Utilising wind power is one of the cleanest and most sustainable ways to generate electricity. Wind power produces no toxic emissions and none of the greenhouse emissions that contribute to global warming. Wind power is one of the most abundant and one of the most cost-competitive sources of energy.
Humans have been taking advantage of wind power for thousands of years. From the sailing ships of the ancient Greeks, to the grain mills of pre-industrial Holland and the giant and hi-tech wind turbines across South Australia, wind is everywhere.
How fast the wind blows and how often is an important part of how wind turbines generate power we can use. Basically, the more wind there is, the more power will be generated, but there’s more to it than that.
How does it work?
Wind energy turns three propeller-like blades attached to a rotor. The rotor is connected to the main shaft, which spins a generator to produce electricity, but let’s expand on this a bit.
- The wind blows towards the turbine rotor blades.
- The rotors spin and capture the kinetic energy from wind that turns the central drive shaft that supports the turbines. Most utility-sized wind turbines can swivel on the hub where the rotors are attached to catch the wind at the best angle to harvest the wind energy.
- Inside the main body, the gearbox then converts the low-speed rotation of the drive shaft into a high-speed rotation that is fast enough to efficiently drive the generator.
- The generator attached to the gearbox then takes the kinetic energy from spinning the drive shaft and converts it into electrical energy.
- The electric current produced by the generator flows through a cable located inside of the turbine power.
- The electricity is then converted by a step-up transformer 50 times higher voltage for it to be transmitted efficiently to the grid or to communities or buildings.
- Households can now enjoy the renewable energy.
Wind Turbine Types
Modern wind turbines have two types:
- The Horizontal axis commonly has two or three blades and these are the ones most people see.
- The Vertical axis is much less common and looks a bit like an egg beater.
Wind turbines can be built either on land or offshore.
The modern windmill energy payback is between 6 to 9 months, depending on the location. And for 20-25 years, the windmills will bring a big net gain of clean energy and no carbon emissions.