Wind energy at sunset
Wind energy is the fastest growing energy source in the world. The US ranks third in the world in wind power capacity behind Germany and Spain. In the 1920’s wind power was a significant source of energy for rural America. Wind machines in the US generate about 17 billion kilowatt hours of electricity per year. That’s enough to power a city the size of Chicago.
There are two types of windmills vertical and horizontal. The first wind mills were vertical axis systems developed in Persia about 500 to 900 ad. They were used to pump water and grind grain.
Vertical axis windmills were also used in China. The first documented one was in 1219 ad. They used reeds to make sails to catch the wind. They were also used to pump water and grind grain. These first vertical axis windmills did not work so well. Half of the sail area had to be covered to get the other side to spin.
Then in the 1300’s in Holland the first horizontal wind mills appeared. These worked much better because all the sails were used to catch the wind instead of half with the others. They used sails like a sail boat to catch the wind. Then in the 1800’s the wind mill grew in popularity with the expansion of the American west.
They were made out of metal and used to pump water. Between 1850 and 1870 there were over 6 million small 1 horse power or less in use. Larger ones were used to pump water for steam railroad trains.
The first use of a large windmill to generate electricity was in 1888. A man named Charles Brush from Cleveland Ohio. His machine used a picket fence type of rotor 55 feet in diameter. It was the first windmill to use a gearbox to step up the speed to drive a direct current generator.
Windmills work by using aerodynamic lift. This is the same force that makes an airplane fly. The passing wind turns the rotor which turns a shaft that can be harnessed to do work. Such as turn a generator or pump water or grind grain. In modern wind mills it turns a generator to produce electricity.
A great example of wind power is the Big Spring Wind Project in Texas. It has 46 wind turbines that generate enough electricity to power 7.300 homes. Southern California Edison is building a 50 square mile wind farm. This is 3 times larger than any current wind farm. It will generate about 1,500 megawatts and power almost a million homes.
The advantages of wind power are many. First off it is fueled by the wind. It is a clean energy source it doesn’t pollute. It is a local domestic source of energy and our wind supple is very abundant. Wind mills also use a small foot print of land. So In rural area when built on farms or ranches, the land can still be worked.
Wind energy is actually a type of solar energy. It is caused by the heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the rotating of the earth, and the earth's surface irregularities.
The disadvantages of wind are these. Wind must compete with other conventional forms of energy on a cost basis and may not be the cheapest. Even thou the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically over the last ten years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than a fossil fuel plant.
The major challenge to wind is that it is not always blowing when we need electricity and the output depends on wind speed. Also good winds are usually out in remote areas. Far away from the cities that need the electricity. Wind plants can also be noisy, but much less than a fossil fuel plant. Currently windmills are only 30 - 40 % efficient.
Wind technology had come a long way. It is starting to mature and be commercialized. World wide there are about 10 – 12 manufactures of large utility scale systems making 200 kilowatt to 3 .to megawatt systems. There are also several companies building small windmills making 1000 watts up to 10,000 watts. These are more suited for personal use.
There is a great product made by Windside that has been dubbed the urban wind mill. It produces about 1100 watts. It is 3.5 feet wide and 12 feet tall and weighs 2000 pounds These cost about $12,000 dollars .
A far better way to generate energy is with magnets. This type of technology can be over 100% efficient and still works when the wind is not blowing. This technology is real and being suppressed. Please look around on this website. There are lots of great working examples.
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