Wind power is harnessed by wind turbines to create wind energy. The conversion of wind power into wind energy is usually done through the creation of a wind farm which is a group of wind turbines placed close together. Wind farms can range anywhere from 6 to several hundred individual wind turbines. Wind turbines can be found all over the world both onshore on land and offshore in the water.
A wind turbine is an industrial device that converts kinetic energy – which is energy, derived from the process of motion - in this case the wind, into mechanical energy which creates wind power. Wind turbines and wind mills are terms that can be used interchangeably. However, they both conjure up different images. Windmills are often associated with Dutch windmills that were used to pump water to protect the Netherlands from sinking, since the country is partially below sea level. The wind mill was also traditionally used to grind grain into flour; to power saw mills and pump water on farms, which are now considered antiques. Modern wind turbines, the industrial kind, all come in different sizes, but many existing models are over 400 feet high.
Wind turbines work when wind blows through a rotor blade which turns a shaft in a generator to produce electricity. There are several main parts to a wind turbine. There is the tower, which is secured into a cement platform - there is the nacelle which is attached to the top of the tower. The nacelle comprises of the rotor gearbox and the generator; and attached to the nacelle is the rotor hub where three blades are attached. Wind turbines as we know them today cost between $1 to $2 million dollars to construct.
Advantages and Disadvantages of Wind Energy
There are just as many advantages to wind energy as there are disadvantages and it comes down to how one looks at the issue. The following is a list of some of the key points on both sides of the issue of wind energy:
- Wind is free.
- There are government subsidies available for landowners who wish to host them.
- Wind turbines create jobs.
- Land that wind turbines are erected on can still be utilized.
- Wind energy is an example of an alternative energy source to help mitigate pollution or greenhouse gases.
- While wind is “free” the maintenance of the wind turbines isn’t and all too often transmission infrastructure must be built to support their energy capacity.
- Government subsidies use taxpayer money to support wind companies.
- While wind turbines create jobs for the construction, roadwork, excavation and cement hauling they are often only temporary.
- Wind turbines can often pose a threat to wildlife – birds, bats and fish. The risk is especially high for migrating birds and wind turbines that are erected in the water can often disturb their natural habitat and create electromagnetic fields.
- Wind energy is fickle and is often an energy source that can’t meet the demand.