An Analysis of the Use of Wind Turbines as an Alternative Power Source

Theyre farming a different crop in Wyoming County these daysthe wind. Atop a hill in this little town population 729 are 10 windmills that are expected to produce enough electricity each year to provide power for 1,700 homes. Its not hard to see what this piece of the future looks like. (Ploetz, A1)
Wind power was developed as a major alternative energy source during the 1970s. The interest in finding alternative energy sources has grown tremendously as people are beginning to realize that they are depleting the Earth of irreplaceable natural resources. The technology is now the fastestgrowing energy source in the world.

The wind turbine, also called a windmill, is a means of harnessing the kinetic energy of the wind and converting it into electrical energy. This is accomplished by turning blades called aerofoils, which drive a shaft, which drive a motor (turbine) and are connected to a generator. This energy is then supplied to a multitude of homes, businesses, factories, etc.

The worldwide total wind capacity is 13,400 MW and the year 2000 is expected to significantly increase this amount, according to the trend in recent records of the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA). Wind generating capacity has grown from 2,000 MW in 1990 to the present capacity of more than 3,600 MW. It is predicted that worldwide energy supply may consist of 10% wind power by 2020, with Europe alone producing more than 100,000 MW. Global investment in wind turbines should surpass $200 billion by 2010 as part of a rapid growth in investment in renewable energy sources worldwide, according to Michael Kujawa, senior Allied Business Intelligence Incorporated (Chambers, 14-16)

Presently, Europe is far more advanced than the U.S. in its development and implementation of wind power. However, NASA is using the largest, most expensive wind tunnel yet created to test a huge, high-tech wind turbine developed by the National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Gold, Colorado. The potential of such a turbines energy producing abilities is remarkable in terms of finding new reliable energy sources.

Initially, I believed that alternative energy sources such as wind power would significantly affect the world as we know it. The Earths natural resources used in energy production, coal and oil, are being consumed at a far greater rate than the rate at which they are being replaced. Coal and oil deposits take thousands if not millions of years to develop, and if the people of Earth maintain their high usage of such resources, future generations will have many problems producing energy. This is the reason why it is imperative that the people of Earth find alternative sources of energy. Wind power cost just a penny more per kilowatt hour than coal or oil produced power and it is rather reliable especially in coastal regions where winds coming off of bodies of water are often constant over look periods of time. Wind power must be taken into some serious consideration as we are now entering into the 21st century.

It is easy to argue that there are several pros and cons to wind generated power. One such pro Would be that wind power does not give off any form of pollution and in no way harms the environment. One arguable con would be that individual windmills are expensive to build and produce a small amount of power, which is why they are often seen in large groups.

Many windmills are used today, some experts estimate as much as 150,000 in the Midwest alone. They are used to heat water, refrigerate storage buildings or rooms, refrigerate produce, dry crops, irrigate crops, heat buildings, and charge batteries for tractors on farms. They are used in mining to extract minerals, to pump water, to generate electricity, and to charge batteries. Windmills have been used on buoys moored far out in the ocean, the power being used for the collection and transmission of oceanographic and weather data. They also work in deserted places as an aid to radio and telephone communications and they are used to work navigation lights on isolated hazards. As anyone can see, windmills and the power they produced can be used for a vast number of applications. Ever since the energy shortages of the 70's, the growing concern of pollution due to the burning of fossil fuels and the depletion of natural resources, windmills have been greatly studied and developed. Unlike the burning of fossil fuels, wind generated power emits no pollution to the air what so ever. It produces no waste products that have to be dumped into landfills, which pollute the groundwater. And the final advantage of wind-generated power is that it does not create any noise pollution meaning that the operation of the windmills is very quiet.

The only drawback to energy production by windmills is that a single windmill is a large structure that is rather expensive to build and run and these costs are passed on to the consumers, however, in the end the consumers only end up paying a small amount for wind generated energy than they do for energy from fossil fuels. Another drawback that coincides with windmills expenses is that a single windmill only produces anywhere from 750 KW to 2 MW of power, which is a small amount and therefore in order for wind power to be a effective energy source, wind mills must be placed together in large groups. Some people believe that these large fields of windmills are an eyesore as they are placed near residential areas, however, not all people feel this way. Some people also believe that large windmills endanger birds that might accidentally fly into them, however, this is rather unlikely.

Currently, I maintain my first viewpoint, which was that I would fully support windmills as a means of providing a clean and efficient source of energy. The people of the world should understand that future generations are going to suffer if new sources of energy production are not developed because the current rate of depletion of fossil fuels will inevitably result in a total consumption of all nonrenewable resources sometime in the very near future. Wind-generated power and solar power are going to be depended upon in the future to supply the planet with power, therefore, we must work hard to develop these technologies so that maybe one day their energy production will be equal if not greater than the amount of energy produced by the burning of fossil fuels.

Bibliography:

  1. Chambers, Ann. Wind Power Spins into Contention. Science & Technology Digest September 2000. NewsBank NewsFile, 2000, record number: 012750E62B01A315BEBOO Valparaiso High School, Valparaiso IN. 10 October 2000.
  2. Ploetz, Elmer. Natures Windfall Tiny Town Taps into Green Fuel. The Buffalo News (NY) 7 September 2000. NewsBank NewsFile, 2000, record number: 006030E6EEDE5CEE7BFAA Valparaiso High School, Valparaiso IN. 10 October 2000.