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Published by Jawad Arain

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Published by: Jawad Arain on Nov 24, 2010
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Secondary Energy Infobook 
What Is Wind?
Wind is simply air in motion. It is produced by the uneven heating of the earth’s surface by energy from the sun. Since the earth’s surfaceis made of very dierent types of land and water, it absorbs the sun’sradiant energy at dierent rates. Much of this energy is converted intoheat as it is absorbed by land areas, bodies of water, and the air overthese formations.On the coast, for example, the land heats up more quickly than the water. The warm air over the land expands and rises, and the heavier, cooler airover the water rushes in to take its place, creating winds. In the sameway, the large atmospheric winds that circle the earth are producedbecause the earth’s surface near the equator receives more of the sun’senergy than the surface near the North and South Poles.Similarly, the large atmospheric winds that circle the earth are createdbecause the surface air near the equator is warmed more by the sunthan the air over the North and South Poles.Wind is called a
energy source because wind will continuallybe produced as long as the sun shines on the earth. Today, wind energyis mainly used to generate electricity.
The History of Wind
 Throughout history, people have harnessed the wind in many ways.Over 5,000 years ago, the ancient Egyptians used wind power to sail theirships on the Nile River. Later, people built windmills to grind their grain. The earliest known windmills were in Persia (Iran). These early windmillslooked like large paddle wheels.Centuries later, the people of Holland improved the basic design of thewindmill. They gave it propeller-type blades made of fabric sails andinvented ways for it to change direction so that it could continually facethe wind. Windmills helped Holland become one of the world’s mostindustrialized countries by the 17th century.American colonists used windmills to grind wheat and corn, pump water,and cut wood. As late as the 1920s, Americans used small windmills togenerate electricity in rural areas without electric service. When powerlines began to transport electricity to rural areas in the 1930s, localwindmills were used less and less, though they can still be seen on someWestern ranches. The oil shortages of the 1970s changed the energy picture for the countryand the world. It created an environment more open to alternativeenergy sources, paving the way for the re-entry of the windmill into theAmerican landscape to generate electricity.
Monitoring Wind Direction
A weather vane, or wind vane, is a device used to monitor the directionof the wind. It is usually a rotating, arrow-shaped instrument mountedon a shaft high in the air. It is designed to point in the direction of thesource of the wind.Wind direction is reported as the direction
from which the wind blows
,not the direction toward which the wind moves. A north wind blowsfrom the north, toward the south.
Classication: Major Uses:
U.S. Energy Consumption:
U.S. Energy Production:
0.51 Q
0.51 Q
Wind at a Glance 2008
The NEED Project P.O. Box 10101, Manassas, VA 20108 1.800.875.5029 www.NEED.org
Wind Velocity
It is important to know how fast the wind is blowing. Wind speed isimportant because the amount of electricity that wind turbines cangenerate is determined in large part by wind speed, or velocity. Adoubling of wind velocity from the low range to optimal range of aturbine can result in eight times the amount of power produced. Thisis a huge dierence and helps wind companies decide where to sitewind turbines.Wind speed can be measured with wind gauges and
.One type of anemometer is a device with three arms that spin on topof a shaft. Each arm has a cup on its end. The cups catch the wind andspin the shaft. The harder the wind blows, the faster the shaft spins. Adevice inside counts the number of rotations per minute and convertsthat gure into
miles per hour (mph)
. A display on the anemometershows the speed of the wind.
Modern Wind Machines
 Today, wind is harnessed and converted into electricity using machinescalled
wind turbines
. The amount of electricity that a turbine producesdepends on its size and speed of the wind. All wind turbines have thesame basic parts: blades, a tower, and a gearbox. These parts work together to convert the wind’s kinetic energy into mechanical energythat generates electricity.1. The moving air spins the turbine blades.2. The blades are connected to a low-speed shaft. When the bladesspin, the shaft turns.3. The low-speed shaft is connected to a gearbox. Inside, a large slow-moving gear turns a small gear quickly.4. The small gear turns another shaft at high speed.5. The high-speed shaft is connected to a generator. As the shaftturns the generator, it produces electricity.6. The electric current is sent through cables down the turbine towerto a transformer that changes the voltage of the current before it issent out on transmission lines.Wind turbines are most ecient when they are built where winds blowconsistently at least 13 miles per hour. Faster winds generate moreelectricity. High above ground winds are stronger and steadier, so windturbines should be placed on top of towers that are at least 30 meters(100 ft) tall. There are many dierent types of wind turbines with dierent bladeshapes. Dierent types of turbines operate most eciently at dierentwind speeds. While one turbine might operate eciently in winds aslow as ve miles per hour (5 mph), another may need winds up to 45miles per hour.Wind turbines also come in dierent sizes, based on the amount of electrical power they can generate. Small turbines may produce onlyenough electricity to power one home. Large turbines are often calledutility-scale because they generate enough power for utilities, orelectric companies, to sell. The largest turbines in the U.S. produce 2.5–3.5 MW, enough electricity to power 750 to 1,750 homes. Large turbinesare grouped together into wind farms, which provide bulk power to theelectrical grid.
