Wind Power: Alternative to Fossil Fuels

Wind power is a source a renewable energy. It is considered a source of renewable energy because the energy in the wind comes from the sun. The sun heats the earth which causes air close to the earth’s surface to heat up and rise, and causing more dense cold air from the upper atmosphere to take its place. In return, this generates currents of air known to all as wind. Wind can be a very important natural resource because it carries kinetic energy that can be harnessed by electrical generators. These generators turn mechanical energy into electrical energy; therefore, when fan blades are attached to an electrical generator and wind blows into the blades causing them to turn, electrical energy is produced. This has large applications to everyday life; wind power is already powering hundreds of thousands of homes, and is one of the fastest growing industries in America.

Wind power is becoming popular among companies to take advantage of a natural process in nature. Wind efficiency is the amount of kinetic energy in the wind that is successfully converted to mechanical energy and electricity. The laws of physics set a “maximum theoretical limit [of] 59.6%.”(VK) The remaining 40.4% of this energy is required to blow past the blades of the windmills. If the turbines trapped the entire flow of wind they would not be able to turn to produce electricity. The wind capacity factor is the amount of energy produced by a generator compared to what it could produce if it functioned all the time at peak capacity. This number will vary from location to location due to the differences in wind density, speed and the height of the turbine.

These conditions influence how much electricity can be produced from that location. First, the air density is found more in the cooler regions of the earth as well as at sea level rather than in the mountains. Ideal places to put a generator would be at an area with high air density along an ocean with colder temperatures which is explained by Open EI. In order to find these places on Earth that can support a large scale wind farm, scientists have started creating maps called “Wind Atlases.” Petersen wrote that “with the beginning interest in wind energy in the early seventies, the development became focused on predicting the wind energy potential, either for regions or for single wind turbines.” (Petersen, 2017). Recent advances in technology are allowing us to produce energy in more efficient ways. Wind energy should be one of the top priorities to capture and take advantage of.

This is an example of one such wind atlas. Their primary purpose is to scientifically predict where the best locations for wind turbines would be. The factor in things like air pollution, local wildlife and ecosystems, and air current speeds. This part of the process is just as important as creating a good wind turbine because if a company spends a substantial amount of time and money developing a wind turbine, they’re going to want to install them in a place that makes the most sense.

The global wind patterns of the earth are created by uneven heating of the atmosphere and surface in conjunction with the rotation of the earth itself. The air surrounding the equator rises due to warmer temperatures and the air nearer the surface of the Earth moves towards the equator to replace the rising warm air. Resulting in two major channels of wind created and then flowing in a pattern around the Earth. The wind at 30 degrees North and South nearest the equator moves East to West. These wind patterns are referenced to as the trade winds due to their use in major shipping and trading routes. There is little to no wind for the majority of the time near the equator due to rising warm air. This motion is caused by circulation of the trade winds that occurs within a closed loop system from the west.

Two factors are evaluated to forecast weather; its speed and direction. “The wind direction is measured by using a wind vane, a broad, flat blade attached to a spoke pivoting at one end.” the spokes pivot to align the blade with the direction of the wind. The wind direction is then indicated by an arrow on the spoke or if using an electric meter remotely controlled by the weather vane. The wind direction is most commonly displayed in degrees using a 360 degree circular scale. 0 degrees indicates the wind is going North, 90 Degrees indicates that the wind is traveling towards the East, 180 degrees indicates it is traveling to the South, and finally 270 degrees shows that the wind is traveling towards the West. The speed of the wind is measured by a device called an anemometer. The wind turns the cups attached to the shaft coming from the device, then the angular speed of the spinning shaft is then translated into linear speed to determine the velocity of the wind. The speed is represented as miles per hour or nautical miles per hour (knots), in the United States. Other countries the units are Kilometers per hour or sometimes it is recorded as meters per second. “Ultrasonic anemometers available in the industry measure the wind speed and direction in one single unit.”

Having a relationship that is cubic in nature with power, wind speed becomes critical to the data needed to appraise the potential power of sites in contention. The wind is never steady in any location, influenced heavily by weather systems the local terrain and its height above the surface. Wind speed inherently varies every second in any area, therefore the annual average speed needs to be averaged over a large period of 10 years to accurately describe the wind conditions normal to the area. These long term measurements are used in conjunction with short term measurements that are much cheaper to accurately predict the future conditions of that geographic location. Because wind is a product of the sun and the earths seasons the wind patterns repeat over a general period of a year. The wind site is described by the wind speed data averaged over the calendar months.

The global trend of energy consumption is finally leaning towards finding new ways of providing sustainably sourced energy, and the world’s most popular source of renewable energy is wind power. According to Petersen, “in the end of 2016, the Global wind energy capacity [amounted] to 467 GW (up from 200 GW in 2011): of this 16 GW was offshore.” (Petersen, 2017). This evidence shows that the global trend of energy consumption is being shifted towards renewable sources of energy. The article also shows that the within Europe roughly “27.5 billion [euros] were invested to finance wind energy development.” (Petersen, 2017).

Finally it may be concluded that wind power systems and the technology to harness wind energy may be a future driving force of the United States. Wind power has and will continue to flourish as a large portion of the sustainable energy sourced from the environment. Wind energy technology will continue to evolve as new wind power systems are developed and older versions improved upon. The future of wind energy is a blindingly bright one, with the ideas and innovations of the industry able to gain traction more and more as every year passes. With the help of clean energy bills along side sustainable energy tax credits, utility service providers are encouraged to further the field of wind power systems. We have already reached a tipping point of interest into the science of wind and development of wind farm sites, including the detailed research and analysis of wind patterns around the globe.

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