First created in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio, wind turbines haven’t been used in the United States for high-output energy generation until recently. In fact, the first wind farm wasn’t installed until nearly 100 years after the turbine’s beginning, in 1980. Since that time, though, wind energy has become revered as one of the most important sources of energy in the world.
The Importance of Wind Energy
As the energy crisis in the United States and the rest of the world looms, finding reliable sources of renewable energy is of growing importance. One type of renewable energy that has become evermore popular in recent years is wind energy. As the societal, economic, and environmental benefits of wind energy become more apparent, the U.S. Department of Energy and other enterprises throughout the country have set high goals regarding the generation of electricity through wind power – the U.S. Department of Energy hopes to reach a goal of 20 percent wind energy by 2030, and Google is currently in the process of replacing 700 of its older wind turbines with 48 new machines, capable of generating twice the amount of power. Wind energy is the fastest growing source of electrical energy in the world, is free to generate, uses no fossil fuels, and requires less space than does the average power station.
How Wind is Converted Into Energy
The advent of the wind turbine may have been one of the most ingenious ideas of the 1880s, but it certainly wasn’t the most complex; the concept behind wind turbines is strikingly simple. When wind blows through a turbine, the energy in the wind turns a rotor within the turbine. The rotor is connected to a shaft, which in turns spins a generator. As a result of the spinning generator, energy is created. The U.S. Department of Energy explains the dynamics of a wind turbine as being the opposite of a fan, with the process working in reverse – rather than using electricity to make wind, a turbine uses the wind to make electricity.
Types of Turbines
There are two primary types of turbines: horizontal axis or vertical axis. Horizontal axis turbines are more familiar to the average person, resembling a fan with two to three rotating propeller blades. In addition to different shapes and designs, different turbines also have different capacities for electrical generation. Turbines below 100 kilowatts are used for smaller electrical needs, such as a single home, whereas turbines with several megawatt capabilities may be used in wind farms, powering an electrical grid.
The Future of Wind Energy
While the United States currently has no offshore wind energy farms, funding efforts by the U.S. Department of Energy hope to make offshore wind farms a reality. In fact, by the year 2050, wind energy has the potential to support more than 600,000 jobs, save consumers $280 billion, save 260 billion gallons of water, and reduce the amount of pollutants entering the air by 250,000 metric tons.