Wind power is a kind of solar energy. Wind is made by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun and the spinning motion of the earth. The earth’s vegetation, terrain and bodies of water change wind patterns.
We use wind power for lots of purposes including sailing, flying kites and generating electricity. The terms wind energy and wind power are used to describe the process of generating electricity from the wind.
Nobody knows who invented wind power or when it was invented, but whoever was responsible came up with a mighty handy idea. One of the first methods used to create wind power was to sew together animal skins that acted as sails. Then as it was modified over time, people made the "blades" out of big squares of cloth. The wind would push against the squares of cloth causing them to turn and this motion was used to grind grain into flour.
The first windmills probably began in A.D. 600's in Persia, which is now Iran.
Now we have HUGE wind turbine farms around the world that in 2001 produced enough electricity to power around ten million homes.
All wind turbines have a few things in common. They all stand at least 100 feet off the ground so that they can catch the rapid, consistent winds except for “eggbeater” turbines that harness ground winds. All other turbines have rotors and three blades making them look like big fans. As the blades spin, they connect to a generator box that produces electricity. Because wind turbines only generate electricity when the wind blows, people need to find a way to store energy to use when the wind is not blowing or use wind in connection with other fuel sources.
The advantages of wind power are that it is a clean, renewable resource, it doesn’t pollute the air, there is plenty to go around and it is cheap. Disadvantages of wind power are that there is a higher initial investment than there is with fossil fuel energy, the wind doesn’t always blow when needed, and we don’t have very good ways to store it yet. The turbines can also be noisy and birds can get killed in the rotor blades. Good sites are usually far from cities where most energy is needed.
Wind is a renewable resource that is constantly recycled in nature. The use of wind power helps to conserve our natural resources and maintain the beauty of our environment. We need to take advantage of our natural gifts. The result will be a lasting supply of energy for people and a healthier future for our planet.
Five countries make up 80% of the world’s wind energy supply. These countries are Germany, USA, Denmark, Spain, and India.
Denmark has been using wind power since the 1890’s. Even the USA used it until the 1940’s when fossil fuel became so inexpensive. Now the USA is again making more efforts to use wind power.
India ranks 5th in the world in wind power production and use. The states of Tamilnadu and Gujarat lead in the field of wind energy. India saved more than 3.7 million tons of coal by using wind power.
Australian scientists have developed gyromills. Gyromills are highflying wind turbines tied to the ground by cables. They catch
the energy of the jet stream.
Mexico is one of the leading buyers of wind power equipment. Mexico currently is not a major user of wind power, but there have been many new programs to increase their use of wind. The National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) is working with Mexico’s National Commission for Energy Services to promote projects. NREL’s resource mapping for wind capacity has revealed over 6000 MW (megawatts) of useable wind energy in the isthmus region of Oaxaca (a Mexican state) alone. Mexico’s energy regulator, CRE, has approved a 250MW wind power self-supply generation project. This park would have 300 turbines and generate an estimated 876GW (gigawatts) a year. The goal is to have this park up and running by the year 2010.
Holland has been using windmills to move water to keep the country from flooding for many years.
Turbine – An engine with a shaft and blades attached.
Eggbeater Turbine - Named for their unusual shape which looks like a huge stretched out rubber band. Back
Renewable Resource – A material that increases over time. Back
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Dennis, Landt. Catch the Wind; a Book of Windmills and Wind Power. New York: Four Winds Press. 1976.
Petersen, Christine. A True Book: Wind Power. New York: Children’s Press. 2004.
Smith, Norman F. Wind Power. New York: Coward, McCann, and Geoghegan Inc. 1981.
"Advancing Clean Energy Use in Mexico." NREL International Programs. 19 March 2007 <http://www.nrel.gov/international>.
"Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy; Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program." U.S. Department of Energy. 6 February 2007.
"Regulator Green Lights Eurus 250MW Wind Project - Mexico." National Wind Watch. 19 March 2007
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"Wind With Miller." Danish Wind Industry Association. 23 February 2007 <http://www.windpower.org/composite-106.htm>.
Permission to use photographs of windmill and eggbeater turbine is granted under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License or pictures are in the public domain from Wikipedia, the Free Encyclopedia. 6 January 2007 - 2 February 2007 <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_Page>.
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