Article by Eric Meier
Almost everybody is familiar with what a wind turbine is and how they produce energy, however for those whom don’t know I will explain. If you picture a plane propeller resting atop a tall tower, this is what a turbine looks like. As the large propeller is spun by the blowing wind, the rotor inside turns to produce electricity. The generator is a general design composed of magnets and copper wire connections. This method has been used for many years in various other types of generators.
Clearly for the turbine to operate there will have to be wind. The explanation as to why turbines are built so extremely high is to take advantage of the more robust winds found at higher altitudes. The result of the stronger wind at that elevation is that the turbines produce more electricity. All of this would not matter if there was actually no wind to begin with. Historical weather information is carefully analyzed to choose sites that will provide sufficient steady winds for the turbines. This is likely to mean they are situated along coastlines where it is usually very windy. Consistent winds does not always mean that they always blow from the same direction. A time tested design, adapted from the original wind powered water pumps, uses a tall fin to point the propeller into the wind, regardless of the direction it originates from.
Wind turbines can produce quite a lot of energy; one turbine can easily generate electricity for one house, or they can be used to power machinery which does something like grinding feed. When there may be no wind, a battery backup set up is used to satisfy electrical needs. While they can produce a lot of electricity, these are not cheap at all and getting back your initial investment on one can take many years. Unlike other green energy methods, wind turbines will consistently work 24/7, providing there’s wind. Solar panels can’t work in the dark however wind turbines can. Turbines are extremely clean to run, eliminating fears about pollution. The conventional sources of hydro, which includes nuclear reactors, create incredible pollution that could be reduced by turbines. The energy source is likewise renewable, just like solar energy, since there is always wind blowing. This suggests that turbines will usually be able to produce electrical power if they are located in high wind locations.
Let’s consider exactly what some may refer to as the cons of wind turbine generated electricity. Many people don’t want to be looking at a tall tower with a propeller at the top outside their window. When clustered in groups, such as the large commercial installations in coastal areas and even out at sea, exactly where there are high winds, they are not an attractive site. Like any mechanical device that moves, they may be quite loud. While good for meeting the needs of human beings, they can be dangerous to birds and bats. Bats specifically are susceptible, because their sonar system is disturbed by the rapid movement in the air. There are no data on how regularly this happens, however.
The overall positive aspects of wind turbines seem to over-shadow the disadvantages at the moment. Wind turbines offer great promise for generating clean, replenishable and safe energy, with few serious downsides.
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