The How Wind Power works.

HOW WIND POWER WORKS
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How does wind power work?



In today’s world that is so concerned with saving and reducing energy, and finding alternative methods of producing and utilizing it, wind turbines are become a quite commonplace thing. If you’ve ever driven through the country, or outside of city limits, you may have seen the large fan-like blades, slowly turning and somehow making our world a greener place. But just what are these large tools, and how exactly are they helping make electricity? The large fan-like objects are wind turbines, and they move the air to create wind, which is then converted into energy. And wind turbines are becoming as commonplace as solar panels and these two actually have something very major in common. They both use the Earth’s natural resources to take advantage of renewable resources in unique ways. And, both solar panels and wind turbines begin with the sun.

Wind turbines use the energy in air, which is gas and this energy is known as kinetic energy. Wind turbines absorb and capture this energy just like turbines capture the energy from water in hydroelectric dams. As the blades of the turbine move they pass through energy, which it then grasps onto and moves to the hub in the rotor of the blade. The hub then passes the energy on to the generator. It is the generator that uses the energy to create electricity. But we did say that it all began with the sun, and not actually wind.

In order for the wind to be created, the sun first needs to heat up a large area of a certain piece of land. As the land heats up, the hot air it emits will begin to rise. Because hot air emits so much more pressure than cold air, it begins to move much faster. As the air begins to heat up and move, it does so very quickly. As the hot air rises above the cold air, the cold air then needs to move in to fill in the gap where the hot air once was. Although cold air does not move as quickly as hot air, it still exerts enough pressure to create wind. As the blades of the wind turbine move through this moving air, they absorb the energy and begin the process of moving it to the generator.

It’s true that the wind turbines you see in fields are generally huge structures that seem to be moving at a slow pace, but have capabilities that are sometimes hard to imagine. But these are usually much more modern wind turbines, with a complex system of different parts and features. And although these huge structures may be complex to understand, a simple wind turbine is only made of three different parts: rotor blades; a shaft; and the generator.

The rotor blades are necessary to provide some resistance to the wind. The wind exerts energy trying to force the blades to move. As the wind exerts this energy, the rotor blades absorb it. As the rotor blades start to turn, the shaft begins to move and turn as well. As the shaft turns, it creates energy and moves this energy to the generator. Once inside the generator, the shaft is connected to a series of magnets and these magnets surround a coil wire, which is the conductor. As the magnets face each other around the conductor, they are pulled and attracted to each other. This creates moving energy, which the conductor in the middle then captures. As the shaft begins to spin, it quickly turns the magnets around each other, causing them to be attracted to each other while moving at a high speed, and creating even more energy for the conductor to capture. This process is known as electromagnetic conduction and at its most basic, this is how the generator inside wind turbines work. When generators create this energy, the conductor then turns the energy into electric currents. These currents have high voltage, which is then taken to power lines. Both kinds of modern wind turbine systems basically work on these three basic parts.

The two types of modern wind turbines are horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs), and vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTs.) The second type, VAWTs, is not very common and in fact, there’s only one in the entire world that is currently used for commercial use. That is the Darrieus turbine and it certainly doesn’t look like y our typical wind turbine. It has actually been commonly described as looking much like an egg beater. VAWTs don’t provide resistance to the wind, instead they are actually designed to go somewhat with the wind. The benefit of this type of system is that as the wind direction changes, it doesn’t need to be adjusted at all. However, VAWTs also can’t get begin to move all by themselves, as traditional blades in a HAWT can. They need to be jolted by the system’s electrical current in order for their rotor to begin moving. Also, because the blades are not held high up off of the ground but rather, quite low and perpendicular to it, it is support by wires rather than something to lift it off the ground. Because the rotor can’t then move quickly through the air, the wind is slower. For this reason, VAWTs don’t produce as much energy as HAWTs and it’s because of this that they’re considered to be somewhat inefficient.

Although the Darrieus wind turbine is the only VAWT in commercial operation, there are many smaller scale VAWTs that serve quite a nice purpose. Some households use them to operate a well for their water supply. They also provide a nice alternative to those who have always thought it would be nice to have an energy-producing windmill in their backyard but just didn’t have the space for it. Because they are much smaller and more compact, they may be the answer to household energy one day. However, it’s doubtful that they’ll ever be used for massive commercial use.

Horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs), which are the much more familiar looking towers with rotor blades slowly spinning off of them, are much more popular and are the only wind turbines other than the Darrieus that are made for commercial use. HAWTs are built up away from the ground, making the rotor blades parallel to the ground. HAWTs are always adjusting themselves so that the rotor blades can take as much advantage of the passing wind as possible. The device that’s used to make these adjustments is called the yaw-adjustment mechanism. The yaw system moves the rotor blades back and forth slowly.

