. They may be located on land or offshore – wherever there is wind to be harnessed.
What most people don’t know about wind energy (or maybe forgot from high school science class) is that wind energy is actually a form of solar energy. Wind is created when the sun heats the irregular surfaces of the Earth unevenly. The rotation of the planet also plays a role.
What are Wind Farms?
Wind farms are collections of large-scale turbines designed to provide power to the electrical grid, which is then doled out to thousands of users. While small, residential or commercial turbines can range in size from less than 1 kW up to about 100 kW (with the average home generally requiring about 10 kW or less), industrial turbines can land in the range of several megawatts. A single turbine of this size can power several hundred or even several thousand homes, depending on the size and location.
The amount of energy provided by a wind turbine depends on several factors. While large turbines have the potential to power many homes, their output is obviously limited by the amount of sun and wind in a given area. They may be more or less effective depending on the amount of energy being drawn by users.
Still, grouping wind turbines into farms is the most cost-effective means of using wind to produce energy. Since the average homeowner can’t necessarily afford to install a wind turbine, tax incentives are expiring, and access to wind is a prerequisite, wind farms are an ideal solution for providing affordable, green energy.
What are the Benefits and Potential Drawbacks?
Just as natural gas companies in Florida understand the benefits of reducing reliance on foreign oil, so too do most people realize the benefits they can gain by converting to alternative energy resources. Not only is cutting carbon emissions good for the health of the planet and its inhabitants, but investing in green energy leads to the creation of new innovation, industry, and jobs.
The greatest potential downside of creating wind farms is the up-front expense. Thanks to the fact that the energy is provided by nature, costs will be recouped over time.