For the renewable energy project, group 1 was tasked with focusing on wind energy. This focus consisted of the history of wind power and wind turbines, the numerical analysis based on values obtained for the system, and a trip visit to a relevant location of wind power. Wind power is renewable source of energy that has great potential over other forms of renewable energy. While wind energy is also not perfect by any means, this paper will highlight the characteristics of wind energy compared to other forms of renewable energies. To begin this analysis, we will start with the overlying history of wind energy. Wind has been around since the beginning of time. The amount of wind and length of time wind blows varies from region to region and the weather conditions, but like the Sun, wind has been around in essence forever. Wind was first notably harnessed into something useful, wind power, as early as 5,000 B.C.
Wind was used to propel boats along the Nile River. In today’s society, we think of this method of boating as a sail boat, as depicted in Figure 2. From around 500 to 900 B.C., wind energy was utilized by the Persians to pump water and grind grain. These two activities, pumping water and grinding grain, were accomplished through the use of windmills. There is a difference between windmills and wind turbines, and that analysis will take place later. But, with this capability of wind energy that the Persians were using, windmills spread throughout the Middle East where food production became the primary focus when using wind power. Windmills then spread to Europe. The Netherlands used windmills to power pumps which helped to drain lakes and marshes in the Rhine River Delta region.
Soon enough wind energy spread to American colonists. These colonists used windmills for the previously mentioned methods of grinding grain and pumping water, but they also used windmills to cut wood. With these uses, thousands of windmills and wind pumps were built and installed by colonists and ranchers. Wind power next became to be used as what were are currently more acclimated to: energy production. Small wind-electric generators, known as turbines, became in use in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The United States Wind Engine Company was established in 1850 by Daniel Halladay and John Burnham. Their windmill, known as the Halladay Windmill, was designed for the geography and location of the American West as that was were many ranchers were located. Figure 4 shown below is what the Halladay Windmill looked like.
Up to this time period, windmill blades were made primarily out of wood. In 1890 steel blades were invented for use of windmills. Steel blades compared to wooden blades were more efficient, thus making the windmills and wind pumps even more desirable for the homesteader. Focusing on America, windmills moved westward just as the citizens did, and more than six million windmills were erected. Wind power, specifically with the use of turbines, was still rising in curiosity and potential. In 1893 wind power was showcased at the Chicago World’s Fair where 15 companies displayed their wind turbine designs.
This idea of electricity generation grew in popularity as wind turbines became more used for power production. In 1941 during World War II, Grandpa’s Knob, the largest wind turbine of its time, was operated in Vermont. This wind turbine produced 1.25 MW to feed power to local utility networks for many months during the war. Around 30 years after the war in 1970, the price of oil rose tremendously. This increase in oil prices led to an even greater interest in research and development of wind turbines to produce power. Wind turbines at this point again were more or less transitioned from the old uses of grain grinding and water pumping to primarily power generation.
Wind power, along with other renewable sources, hit a milestone in 1978. President Jimmy Carter signed the Public Utility Regulatory Policies Act of 1978. Passed by Congress, this act required companies to purchase power from renewable sources, such as wind power. In America this was in essence the beginning of wind turbines and their industrial power production use that we know of today. Two years later in 1980, the first large wind farms were installed in California. Now, wind farms were of course a new idea, so with this new wind farm, researchers and developers learned a lot from analyzing the California wind farm. Factors such as where the wind turbines were placed and how they were placed were noted; the environmental aspects of installing wind farms were even noted. With these observations carefully noted, designs were made to wind farms to have lower impact in the mentioned categories of location, placement and environment. Figure 5 shows a large scale wind farm.
While wind turbines had increased efficiency from using wooden blades to metal blades, the push to continue improving the design and increasing wind turbine efficiency did not cease. Two scientists from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, Larry Viterna and Bob Corrigan, developed what is known as The Viterna Method. In essence, this method is used solely to estimate performance output from the wind turbine. By predicting how the turbine will operate in various conditions, the turbine blades can be positioned to harvest the most wind possible. With this method, efficiency and overall production output is increased. The Viterna Method is still used currently to optimize the performance and output of wind turbines.
Renewable energy continued gaining traction and popularity as a viable source of power production. The early 1990s were evident that renewable energy gained interest and importance to many. The Energy Policy Act in 1992 put a focus on renewable energy sources and provided a tax credit of 1.5 cents/kWh of wind power. With this growing importance of renewable energy production, the National Wind Technology Center was built in 1993. The focus of the NWTC was for research and development. Even to this day, the NWTC keeps wind energy competitive in the energy market by helping industry to reduce the overall cost of energy.
Renewable energy sources from the early 2000s on have become a major focus. Reasons of this focus rely heavily on environmental impacts that non-renewable sources create, such as carbon emissions from coal operated power plants. The other main factor to look more heavily into renewable sources lies within the name itself: non-renewable sources will at some finite time run out. With this limited supply of certain sources, such as coal and natural gas, renewable sources have gained a vast amount of attention. In a report released in 2008 by the United States Department of Energy, wind energy is prospected to account for 20% of energy production by 2030. That goal is certainly attainable, but it will take time and advancement in technology. The push for increasing wind power production jumped vastly from 2008 to current time. In 2008 the United States wind energy capacity reached 25.4 GW. 2012 saw the capacity rise to 60 GW. In current 2018, the installed wind energy in the United States rose to 89GW. Currently, the capacity produced from wind energy is enough to power over 20 million homes.
As mentioned before, location and placement of wind turbines is always under consideration for optimal performance and output. Until 2011 wind turbines had been placed just on land. However, the world consists of around 70% water. With this great amount of space of water in mind, the National Offshore Wind Strategy was announced. Released by the United States Department of Energy, the National Offshore Wind Strategy partnered up with the Department of the Interior to reduce energy costs. In essence wind turbines were placed in bodies of water. This idea was brilliant in many aspects: there is a large potential with the vast amount of water to occupy space for wind turbines, and there is not as heavy as an environmental impact as there is with erecting wind turbines on land. While it is not as easy to establish these wind turbines in land as it is in water, the potential is still great, and wind energy can now be harvested from turbines resting in the water. Below is an image that shows the progression of wind turbines being solely land based to being planted in deep water.
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