written by: Aggeliki K.•edited by: Lamar Stonecypher•updated: 10/30/2011
Wind offers an endless supply of energy, but the big question is how can we take advantage of this in the most efficient way? In this guide to harnessing wind power for energy we'll look at the current technology and the future potential.
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Most people are already familiar with what wind energy is: the kinetic energy of the wind which is constantly in motion due to local temperature variations. Under these circumstances, we can safely deduce that the Sun, which regulates these temperatures, is responsible for the energy output of the wind.
From this point, it is also evident that the role of power generators is to transform the kinetic energy to other forms, mainly electric. For a brief overview on wind power check out the following articles:
As mentioned before, the kinetic energy of the wind can be easily converted to electrical energy with conventional technology. The principle and a number of formulas used to calculate the wind load, velocity and turbine efficiency are explained below.
Wind turbines are the most common wind power generators for houses and industries. They operate in wind speeds of around 10 miles an hour. Their maximum power output is at 33 miles/hour, while at speeds of 50+ miles/hour they need to shut down. They can last for 20 to 25 years and their general efficiency is 30-35%.
There is a wide variety of designs as far as wind turbines are concerned. Each type however is designed to serve specific needs. For example, horizontal turbines are more stable and efficient, while vertical turbines do not need to be mounted on a tower. In general, it seems that horizontal turbines are better but special conditions, especially as far as household's are concerned, may require the use of vertical models.
Similar to photovoltaic panels, wind turbines are also suitable for domestic use. If you'd like to make a home-made windmill for your home, be sure to go through the following resources as they will provide you with all the necessary tips and instructions for building your own home generator.
Wind farms are becoming more and more popular in the renewable energy industry. They are nothing more than a small or a large group of wind turbines located in the same area. A typical wind farm of 20 turbines may cover an area of 1 square kilometer, occupying only 1% of the land. The rest of the land is usually used for other purposes, such as farming or as a natural habitat. There are even larger farms consisting of hundreds of onshore or offshore turbines, and electricity production is much cheaper in this case.
Small and Large Scale Power Needs - From Wind Belts to WARP
A wind belt is a device that also converts the kinetic energy of wind to electrical energy, although it is much simpler than a wind turbine and suitable for covering smaller scale energy needs (3-50 watts). It is also much smaller in size and far more economical. On the other hand, there is the Wind Amplified Rotor Platform or WARP that can be related and compared to the wind turbines.