Wind Turbines Are Built to Capture….
Wind, along with solar is one of the most abundant energy forms for life here on earth. Wind can create conditions favourable for life, but can also destroy life through the destructive power of hurricanes.
Wind is created when hot air rises and cool air rushed into take its place. This energy can result in complex movements of air around the globe which result in long established trade winds, localised storms or massive hurricanes.
This kinetic energy is turned into electrical energy by turbines. Capturing this energy is one of the challenges and wind turbines have been designed to meet and one of the main reasons why they are technological marvels of the modern world.
Here we explore 10 surprising facts that you perhaps didn’t know about wind turbines and which might just give you an appreciation of these huge, rotating blades in the sky.
Wind Turbines Have The Lowest Emissions Of Any Renewable Energy
A study has claimed that wind turbines have the “lowest relative greenhouse gas emissions, the least water consumption demands and… the most favourable social impacts” compared to photovoltaic, hydro, geothermal, coal and gas. This is helping countries to meet their renewable targets and contributing towards the prediction that renewable energy will beat fossil fuels by 2020.
Wind Turbines Are Getting Big!
With turbines growing to record sizes the average size of a rotor installed in 2016 has grown by up to 127% since 1999. This has increased as of April 2018 with new turbines with rotor blades of up to 350 feet being developed by General Electric in a world first where they will trial “the world’s largest offshore wind turbines at a test facility in England” according to the Telegraph in the UK. Thats almost double the size of the London Eye or the Statue of Liberty
Wind Turbines Have Been Around For A Long Time
Wind power was originally used in Persia (Iran) from about 500-900 AD. Windmills were later developed in more structural detail from about the 7th Century onwards to help grind up grain in the creation of flour or to control and manipulate the distribution of water. By the 1900s Denmark had a whopping 2,500 windmills installed to act as pumps and mills both to control the counties water distribution but to mill the farmers grain. The first all steel wind turbine was built in 1888 in the United States of America.
Wind Turbines Are Built To Withstand Strong Winds
And have even survived Category 5 Hurricanes with speeds of up to 110 miles per hour (subject to best practice engineering protocols being followed). In 2012 Cuba’s Two Wind Farms survived Hurricane Sandy with only minor damage. Following the hurricane they performed well and continued to provide electricity for the local grid.
Offshore wind power provides the opportunity to develop huge renewable generators of wind power, offshore from coastal cities.
Europe is a leader in the development of offshore wind farms with the UK being in pole position both in terms of size and technology. The largest offshore wind farm, as of 2017, is the London Array, generating 630 MW, with another UK wind farm under construction, called The Hornsea Wind Farm and a further wind farm called Dogger Bank which will generate a massive 4800 MW when built. There are several different types of offshore wind power from wind farms built into the seabed to larger, deeper water wind farms that float and are anchored to the seabed.
Offshore Wind Turbines Can Provide A Safe Haven For Wildlife
Offshore wind farms have the unexpected benefit of providing a safe haven for sea going wildlife. The Independent reported that wind farms can create a ‘reef-effect’ which attracts barnacles and crustaceans and in turn fish… and in turn seals. The researchers discovred these findings by tracking seals which were regularly visiting wind farms in the North Sea. Wind farms are also no go areas for fishermen ands trawlers providing safe havens for cod and whiting and a chance for the seabed to recover, once wind farm construction is completed.
Wind Power Is Cheap And Affordable
The UK has a target of achieving 20% of its power generation from wind by 2020 and it is on course to meet that, with 18.5% generated in 2017 alone.
Wind Turbines Impacts On Bird Life Are Carefully Monitored
Wind Turbines have a some/minimal impact on local bird populations. Turbines aren’t completely safe for birds and collisions do happen but the RSPB’s conservation director, Martin Harper, says a large body of scientific evidence shows “appropriately located windfarms have negligible impacts” on bird populations. A large peer reviewed study found that bird populations were more likely to be affected during the build phase of wind turbine construction rather than the operational phase. And for every bird killed by a wind turbine in the US over 500,000 are killed each year by feral cats or collisions with buildings.
Types of Wind Turbines
There are different types of wind turbines available for construction with turbines being modelled on a vertical or horizontal axis. The type used for large scale energy generation is generally modelled on a horizontal axis.
The Future For Wind Turbines
The future of wind turbines is, well, windy! A staggering array of designs have been developed with the best of the bunch on display online with the Guardian. These include wind turbines attached to kites in order to take advantage of the extremely fast wind speeds found at higher altitudes, and vene bladeless wind turbines. A Spanish company, Vortex, is developing bladeless turbines that depend on creating a vortex in order to generate energy.
Wind turbines are currently the 2nd largest provider of renewable energy in the UK, as of 2018, and they have the potential to contribute massively to this world’s climate change energy targets.
There are discussions underway between Northern European countries for the development of a North Sea Wind Power Hub which could generate between 70-150 GW of energy by 2040. The construction of this hub in the North Sea would entail the building of a vast wind farm including radical proposals to build an artificial island that would act as the centre.
Turbine technology is developing at breakneck speed, reducing costs and massively improving efficiencies. As a clean, abundant, pollution free sources of energy wind, captured by wind turbines, has the potential to power our economies for centuries to come.