Wind power has been used by people throughout history and converted into usable energy. Small windmills have been providing power for rural homes throughout the world since almost a hundred years ago. They were used for powering water pumps and also converted the wind into usable electricity for homes.
In the 1930’s, programs to bring electricity to more remote areas extended the electrical grid system to these areas causing windmill generated power to gradually be replaced by electricity generated by power stations which burnt fossil fuels such as oil and coal to generate electricity. This eventually caused the disappearance of windmills in rural areas.
However, in recent times, new more modern and advanced wind machines are beginning to appear on the landscape of many regions of the world. Discovery of windy rural areas has enabled people to harness the power of the wind in much larger quantities than ever before. Through technology, it is possible to now generate clean, cost-effective, and renewable energy. This could range from a single turbine powering a single landowner’s home and facilities, to large scale wind farms which could supply power to the grid itself and in turn provide electrical needs to hundreds of homes. Advancement of technology and it declining cost makes wind generated electricity more competitive with fossil fuel generated electricity. The cost of wind-generated electricity has decreased greatly since the beginning, and it is estimated that wind power supply ten to twenty percent of electricity needs in the United States could within three to four decades.
Wind energy has many advantages, for example, the wind is free and with modern technology, it can be captured efficiently. The Wind is naturally produced when there are pressure differences in the air above the earth’s surface. When air gets heated up, it rises creating a low-pressure area. Cooler, high-pressure air from the surroundings the rush in the take its place. This creates wind. This is especially true in coastal areas due to the fact that water takes longer to heat up as compared to air, therefore resulting in a great difference in pressure between the air above the water and land, which results in exceptionally strong winds. Mountainous areas also have strong winds that could potentially power wind turbines. As different slopes are heated at different times of the day, pressure differences are created in the mountain range creating the wind. In certain instances, the shape of the mountains and valleys may also act as a funnel, causing the wind to accelerate to a higher speed as the approach these areas.
Although wind turbines often reach up to above 50 meters tall, each single turbine only takes up a small plot of land. This is due to the advancement of technology where thanks to modern materials and designs. Wind turbine towers are and with space aged materials which are strong and light and designed to have minimum drag resistance. Also because turbines have to be spaced a certain distance from each other, the land in between them can still be used for other purposes such as farming or even for building homes.
Remote areas which are located far away from the main power grid can use wind turbines to produce their own electricity. Just a few wind turbines could potentially supply power to a small community located far away from the power grid, saving the cost of extending the grid to the community. Wind turbines are also available in many different sizes. This means that people from all walks of life can make use of wind turbines be it for personal use to supply electricity to a single home or to supply power to business or even small town or villages.
As the wind occurs all over the world, there is no place in the world that the power of wind cannot be harvested. This could be an advantage for third world countries where there is no electricity supply. Since wind turbines only require an initial start-up cost and minimal maintenance cost, it could be possible to provide electricity for poorer settlements or countries.
However, the strength of wind will almost never be constant. It varies from nothing at all to storm force. This implies that wind turbines will not be able to produce consistent electricity at all times. There will even be times when it produces on energy at all. Due to this, the wind turbine has to be located in a location where there is enough wind so that it would be able to run at energy producing speeds for most of the year. For this to happen, many factors have to be taken into consideration. Wind speed data has to be recorded for a specific location at least a year to ensure that the wind conditions would be suitable for building a wind turbine. Other factors that have to be considered include any obstacles that the wind may encounter before it is able to reach the turbine such as buildings and trees.
Many people also feel that the countryside should not be spoilt by building large structures would reduce the aesthetic appeal of the environment. Conservationists also oppose the building of wind farms for fear that they may kill of interfering with wildlife such as migratory routes of birds.
During the manufacture of wind turbines, pollution is also produced in the form of energy consumed for fabrication of materials and pollution produced by vehicles used during the transportation and building of the turbines. Therefore it cannot be said that wind power produces no pollution at all.
After considering both advantages and disadvantages of wind turbines, I have come to the conclusion that although it is impractical and unrealistic to supply the entire world’s power with wind power, it is a highly efficient way of harnessing “free” energy from the environment. If as much available space as possible were to be used as wind farms, coupled with other renewable energy sources such as solar, biofuels, and hydroelectric power was used to substitute fossil fuels whenever possible, then the impact on the environment would be greatly lessened. This would greatly reduce the usage of fossil fuels, thus giving researchers more time to come up with solutions to the world’s energy needs without relying on fossil fuels which will eventually run out and also how to reduce the load of burning fossil fuels on the environment.