Have you ever been on one of those Texas roads, sort of in the middle of nowhere, and come across those huge windmill looking things? They are enormous and their size is almost intimidating! However, those windmill-looking things are actually wind turbines.
Wind turbines create wind energy. Sounds simple. Let us explain:
How Wind Turbines and Wind Energy Works
What is a Wind Turbine?
Wind energy is a form of solar energy that is generated when the wind blows. Wind turbines use the wind to turn blades, which then rotate a shaft that is connected to a generator. This generator creates an electrical current, which can be used to power homes and businesses.
Modern wind turbines are massive structures that can be as tall as a twenty-story office building.
Although they stand straight up, their blades sometimes span one hundred and fifty feet or more from tip to tip. And the nacelle—the housing for the generator and other equipment—can weigh several tons. So it’s little wonder many people think of them as windmills.
In reality, though, a wind turbine is the opposite of a mill wheel.
Mill wheels have broad blades that catch the force of moving water and transform it into useful energy to grind wheat or other grains into flour.
Wind turbines work by catching moving air and converting that kinetic energy into electrical power.
How Wind Energy Works – The Wind Electricity Process
The wind electricity process is pretty simple, and it starts with the blade. As we stated earlier, these can be extremely big – so big in fact that they need to be attached to a sturdy tower at least 100 feet tall and with plenty of clearance around them. This height ensures that there is enough wind speed to turn the blades.
If the wind turbine is attached to a tall tower, why not make it even higher?
That sounds like a good idea, but once you reach about 200 feet in height you run into some pretty strong problems with turbulence. Turbulence at high altitudes also requires more powerful turbines and a stronger foundations for their towers.
Wind Energy Efficient
Wind energy is a very efficient way to produce power. Wind turbines start producing electricity even at wind speeds of 7 miles per hour, and they reach peak efficiency at about 55 mph. As an example, if your typical turbine produces 1 kW (kilowatt) of power when the wind is blowing at 30 mph then it’ll produce about 2 kW at 50 mph and 4 kW at 70 mph.
Wind gusts are more powerful than sustained winds, but only briefly. That’s one reason why some turbines shut down when wind speeds hit 25 to 30 miles per hour (40 to 48 km/h). They “feather” their blades in rotation, which reduces the wind resistance at the front of each spinning blade.
When wind speeds are above 55 mph, they are typically shut down for safety purposes. The longer blades used on large industrial turbines can be dangerous to people and property if not handled by a braking system that locks them in place when winds get too high.
The great thing about this process is that the blade is always moving, but slowing down or stopping completely. This means that they are constantly starting and stopping the generator, which allows it to be controlled by a built-in computer system.
Wind Energy Costs
So how much does wind energy cost? The simple answer is, not very much. Generally speaking, wind turbines provide power for less than 10 cents per kilowatt-hour. The average U.S. household uses about 900kWh of electricity each month, which would cost you less than $90 with a wind turbine (assuming you get the same cost from your power company).
What’s used to produce electricity is also important to consider when talking about cost. For example, wind turbines create less pollution than coal power plants. They also last longer – wind generators can produce electricity for 20 to 30 years before they need replacing. This is considerably better than other power sources like oil, gas, or nuclear energy.
Now that you know a little more about wind energy, would you consider using it for your next home with wind energy plans?