Alternative Energy: Wind Power Basics

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The Pros and Cons of Using Wind to Generate Power

Wind has a long history of being harnessed to generate power. We’ve all seen old windmills on farmlands. In fact, wind has been used as a power source for over 2,000 years. While the windmills of the past were typically used to grind grain or pump water, modern systems are designed instead to generate electricity.

Wind power is generated in a way not unlike hydroelectric power. The kinetic energy of a force of nature (wind, in this case) is used to spin turbines which are connected to a generator or alternator. The generator converts the rotational energy of the turbines into electrical energy.

Wind Energy Advantages

  • Wind is a very plentiful source of energy. If we were to harness all of the wind energy in the world, we’d generate enough electricity to supply the current world population nearly 200 times over!
  • As a force of nature, wind is totally renewable, unlike coal or natural gas, and can be found anywhere. However, some places are windier than others, and those tend to be the places where erecting turbines makes the most sense.
  • Other than the manufacturing and installation of infrastructure, wind energy does not generate greenhouse gases.
  • Due to the constant improvement of technology, the cost of generating electricity with wind has decreased substantially.
  • Wind energy systems are scalable, which increases their viability for use on an individual basis. Homeowners can even purchase buildable kits, which save money on a long term basis, and allow individuals to minimize their contributions to climate change.

Wind Energy Disadvantages

  • While wind is certainly plentiful, it is also highly unpredictable. If energy storage technologies continue to improve, wind could become a viable main source of electricity. Until this happens, however, wind power systems will continue to play more of an auxiliary role in power generation.
  • Large scale wind power systems are quite expensive, and typically have to rely on subsidies and incentives to stand on equal competitive footing with traditional non-renewable energy sources.
  • There are those who find wind turbines to be an eyesore. Therefore, they are typically located in unpopulated areas. This increases the cost of the electricity generated by them, as the energy then has to be transmitted long distances to the areas where it is needed. (I’ll take wind turbines over smog any day, but maybe that’s just me).
[Photo Credit: World Wind Energy]

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