Wind Energy Basics

From old Holland to farms in the United States, windmills have been used for pumping water or grinding grain for hundreds of years. Today, a wind turbine, the windmill's modern equivalent, can use the wind's energy to generate electricity.

 

Like windmills, wind turbines are mounted on towers to capture the most energy. At 100 feet or more above ground, they can take advantage of the faster and less turbulent wind. Turbines catch the wind's energy with their propeller-like blades.

Usually, two or three blades are mounted on a shaft to form a Rotor .The blades acts much like an airplane wing. When the wind blows, a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind's force against the front side of the blade. The combination of lift and drag causes the rotor to spin like an airplane propeller, and the turning shaft spins a generator to make electricity.

Wind turbines can be used as stand-alone applications, or they can be connected to a utility power grid or even combined with a photovoltaic (PV) solar system. For utility-scale sources of wind energy, a large number of wind turbines are usually built close together to form a wind farm. Many electrical utilities today use wind farms to supply power to their customers.

Stand-alone wind turbines were typically used for water pumping or communications. Now, however, homeowners, businesses, farmers and Communities in windy areas can also use wind turbines as a way to cut their electric bills.

Community wind projects provide an opportunity to generate both energy and revenue while keeping energy dollars local and protecting the environment of the communities that they serve. Community applications favor a low height profile, easy utility connects, low noise and cost effectiveness. Even at modest wind speeds, these wind turbines can produce enough electricity to represent significant savings in utility costs.  Given their 20 year design life, they will provide long term benefits and more than pay for themselves over time.  

Small wind systems also have potential as distributed energy resources. Distributed energy resources refer to a variety of small, renewable energy power-generating technologies that can be combined to improve the operation of the electrical delivery infrastructure.

 

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