Harnessing the Clean Power of Wind

For centuries, mankind has been harnessing the power of the wind to propel us forward into the hands of progress. Wind has filled the sails of explorers and launched them into uncharted waters where history was fashioned and new worlds discovered. Wind has given our wings the power of flight and thrust us into the bright, blue yonder, paving miles of clear skies as our new highways to the future.

US energy consumption by source - Only  5% from wind energy

US energy consumption by source - Only 5% from wind energy

Wind. Clean, pure, renewable energy. Yet why is it that in the United States only 7% of our total energy consumption comes from renewable sources, and only 5% of that comes from wind 1

Take a look at the chart to the right. The majority of our primary energy consumption is powered by petroleum, natural gas, and coal. All of these resources have serious negative impacts on the environment and produce air pollutants and greenhouse gases.

Greenhouse gases warm the earth’s surface by trapping the heat of the sun. The United States is responsible for more than 21% of the world’s total emission of energy-related carbon dioxide the main culprit of the greenhouse effect 2. Other poisonous emissions from the consumption of primary energy sources include nitrogen oxide and sulfur dioxide – key contributors to acid rain.

While the United States uses less than 1% of wind power for our energy uses, the rest of the world is benefiting from this clean power source. Denmark receives more than 20% of its electricity from wind; Germany – 7%; Spain and Portugal – 20% 3.

What Is Wind Energy Exactly?

Scientifically speaking, wind is the result of the sun’s radiation. As the sun heats up parts of the earth, it heats different surfaces at different rates. This causes parts of the atmosphere to heat up, and, when the hot air rises from the earth’s surface, it reduces the pressure of the atmosphere and cooler air rushes in to replace it. Thus we have wind ­– a renewable source of clean energy ready for us to use.

Wind can then be converted to energy by using wind turbines. A wind turbine transforms the wind’s natural kinetic or moving energy into mechanical energy or what we know as electricity.

And the potential for energy creation using the power of the wind is vast! Winds that can be harnessed for commercial use can be found in up to 46 states. North Dakota alone could supply up to one third of the country’s electricity 4.

The Facts about Wind Farming

Windmill noice

Windmill noice

There has been a lot of controversy about installing wind farms across the country. Most people object to the general aesthetics of the wind turbines and argue that they will devalue the surrounding properties. However, most farmers have actually discovered the opposite to be true. These turbines have become a popular tourist attraction and farmers can learn to monetize this attraction. “There is so much demand to view the wind turbines that the county is creating a pull-off area and working with the project owner to create an informational kiosk. The wind project has become a destination spot for tourists visiting nearby ski resorts and parks,” said Robert Burns, Executive Director Tucker County Development Authority in West Virginia.

Another myth is that wind turbines are noisy and will disrupt residential life, but in reality, a wind farm is about as loud as your kitchen refrigerator. The soft, gentle whooshing sounds that come from the turbines are hardly invasive. Take a look at the chart to the right to see a comparison on the amount of decibels a wind turbine generates 5.

People also may be under the impression that the turbines are dangerous because they may throw a blade or collapse. This is simply not true. Turbines are designed and engineered to the highest standards and they are so safe that they can and are installed near schools and highly populated areas.

Environmentalist concerned about the impact that turbines can have on the wildlife can also rest at ease. While there have been minimal cases of the turbines causing the deaths of raptors and bats, when compared to the major causes of human activities that cause the death of birds such as pesticides, vehicles, and buildings/windows, the number is miniscule at best 6.

Wind Farmers: A Way to Revitalize Today’s Sluggish Economy

In a study done by the US Department of Energy depicting what the economy would look like in 2030 if the total energy generated by the United States increased to 20%, found that more than 500,000 new jobs could be created to support the industry ! 7

Renewable Energy Jobs

Renewable Energy Jobs

Agricultural farmers could also benefit from wind farming as most wind turbines are placed in rural farmland. For every 50 acres, less then one acre is taken up by the wind turbine. By leasing land from struggling farmers, we can supply them with an extra source of income. For a 250 acre farm, wind production would only take up about 2-3 acres and potential income could be more than $14,000 a year. Also, because there are no harmful emissions from the turbines, farming can continue around the towers in terms of raising crops or cattle 8.

How Wind Farming Helps Communities

Wind farming can help communities in a number of ways. For example, the state of Texas has been welcoming wind farming with open arms. Wind farms can help support the local tax base, giving much-needed money to schools and roads. In 2002, Texas’ taxable value of wind power plants was $777 million and the property tax payments to local schools were $11.2 million. Farmers who leased their land made $2.5 million and more than 2,500 jobs were created 9.

Windmil in operation

Windmil in operation

One school in Spirit Lake, Iowa discovered just how beneficial wind energy is. They installed a 250-k W turbine at the elementary school, which provides the school with more than enough energy to power it for the entire year. The school also earned $25,000 in its first five years of operating the turbine with the amount of excess energy it was feeding into the local utility system 10.

Looking to a Cleaner, Healthier Environment

The United States has a lot of catching up to do when it comes to installing sources of renewable energy. Our reliance on other countries to provide us with energy has been crippling at times with the price of natural gas and petroleum creeping ever upward.

Wind power can provide our economy and the environment with a safe, reliable, renewable source of power that we can harness within our own borders inexpensively and with minimal impact on the environment. It is only by embracing natural power such as wind that we will be able to begin to rectify the damage we have already exacted on the earth and eliminate harmful emissions that can cause serious health issues and cataclysmic effects to our natural ecosystem.

Learn More About Different types of Wind Turbines

Savonius wind turbine | Darrieus wind turbine | Helical Wind Turbine

References

1. Energy Information Administration, Renewable Energy Consumption and Electricity Preliminary 2007 Statistics, Table 1, (May 2008).

2. Energy Information Administration, What Everyone Should Know About Energy, (July 2008).

3. American Wind Energy Association, Wind Power – Clean and Reliable, http://www.awea.org/utility/pdf/Wind_and_Reliability_Factsheet.pdf

4. American Wind Energy Association, Wind Power Today, (2007). 5. American Wind Energy Association, Wind Power Myths vs. Facts, (2007).

6. Erickson et al., Summary of Anthropogenic Causes of Bird Mortality (2002).

7. U.S. Department of Energy. 2008. 20% Wind Energy by 2030. DOE/GO-102008-2567. Washington, DC.

8. American Wind Energy Association. Wind Energy Fact Sheet.

9.American Wind Energy Association, Wind Power Myths vs. Facts, (2007).

10. Spirit Lake Wind Project. http://www.spirit-lake.k12.ia.us/~jtirevold/bg/SLCS%20Wind%20Energy%20History.htm (May 2009).

3 Responses to “Harnessing the Clean Power of Wind”

  1. wind farms are eco friendly and can generate massive amounts of electricity”‘”

  2. wind farms in germany are great! i hope that we could install those in every country;~;

  3. AK Benjamin says:

    Hi,

    Greetings!!!

    I am willing to utilize my agricultural land in our village (Thirunelveli district, tamilnadu) for wind farm, as we could not utilize it for agriculture.

    If you or any other any wind farm executives may approach me via email given above. Thanks.

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