Wind Power Plants
Wind power plants, or
wind farms
, are clusters of wind turbinesgrouped together to produce large amounts of electricity. These powerplants are usually not owned by a public utility like other kinds of power plants are. Private companies own most wind farms and sell theelectricity to electric utility companies.Choosing the location of a wind farm is known as siting a wind farm. To build a wind farm, wind speed and direction must be studied todetermine where to put the turbines. As a rule, wind speed increaseswith height and over open areas with no windbreaks. The site musthave strong, steady winds. Scientists measure the wind in an area forseveral years before choosing a site.
    E    l   e   c   t   r    i   c   a    l    P   o   w   e   r    O   u   t   p   u   t    (    k    W    )
Wind Velocity (mph)
0 5 10 15 20 25 30
Low-speed shaftGear boxHigh-speed shaftGeneratorTower
B       l       a     d       e     
    B    l   a   d  e
Secondary Energy Infobook 
 The best sites for wind farms are on hilltops, the open plains, throughmountain passes, and near the coasts of oceans or large lakes. Turbinesare usually built in rows facing into the prevailing wind. Placing turbinestoo far apart wastes space. If turbines are too close together they block each other’s wind. There are many factors to consider when siting a windfarm, such as:
What is the weather like? Do tornadoes, hurricanes, or ice stormsaect the area?
Any of these may cause expensive damage to the windturbines.
Is the area accessible for workers? Will new roads need to be built?
 New roads are expensive to build.
Can the site be connected to the power grid?
It is expensive to laylong-distance transmission lines to get electricity to where people live, sowind farms should be located near the areas where electricity is needed.
Will the wind farm impact wildlife in the area?
Developers buildinga wind farm need to get permission from the local community andgovernment before building. There are strict building regulations tofollow.Wind plants also need a lot of land. Each wind machine requires abouttwo acres of land. A wind power plant can cover hundreds of acres of land, depending on the number of machines. On the plus side, most of the land is still available for other uses. Ranchers, for example, can growgrain or graze cattle around the machines once they have been installed.Some wind farms are being constructed oshore in shallow water wherethere is consistent wind speed much of the time. The wind blows strongerand steadier over water than land. There are no obstacles on the water toblock the wind. There is a lot of wind energy available oshore. Oshorewind farms are built in the shallow waters o the coast of major lakes andoceans. While oshore turbines produce more electricity than turbineson land, they cost more to build and operate. Oshore constructionis dicult and expensive. The cables that carry the electricity must beburied deep under the water.After a plant has been built, there are ongoing maintenance costs. Insome states, these costs are oset by tax breaks given to power plantsthat use renewable energy sources.Unlike coal or nuclear plants, many wind plants are not owned by publicutilities. Instead they are owned and operated by business people whosell the electricity produced to electric utilities. These private companiesare known as
independent power producers (IPPs)
. The
Public UtilityRegulatory Policies Act
, or PURPA, requires utility companies to purchaseelectricity from independent power producers at rates that are fair.
Wind Resources
Where is the best place to build a wind plant? There are many good sitesfor wind plants in the United States including California, Alaska, Hawaii,the Great Plains, and mountainous regions. Scientists say there is enoughwind in 37 states to produce electricity. An average wind speed of 14mph is needed to convert wind energy into electricity economically. Theaverage wind speed in the U.S. is 10 mph.
Faster than 9.5 m/s (faster than 21.3 mph)7.6 to 9.4 m/s (17 to 21.2 mph)5.6 to 7.5 m/s (12.5 to 16.9 mph)0 to 5.5 m/s (0 to 12.4 mph)
Source: Energy Information AdministrationSource: National RenewableEnergy Laboratory

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