How Do They Work
Wind And The Environment
Wind Power Plants
WIND POWER PLANTS
Wind power plants, or wind farms as they are sometimes called, are clusters of wind machines used to produce electricity. A wind farm usually has dozens of wind machines scattered over a large area. The Big Spring Wind Power Project in Texas has 46 wind turbines that generate enough electricity to power 7,300 homes.
Unlike power plants, many wind plants are not owned by public utility companies. Instead they are owned and operated by business people who sell the electricity produced on the wind farm to electric utilities. These private companies are known as Independent Power Producers.
Operating a wind power plant is not as simple as just building a windmill in a windy place. Wind plant owners must carefully plan where to locate their machines. One important thing to consider is how fast and how much the wind blows.
As a rule, wind speed increases with altitude and over open areas with no windbreaks. Good sites for wind plants are the tops of smooth, rounded hills, open plains or shorelines, and mountain gaps that produce wind funneling.
Wind speed varies throughout the country. It also varies from season to season. In Tehachapi, California, the wind blows more from April through October than it does in the winter. This is because of the extreme heating of the Mojave Desert during the summer months. The hot air over the desert rises, and the cooler, denser air above the Pacific Ocean rushes through the Tehachapi mountain pass to take its place. In a state like Montana, on the other hand, the wind blows more during the winter. Fortunately, these seasonal variations are a good match for the electricity demands of the regions. In California, people use more electricity during the summer for air conditioners. In Montana, people use more electricity during the winter months for heating.