People have been harvesting energy from the wind ever since early civilizations put sails on their water craft. The wind is always blowing somewhere, but capturing the wind energy and getting it to where it is needed to convert it to the type of energy that we can rely on for our daily needs has been an impediment to the widespread use of this renewable energy source until recent times.
Windmills, like those that you picture when you think of old Holland, have been put to work grinding grain and pumping water for centuries. These are the ancestors of the wind turbines that are being used today. Modern turbines are able to harness the energy from light breezes and also from heavy winds that was not able to be utilized by their predecessors. Some of the modern wind turbines are used to capture the energy to use in communications or for water pumping and some property owners use the stand alone turbines to cut the cost of electric bills.
The propeller-like blades of the wind turbines catch the energy from the wind. Each turbine consists of two or three of these blades that, when mounted on a shaft, form a rotor. The turbine is placed on a tower that is usually 30 meters or more off the ground. As the wind turns the propellers, low pressure air forms a pocket on the downside and pulls the blade of the turbine. This makes the rotor turn. The force of the turning rotor, or lift, spins the shaft and it becomes a generator that makes electricity.
Modern providers of electricity often use wind plants to provide some of the power that they deliver to their customers. Large numbers of wind turbines are set up in close proximity and wind plants are formed. The energy harnessed can be connected to the power grid, and the area is provided with an energy that doesn’t depend on unrenewable energy sources like oil, natural gas and coal.
Although massive wind turbines can often be seen in the countryside, smaller systems can also be used as a distributed energy resource. When modular power generating technologies are combined, even small wind systems can become part of the resource that help to improve electric delivery system operation.
This post is part of a series on the Thamesgate Blog. For more information on wind turbines and renewable energy see our website.
Written by Nick Watkins.
Posted in Renewable Energy