Jun 26, 2019 | Updated: 09:24 AM EDT

Info 101: Clearing the Air on What A Wind Turbine Is

May 20, 2019 05:48 PM EDT

Windmills at the shore of denmark at Bønnerup Strand
(Photo : Dirk Goldhahn)
Windmills at the shore of denmark at Bønnerup Strand

If you were asked to give one symbol for clean energy, your mind would immediately go to wind turbines. This environment-friendly and iconic engineering feat stand tall whether it be located on plains, nearby seashores, or atop mountains.

Admittedly, the wind turbine concept is not so clear to most people. Yes, they see a tall structure that kind of resembles a windmill but details on what it actually does, how it works, and its effects to the environment has not been given as much attention as solar panels.

This is why there are misconceptions on the efficiency of a wind turbine which occupies an arguably large space.

What are Wind Turbines?

A wind turbine is sometimes known as a wind energy converter. It is a device that converts the kinetic energy of wind into electrical energy. A small single wind turbine can be used to power batteries for boats while a bigger unit can power domestic energy needs. When there are two or more wind turbines laid out on the field, it is called a wind farm, which distributes the energy to a utility grid.

A wind turbine consists of various types of blades that rotate as it harvests the kinetic energy it needs from the moving air, a generator system which converts the energy, supporting electrical-mechanical system, and a tower. The blade is designed like an airplane wing where it is aerodynamically engineered to produce a slight difference in pressure on one side. The wind would turn the blades connected to a shaft which in turn, is connected to a generator that effectively produces electricity.

There are horizontal axis models and vertical axis models for the blades that are out in the market.
To compute for the energy produced by the wind in the area, the wind speed is raised to the third power. this means that if there are stronger wind speeds in the area where the wind turbine is located, there is greater potential for power generation. Before an area is installed with the wind turbine, it is a good idea to check the wind speed to properly assess the wind power generation costs.

In 2017, 6.3% of The United States' utility-scale generation came from wind energy.

China is another country that has advanced when it comes to wind energy. In fact, they are at the top of the list of countries that utilize wind power.

What happens when there is intermittent wind or when the wind is blowing too softly?

The disadvantage of wind power has been noted by scientists and engineers since the start of the development of this technology. To combat this, scientists and engineers have worked on different types of storage technology for the wind turbine system. These include solid-state batteries, flywheels, real energy storage, ultra or supercapacitors, pumped hydroelectric storage dams, compressed air storage, and rail energy storage. Although these storage devices each have their flaws and their perks, it has been improving and will be improving as it is continually studied and developed.

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