Of course, because the HAWTs require large blades that need to move through a lot of air, they need to be high up in the air. This is why they’re placed on towers and is also why it’s so possible for them to move so quickly through the air, no matter how slow it may seem to us on our drive by them. Another advantage to having the rotor blades on a tower high above the ground is that they take up very little ground area. The rotor blades on a HAWT are generally about 260 feet up in the air. The HAWT also consists of the same three basic parts of any wind turbine. However, because they are much more modern devices and do work so much more quickly and efficiently, they do contain a few extra parts. The main parts of a modern HAWT are: the rotor blades; a shaft; a nacelle, which in itself consists of a gearbox, a generator, an electronic control unit, a yaw controller, and brakes. The other two parts of a HAWT are the tower and the electrical equipment.

The rotor blades and the shaft in a modern HAWT work basically the same as they do in the very simplest of wind turbines. The nacelle is a container that holds the generator as well as many other components. These components are: the gearbox, which makes the energy move faster; an electronic control unit that has specific functions such as shutting down the turbine in case of electrical malfunction; the yaw mechanism that we discussed earlier; and brakes, which shut down the turbine in case of malfunction or electronic overload.

The tower on a HAWT you can clearly see when looking at one. This is simply the structure that is used to lift the device off the ground and allow for enough room for the blades to pass through to produce the wind and absorb the wind’s energy. The electrical component of a HAWT is largely used for safety reasons however it also moves electricity down through the generator and to the different controls.

While the rotor blades may just seem like simple blades moving through the air to us, the design on modern rotor blades is very complex and is designed so that the blade can make full use of the wind it captures. And in fact, it’s a complex system of aerodynamics that make the rotor blades work so efficiently. The principle of aerodynamics lies in lift and drag. Lift is what moves with the wind flow and drag is what moves against the wind flow. To understand the design of wind turbine rotor blades, it may be helpful to think of the wing of an airplane, as they have much the same design. One side of the blade has a slightly rounded edge to it, while the other side lies fairly flat. This is known as an airfoil design and it allows the wind to travel over the different sides of the blades at different speeds, therefore efficiently producing as much wind as possible at the highest speeds possible.

Although there are many efficiently run compact wind turbines, size does usually play a major role in how effective and efficient the wind turbine ultimately is. Larger rotor blades have the capacity to capture more wind, and move it more quickly. The higher the height on a wind turbine, is generally considered to be the better as well. This is because the more room the rotor blades have to cut through the air, and capture the energy, the more energy the wind turbine will produce. Also, the rotor blades can move more quickly through the air if they are at a higher height.

Most modern turbines, that have large enough rotor blades and height to do so, produce on average wind power of about 33 miles per hour (mph.) The electrical equipment inside modern wind turbines will usually shut down the turbine if the speed reaches 45mph. The brakes in the wind turbine will be pushed when the wind speed reaches a certain speed. Once the wind has slowed down to 45mph, or the predetermined speed, the brakes will be released and the wind turbine will be able to function properly once again.

Around the world today, wind turbines currently produce about the same amount of energy as 8 nuclear power plants. This not only includes the commercial wind turbines that are currently in use, but also those smaller turbines that are being used in many households. Considering that the average small wind turbine produces about 16,000 kWh per year, and an average household uses about 10,000 kWh, it’s easy to see how beneficial wind turbines are and just how much good they can do for our pocket books as well as the environment. Commercially made wind turbines can produce enough electricity to power up to 600 households every year. Even with all of these benefits however, energy that is produced by nuclear and coal power plants is still cheaper to produce than energy produced by wind turbines.

However, the costs must be weighed against the benefits when talking about wind turbines. The biggest advantages to wind turbines, even considering how much power they output, are that it’s clean and renewable. With wind power, there are no harmful emissions that are being put out into the atmosphere the way there is with coal power. Because wind power can also be generated simply through any piece of land that can be heated, it makes a powerful solution to countries that cannot afford to produce energy through traditional methods, or that currently lie outside of the electrical power grid.

Another negative component of wind turbines is that they cannot always work at full power like other power plants can. This is because the speed of the wind will be continuously different, causing the wind turbine to slow down as well as speed up. People living close to wind turbine power plants have also complained that they can be quite noisy, and they can also pose a threat to bats and birds. There’s also the problem that not all land is ideal to hold wind turbines. Desert land for example, can quickly erode if it is dug up because it is so firm.


Also, because wind speed can never be dictated, a small amount of non-renewable energy must be kept on-hand at all times to ensure that a lack of wind doesn’t cease all electricity from operating. Consider that you lived in a home that was solely operated by wind power. Should the wind die down altogether, and you have no backup source of energy, you will not be able to operate anything electrical in your house. Because wind turbines require this backup source of non-renewable energy, many say that it negates its whole purpose and benefit.

Still, arguing that a device that will capture the Earth’s natural resources and use them to their full benefit, is more detrimental than it is beneficial, is a hard case to make. While wind turbines aren’t anything new, with windmills being common in the days before there were massive commercial power plants, the modern wind turbines are still a relatively new concept. Currently approximately 5% of the power generated in the United States is generated through wind power. And with constant changes and improvements being made on wind turbine design, we’re sure to only see that number rise in the years to come.


Wind Power.

 How Wind Power works.