Most of us want to go green these days, and if there was a way to use clean, renewable, and affordable sources of energy for all our daily needs that’s what most of us would do. And while a lot of us know how hydroelectric dams and even solar power works, wind power doesn’t get quite as much press as other forms of green energy. It is growing, though, and as a result wind power is affecting more people than ever before.
So How Does It Work?
Humans have been harvesting wind power for centuries, using it for mechanical tasks like sailing ships or grinding grain. Electricity-generating wind turbines are no different, in that respect.
The way these devices work is that the blades of the turbine act as large, metal sails. Their whole purpose is to catch the wind (even wind you wouldn’t think could turn such a large device), and to harness the force in it. As that force moves the fan blades, the inner mechanism turns a turbine that generates electricity. As long as the fans are turning, the electricity is flowing.
These wind turbines come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and designs as well. Some look almost like traditional fans, catching the wind with long blades. Others may be horizontal, spinning more like the blades of a helicopter. Some designs are in a spiral pattern, and others mimic nature, looking more like unusual, metal trees. They can also be scaled up or down, though industrial wind farms tend to use the biggest wind turbines the area will support in order to generate the most power.
What Are The Pros and Cons of Wind Energy?
As with any other form of energy, there are upsides and downsides to wind energy. However, given that wind energy is growing every year according to Energy Informative, it’s important to understand how those strengths and weaknesses play into this technology’s spreading influence.
On the plus side, wind energy is both green and renewable. Wind is a natural (and free) phenomenon that’s caused by air of different temperatures meeting, and so it is never going to run out. It causes no pollution, and it tends to be extremely space-efficient. Operational costs tend to be very low, as well, which means that once they’ve been built that wind turbines don’t cost a great deal to continue operating. If wind turbines were expanded, it’s possible they could capture enough energy to give humans more energy than we could ever feasibly use.
There are downsides to wind energy, as well. One of the most common problems is that it is not a steady, dependable resource. This means that without a way to store the energy for later use (such as with a water-pump/turbine system, a gravity battery, or something similar), power can be sporadic at best. Wind turbines also need to be built in places where there is a consistent source of wind (such as coastal areas, or in locations like the desert areas of Southern Nevada and it’s border with California), which means they are only truly effective in certain areas. This can be overcome with an interconnected grid that allows electricity to go where it’s needed on a large scale, but that is not often the system that utilities are dealing with. Wind turbines can interfere with local wildlife (which requires them to be situated with some care), and the noise they create can be a burden to those who live near wind farms.
While wind energy may not be the silver bullet to fix all energy woes, it is a solution that has seen some real success in a lot of places, and which is still growing. Combined with other green energy solutions, there’s no denying that it often gets the job done.
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