– WIND POWER BASICS Fact Sheet
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H E I G H T ( m )
WIND SPEED (mph)
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WIND POWER DEPENDS ON ELEVATION AND WIND SPEED
Wind Class is a relative scale used to characterize wind potential of any location. Wind Class of 3 or above are generally regarded as beingsuitable for commercial wind farm development.
Whether powering sailboats across thesurface of the water or pumping waterfrom one location to another, the wind isa good source of power. Wind providedearly explorers with the engine theyneeded to cross oceans and discovernew lands. On land, the oldest and mostwidespread use of wind power is forpumping water. In virtually every countryon Earth, humans are using wind powerto either pump water from the groundor move it from one location to another.Here in Texas, where more than 80,000windmills are in use, rural residentshave long relied on windmills to providewater for livestock and human use.
Wind is moving air. The engine that drivesthis movement is the sun. A good illustrationis the sea breeze that blows along the TexasGulf coast. As the coastal land soaks upsunshine, the air above it heats up and rises.Air over the cooler ocean water then rushesinland. The result is a very dependable windsource suitable for making anything fromelectricity to windsurfing.Although modern wind turbines can producesome electricity in light winds, the strongerthe breeze the better. The power availablein the wind is proportional to the cube of its speed. That means that if the wind speeddoubles, say from 10 to 20 miles per hour,the power available to a wind generatorincreases by a factor of eight, for instancefrom 1,000 Watts to 8,000 Watts.One easy way to access higher wind speedsis simply to go higher above ground level.Winds high above the ground are strongerthan winds near the ground. On average afive-fold increase in elevation, say raising theheight of the wind machine from 10 feet to50 feet, will result in twice as much availablewind power. That’s why wind turbines areperched on tall towers and are often locatedon mountains or hilltops.Given the need for strong winds, findingthe best sites for commercial wind farms iscritical. The location of power plants fueledby wind should be near existing powerlines and in the windiest sites available.To compete head-to-head with fossil fuelgenerating technologies, wind turbines arebest located in areas where wind speeds are16-20 mph at 50 m height. In Texas, the bestlocales are found in far west Texas and theTexas Panhandle.Air temperature is also an important factorin wind power generation. Cold air is denserthan hot air. Thus, wind turbines are able togenerate about 5% more power at any given