Wind Farms – The Future Begins
With the world’s energy crisis and the goal of replacing fossil fuels as an energy source and producing cleaner energy that does not pollute the environment, just like windmills that plotted landscapes in the past, wind farms are now being build all over the world from the heart of America in places like Iowa and Minnesota to the coasts of the UK and Japan. Wind power generation cannot totally replace fossil fuels, especially coal and oil, but it can provide an adequate percentage of world’s energy needs and when it is combined with other energy sources, the vision of a cleaner world run by the wind can actually be seen past all the smog and pollution.
The development of wind turbines has been improved by technology improvements and with many nations setting goals and limits on energy providers, like the US which has several laws requiring utility companies to obtain at least ¼ of their energy from renewable resources, wind farms become great investments that produce clean energy with no carbon footprint, do not face any carbon tax, and still come with tax credits in some locations.
A Simple Breakdown of Wind Farms
Most people have a general idea of what a wind turbine is because it is modeled much like windmills but with fewer blades that are much larger. Wind turbines are huge structures with huge blades that are built higher because of the increase in wind speed and wind farms are a collection of these turbines spread out across a huge amount of land or on the continental ocean floor. Generally wind farms are owned by private developers but utility companies have started to increase their development as well as it is common business sense.
Each turbine in the wind farm delivers energy to its own power collection system which is then transferred to a collection point where the energy is transformed to match the energy of major transmission lines that transfer power to homes across the world. This is why it is important for wind farms to be located in ideal places where accessibility is not a factor. With the addition of numerous turbines, wind farms can supply more energy but take up more space so it is a give and take but considering the alternative of a coal plant spraying pollution into the environment, wind farms are not that menacing.
Onshore and Offshore Wind Farms
Wind farms have developed a lot onshore in locations where wind speed averages at least 14 mph consistently throughout the year. This allows for barren land that normally would be unused to become wind farms as well as land that is more remote. Onshore wind farms can exist anywhere from flat rolling plains to atop of small mountains which allows the placement of wind farms in different landscapes. Companies all over the world, like Australia’s Pacific Hydro, have invested in onshore wind farms with locations near electric grids.
Offshore wind farms have also increased and many countries have very effective offshore sites including Denmark and the United Kingdom. Offshore drilling faces more difficulties because of placement of the larger turbines into the ocean and creating transmission lines to the desired location which increases overall cost. Offshore wind farms also face harsher storms that can damage turbines as well as corroding from saltwater. However offshore wind farms are generally larger in size, provide more adequate power because of consistent wind speed over the ocean water, and are less obvious because of the distance which also minimizes the sound. With technological improvements both onshore and offshore wind farms should go much smoother in development and production.
Issues With Wind Farms
Like all energy sources, wind farms have negatives as well. First is the sound and lighting produced by the wind farms. Wind farms produce certain types of sounds that people might find unappealing but those that have turbines over 200 ft are required to have aircraft warning lights. This could be bothersome to people and its affect of attracting birds is still debated. For the noise, the AWEA list the noise from a wind farm operating from a distance of 750 to 1000 ft is similar to a car going 40 mph at a distance of 100 meters. Wind farms have also been called eyesores because of the amount of land taken up and the distance wind turbines extend. This massive size has also been dubbed dangerous to certain animals including migratory birds and bats which are killed by flying into the turbines. Another problem is the inconsistency of the wind itself to deliver constant power to the electric grid. This issue should be fixed as technology finally catches up.