Wind Power – The Door To a Healthier Future
Nobody is a permanent resident on the surface of the earth. Therefore, everyone is responsible for ensuring that the planet has sufficient resources for the future, like how the previous generations have passed it on to the current one. Due to drastic lifestyle changes, people have grown more dependent on non-renewable resources. This dependence has wreaked havoc today as the risk of diseases due to various pollution types looms over the entire generation. The only way forward would be to adopt practices that involve renewable sources of energy with the present situation.
The importance of renewable energy
The different sources of energy on this planet are classified as renewable or non-renewable. Sources like fossil fuels are called non-renewable as there is only a limited amount of it present on the earth. On the other hand, renewable sources of energy would never get exhausted irrespective of usage. Wind power and solar energy are popular sources of renewable energy. Why is using renewable resources needed today more than ever?
- Environmental impact: Most of the resources are primarily used to generate electricity. Unlike non-renewable ones, renewable resources can produce electricity without causing harm to the environment.
- Self-sufficiency: Today, many countries import fuels as their lands are not abundant in oils. Dependence on renewable resources would make nations self-sufficient.
- Better economy: Extracting resources from renewable energy sources is a labor-intensive process. Thus, it will create more jobs, which will, in turn, contribute to the economy.
- Stable, affordable costs: Due to the nature of renewable resources, they are available at inexpensive costs. Also, unlike fuel prices, the prices of these resources will not fluctuate.
- Fewer power disruptions: By using renewable energy resources, it is possible to generate power locally. It means that places will no longer depend on remote grids for electricity. Lesser the load, the fewer the disruptions.
Unlike fuel oils, renewable energy resources are not highly concentrated in a single place. They are well distributed. Therefore, ease of access to renewable resources is yet another advantage. Today, several countries in the developing world have rural areas depending on resources from far urban places. If renewable energy resources are used, this dependence reduces. Resources like wind energy, solar power, and geothermal energy help build an overall resilient energy system. With drastic changes due to climate change, we are suffering and making other organisms suffer as well. The usage of renewable resources is the first step towards controlling the damage.
How is wind power generated?
It is a popularly used renewable resource. Here, the wind is used to generate electricity. Equipment known as a wind turbine is used for the same.
The process of wind power generation
A wind turbine consisting of three rotors that resemble propeller blades is used. When wind flows across the rotor, it creates a difference in air pressure between the rotor’s two sides. This difference causes the rotor blades to spin. The kinetic energy produced here is converted to electricity by connecting the turbine to a generator.
Installation of turbines
Wind turbines can be installed in various places. The place must satisfy a condition – it should have a minimum threshold of wind. Wind turbines are usually set up at a higher level because they are more powerful as one moves higher up. Which are the places where wind turbines can be installed?
- Land-based turbines
A large area is cleared for the purpose. Then, several turbines are installed and grouped. The setup is called a wind plant or a wind farm. The size of these turbines start with 100 KWs and can go up to megawatts. Grouping several large turbines are useful to generate power in bulk and supply it to the electrical grid.
- Off-shore turbines
These turbines use strong winds from the ocean. They are made up of several small components that can be transported to the site for installation. These turbines are generally more enormous than the land-based ones. They can generate massive amounts of energy.
Apart from land-based and off-shore turbines, hybrid farms can be established for smaller industries and remote residential areas.
Types of turbines used for wind power
Two different types of turbines can be used to harness wind energy.
- It has a design that is similar to a windmill. It has rotor blades that spin on a horizontal axis.
- Turbines of this type have a strong base.
- The rotor shaft is installed high atop the tower, exposing the blades to strong winds.
- The blades should be pointed in the direction of the wind.
- Horizontal-axis turbines are efficient as the blades are positioned perpendicular to the wind.
- Due to better strength and efficiency, the turbines can produce more energy than the vertical-axis ones.
- Construction of this type of turbine is a challenge as the tower should be strong enough to support the blades’ weight.
- The machine may fail if strong downward winds blow.
- In this type, there a vertical rotor, and blades are attached to its top and bottom.
- The primary advantage of this design is it can produce energy irrespective of the wind direction.
- Construction and maintenance are easy as its rotor is closer to the ground level.
- Vertical-axis turbines are better for regions with unpredictable winds.
- However, since the winds are slower near lower altitudes, lesser energy is generated.
- These turbines have a higher vibration and can be noisy.
While the above two are the primary classifications, there are other types, too, based on the designs developed by various researchers. Some of the commonly used turbine models are Savonius, flapping panel, Darrieus, and Giromill wind turbines. The differences in the designs of these turbines make them suitable for different places.
Benefits of wind power
Wind power requires elaborate planning and installation. What are the benefits of installing the system?
- Affordable: Land-based wind turbines are one of the cheapest ways to produce electricity. The cost is not bound to increase, like fuel prices, as the supply will not drop.
- A large amount of energy: compared to other renewable resources, wind power can generate massive amounts of energy.
- Clean resource: Generating electricity using wind does not produce CO2. Thus it is a non-polluting resource. Wind turbines help preserve the natural beauty of the earth.
- Job opportunities: Installation and maintenance of these systems will create a large number of job opportunities.
- Recyclable: New models of wind turbines have been developed. Most of the materials used to construct the turbine can be recycled, leaving little or no waste.
- Self-reliant: Installation of wind turbines would make everyone self-dependent in terms of energy. As every small business becomes independent, so does the country.
- Animal-friendly: Unlike fossil fuels, wind energy generally does not directly or indirectly harm animals or their habitats.
- Water conservation: As water scarcity is becoming a big issue in various parts of the world, wind energy, which hardly consumes water, can help save water resources.
- Satisfied customers: Most of the customers who stay near wind farms and consume wind energy positively describe their experience.
- Healthy citizens: As wind power does not cause air pollution, respiratory diseases’ risk of inhaling harmful gases reduces.
- No need for subsidies: The industry is capable of surviving without monetary support from the government.
In countries where wind energy has been adopted, the citizens and their leaders support continuing its use. Fossil fuels come with a cost. As the demand is rising, fossil fuel reserves are getting depleted. Along with reducing supply, fossil fuels also affect the air quality of the region. For a safer and healthier future, switching to efficient renewable resources such as wind energy is a smart move.
Challenges in wind power generation
No system/industry is perfect. Thus, wind power is also not devoid of limitations. Especially as the industry is still in its nascent stage, there is a lot of ongoing research. Despite its many advantages, the system also faces some challenges. Some of them are detailed here.
- Noise: Some designs of wind turbines can be noisy when they operate. Although pollution is lesser than other resources, noise is still a concern.
- Initial costs: The cost of installation has to compete with that of cheaper non-renewable resources.
- Land area: Consumption of electricity is more in cities. But cities may not have enough land area to install wind farms.
- The local climate: There could be places where there is not sufficient wind to install turbines. In such cases, alternative renewable resources would be of use.
As compared to a few years ago, the cost of wind energy has reduced today. But it still has to compete with cheaper but more harmful alternatives. Also, landowners may not find installing wind turbines as the most effective way to use their land. Another problem with rotating turbines is that it could harm birds. A small percentage of birds have got caught and died while flying across wind farms. As human beings, the instinct is to strive for better. Thus, renewable energy scientists from different regions of the world are conducting extensive research to eliminate or control wind power limitations.