The inevitable energy crisis can't be postponed. Natural sources will be depleted in the near future and humanity would rely on renewable sources for their increasing energy needs. Wind energy, a form of solar energy, can be used to answer some of our questions regarding energy crunch.
Uses of Wind Energy
Inherently, everything in this Universe is a form of energy. Even the moving wind has sufficient kinetic energy that can be channelized to run a generator. The phenomena of energy conservation governs the working of the Universe. Energy can neither be created nor be destroyed but it can be transferred from one body to the other - this is the key to all processes in this world. Winds are generated when our atmosphere is heated unevenly and lighter air rises to be replaced by other patches of air (that's why it is a type of solar power!). This gives us the feeling of moving wind! Uses of wind energy in this age of advanced technology are specifically focused on generating electricity. Mostly, it is the city outskirts, ranches and coastal areas that are using energy of the wind for primary purposes like irrigation and electricity generation.
Wind Energy Uses: Brief History
The earliest account of uses of wind energy is cited in the Chinese, Babylonians, Persian and Middle East civilizations. Wind energy propelled boats or sailboats were used as means of transport while windmills in China pumped waters for farms and ranches. Extensive use of wind energy became popular in European countries and the Dutch started using windmills for irrigation and production of electricity in the late 19th century. In the US, wind power was harnessed in the ranches, farms and far flung areas to meet energy requirements, grind cereals and pump water. As increase in electricity supplies became popular in the US in the 20th century, windmills disappeared from the scene.
The past couple of decades have seen a tremendous rise in the number of windmills all across the US, owing to the concerns of the global warming. Now wind energy is an economical alternative energy source in most of the countries. According to the U.S. Department of Energy's report published in 2008, the State aims to meet 20% of its electricity requirements through wind energy by the end of 2030.
Most Common Wind Energy Use in This Era: Electricity Production
Understanding the simple use of wind energy is interesting. Electricity production is said to be one of the biggest uses of windmills. In this technology dominated era, traditional windmills have been replaced by specially designed wind turbines to enhance the productivity of electricity generation. The blades of wind turbine capture the wind speed, thereby capturing its kinetic energy. The movement of these blades sets the shafts connected to them in motion, leading to power in a generator that produces electricity. A typical wind turbine consists of blades, shafts, gears, generators and cable.
Here's a step by step procedure on working of power to produce electricity.
- Wind blades are installed on top of the towers. The wind blows the blades and makes them spin.
- Low-speed drive shafts are connected to the wind turbine blades. These low speed shafts are connected to the gearbox that increases the speed of wind blades by making them spin faster.
- The spinning motion of wind blades results due to the presence of high speed wind shaft in the gearbox that are further connected to the generator. The turning of shaft inside the generator leads to electricity production.
- The produced electricity is made available to people through transmission lines and cable.
The electricity produced by a wind turbine is dependent on the size of the wind turbine. Small ones provide electricity for one home while very big turbines can help to produce electricity for nearly 500 to 1,000 homes. In many coastal areas, where wind flow is common in most of the seasons, wind plants (clusters of wind turbines) are established to provide electricity to villages and communities.
Being pollution free, eco-friendly and as a great way to supply electricity to rural areas, wind energy is certainly the best. However, lack of predictability and lots of noise are cited to be some prominent disadvantages of wind turbines. Some people are also of the opinion that wind turbines kill bats and birds. Barring the predictability of winds (some days winds are there and on other days, they may not be present), everything with respect to demerits of wind power can be effectively dealt with. With major players in wind energy like USA, Germany, Denmark, Spain, China and now India making huge investments in the wind energy sector, it can be said that wind energy uses are bound to increase in the coming years.