Unlike it’s fellow alternatives such as Solar Energy & Tidal Power, wind power is actually delivering the sort of results we need to see if we are ever to wean ourselves off our addiction to fossil fuels.
There has been rapid technological development within this sector (at present wind power accounts for over 1.5% of total global energy consumption) and the market is currently growing at a rate of over 30% per annum. Wind power is much closer to being ready for widespread commercial use than the solar related options. Which is why investment is currently pouring into this area.
The famous oilman and hedge fund manager T. Boone Pickens has recently started building a $10 billion wind farm, that will have the ability to generate 4,000 megawatts of electricity. I think the following quote from Pickens shows the potential this renewable source shows,
"Don't get the idea that I've turned green. My business is making money, and I think this is going to make a lot of money."
Wind power has other advantages over sources of energy production in that it’s clean, renewable and the cost to energy ratio has dropped significantly over the last five years. At present over eighty countries worldwide are using wind energy and the World Wind Energy Association expects that by 2010, 160GW of capacity will be installed worldwide.
However wind turbines are a sporadic source of energy and very site sensitive as they are limited to areas that have good wind resources. Even then the wind doesn’t constantly blow, so other types of power generation have to be used to make up the shortfall. There are currently two types of wind machines in use today. These are the Horizontal-axis and Vertical axis wind turbines.
Horizontal Axis wind turbines
These are the most popular model (windmill shape) and are the ones you are most likely to see standing in the fields. They are truly giant structures and can be up to twenty stories tall and the three aerodynamic blades can have a span of two hundred feet across. They need to be this height as over 100 feet the wind is faster and less turbulent
Vertical axis wind turbines
Make up a very small percentage of the wind machines in use today. A vertical axis wind machine has blades that go from top to bottom, similar to an “eggbeater” which is what these machines are often referred to as. This style of machine is called a Darrieus wind turbine. Earlier versions of this machine required a power source to start them rotating, but later versions can operate without external power. They have less environmental impact and generate less noise than their larger cousins.
Pros and Cons of Wind Energy
• Wind turbines don’t generate pollution, and their installation has less environmental impact than many other forms of electricity generation
• Wind is plentiful, it’s available everywhere and it won’t run out.
• The technology is already in place. It’s cost effective and efficient.
• Modern wind turbines now create much less noise than their predecessors, due to blade design improvements.
• Homes using wind power can be self reliant as if a disaster severs power lines, those residents using wind power won’t lose their supply of electricity.
• Turbines are quite unsightly, especially the very large machines or where they are grouped together.
• Some turbines produce noise.
• Capital costs are high.
• In most cases wind must move at a speed of seven mph plus to be usable.
• There are relatively small power outputs from most wind power locations.
• Environmental damage as they need wide open spaces to be effective so trees are cleared, hills are altered and each windmill requires tons of concrete and steel to hold it in place.