Good morning, Smart Moms!
I don’t know about how you all feel, but I get concerned about the health impacts that fossil fuels have on me and my kids.
Because of this, as many of you know, I have been researching to try to figure out how to do my part in all of this.
There are quite a few different green energy options and today I want to talk about wind energy.
What is wind energy?
Many things influence the wind. The most obvious ones are lakes (and other such bodies of water), mountains/terrain, and plants like trees all influence the way the wind blows and how. Wind manifests from uneven heat in the atmosphere caused by the sun. This also makes a difference in the surface and rotation of the earth—it causes it to be irregular. (1)
Wind energy isn’t any new idea! It’s been around for centuries. For example, windmill powered water pumps. Windmills=wind power. Wind turbines are the newest mode of harvesting wind energy. They convert wind into electricity—capable of being so powerful as to deliver power to hundreds of homes.
There are three main types of wind energy. (2)
1) Utility scale wind: turbines which are bigger than 100 kilowatts and pour electricity into the power grid. The power is then distributed by utilities or power operators.
2) Distributed/ “small” wind: these turbines are often used to power a single house, farm, or small business. They have equal to or less than 100 kilowatts.
3) Offshore wind: turbines are located in water all around the world (except the U.S.A).
How does wind power work?
Now I’m no technical genius but I do want to know the basics of how this electricity works. Turns out it seems pretty simple.
Turbines are made of steel. They can get up 325 ft. tall. The “hub” keeps the blades together at its center and the “nacelle” is what protects the shaft, generator, gearbox, and controls. There is special technology which allows the turbine to assess the wind in order that it might rotate so that it can always face the wind. This also allows it to pitch/angle its blades in order to efficiently convert wind into electricity. (2)
Most often, wind turbines are built together as a group (basically a wind power plant). As the wind turns the turbine, the electricity travels down the turbine and into the power grid. From here, power operators can distribute the electricity as is needed. Electricity is collected at these wind farms and small transmission lines (distribution lines) take this electricity into bigger transmission lines. The electricity can travel much longer distances in these lines until it is taken once again to smaller distribution lines which then take the electricity to towns or wherever the electricity is supposed to end up. (2)
Really the process is elegant and simple!
How are wind farms developed?
In my opinion, this seems to be the most complex part of wind farms. A lot of thought, research, and studying has to go into an area before wind turbines can be set up there.
Wind resources, wind patterns, land access, transmission line access, if and how they can sell electricity, safety, area available, etc. These are all factors considered by the developer. The developer must also do transmission studies, resource assessment, and siting and permitting over a period of several years before they can start building. It’s also not uncommon for the developer to have to lease land from a private landowner in order to build the wind farm in the most optimal spot. (2)
Once they get passed all this, the developer must also make sure they have contracts set up with electricity purchasers before they start to put the turbines together. And as soon as the project is finished, the care and maintenance of the wind farm is given to the project owner or the operator. (2)
The lifespan of these wind farms settles in at around 20-30 years.
What do we use wind energy for?
Of course I started wondering what we could use wind energy for. Was it too much for one house? Not enough for a whole town?
It all depends on the area and the type of wind flow it gets. It can certainly power a single home, farm, ranch, etc. And it can power larger establishments such as towns. (3)
Pretty much anything that needs electricity to run—businesses, water pumps, dams—wind energy can help.
Overall versatile and helpful!
What are the potential problems?
Like anything in life, I knew there had to be some draw backs.
Most importantly: how serious were the draw backs? Could they hurt me or my family’s health?
I’m happy to report that there doesn’t seem to be negative effects on human life!
Unfortunately, there have been some problems with birds and bats flying into the blades and dying. However, there have been technological improvements to lessen that impact.
Another complaint has been about the noise they make. I have never lived by one personally, so maybe I can’t speak to this. But noise seems a small cost to make when you consider the damages fossil fuel makes on our health and environment.
Another problem is how much it costs to get everything set up for wind farms. The initial cost is much pricier than it is for fossil fuels. But, because wind energy has become so much cheaper in the last ten years, it’s actually a lot cheaper over the long-term to invest in wind energy than it is for fossil fuels. Turbines are so easy! Once set up, the windmills are fully functional. Fossil fuels often have additional costs such as transportation and fuel purchases which wind energy does not have. (1)
Why use wind energy?
Really, why not?
Wind energy cuts down costs for us in the long-term. It’s clean, renewable, and it doesn’t destroy or replete natural resources to keep it running.
Wind energy cuts doesn’t emit greenhouse gas emissions which are responsible for global warming among other human ailments.
Also, the wind industry can help out rural economies and communities! Where there is a wind farm, there will be lease payments. Additionally, the wind industry feeds our economy with billions of dollars every year. Since 2008, it has been generating amounts exceeding $100 billion in U.S.A. private investments. (2)
Overall, I think wind energy is awesome!
I would fully support the development in and around my own community.