Wind farm is a term given to a collection of wind turbines in one geographical location that are used to harvest wind to produce clean usable energy. A large wind farm can supply power to roughly 400,000 homes. This makes wind farming a desirable way of producing clean electricity; however, impacts to the ecosystem make it dangerous for birds and species alike. Wind farms have made substantial innovations from their original counterparts, but still have many drawbacks to them. To eliminate these issues engineers around the world are coming up with new solutions to harness the power of the wind. These clean energy production efforts are all aimed at reducing the impacts current practices have on the Earth’s changing climate.
Wind farming has been around since the early beginning of civilization, however; the industrial wind farms we know today came about in the 1970’s. Wind turbines are carefully engineered so that they are always operating at top efficiency. The rotation of the blades creates friction among coils in the turbine the energy created is increased using a series of gears and electricity is produced. The electricity produced is direct current and must be converted to alternating current, so it runs through a transformer. The electrical current then travels to a sub station where it is spread on to the grid.
Wind power harvesting is a growing industry and shows much potential for providing the world’s energy needs. Wind has the potential to produce five times the amount of electricity the United States currently uses. One of the drawbacks to these wind farms is the amount of space needed to produce large amounts of electricity. Wind speeds vary greatly on land in the U.S. the great plain states, which are centrally located proved to have the strongest winds.
Many developers are looking to moving wind farming operations off-shore. Moving operations off-shore provides ample space and eliminates the visual and sound annoyance the turbines create. Wind speeds are also more consistent. These off-shore turbines still have an effect on birds, however; they are building them so they don’t impact sea life. California’s first ocean based wind farm will be 15 miles off the coast and they will be designed to float. They realize the impact of ramming pylons into the ocean floor and how it would affect aquatic life. This is why the turbines will be big and be able float they also will have slow moving blades to help prevent bird deaths.
A major issue with wind farms is the land usage that is required. The space needed varies on the location and size of the turbines. Wind turbines that are placed on hilly areas take up a lot less space. Turbines placed on flat areas require spacing of 5 to 10 rotor diameters. Off-shore wind farms require much more space due to the fact the turbines are much larger. The second biggest issue with wind farms is its impact on habitats. Turbines are greatly impacting bird and bat populations. In particular, the Golden Eagle. Habitat researchers are studying these raptors to determine how they use the landscape and how they move through the air. Having this information gives hope in make better judgment on where wind turbines should be placed and hopefully save bird the populations. Thirdly is the issue with public well being. Wind Turbines are not always the most visually appealing to look at and they also generate a noise that can be disrupting. The noises are both mechanical and aerodynamic created by turbine blades in the wind. They also create what is known as shadow flicker, which occurs in certain lighting. This can be cured through methods such as planning trees. Studies have shown that there are no direct health issues related to wind turbines. The fourth issue is the CO2 emission produced from the manufacturing and transportation of the turbines.
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The future of wind farms is significantly influenced by the current impact they have on the environment. Developers are looking to gain as much power output as possible from the futuristic turbines.
Bladeless turbines work much differently in the way they capture wind. These new turbines use what is known as vorticity, which is an effect that occurs when fluid meets a solid structure. These bladeless turbines don’t produce as much electricity as its counterpart, however; it is possible to fit twice as many in the same area of current turbines. There are still many unknown variables about these new turbines, and it is unforeseen whether there will be just as many environmental impacts as current turbines. It is believed that bladeless turbines would be much cheaper to produce.
There are engineers that are looking to the sky where the wind in many cases is much stronger. These turbines would be integrated into blimps that are anchored to the ground with heavy cables. The blimps could be made of much cheaper materials than that of today’s land based wind turbines. Many of the people in favor of the project wanted to locate the turbines in the jet stream high in the sky to produce the most power. This causes a lot of concern for passenger aircraft and instead these wind turbines will be at a much lower altitude.
A futuristic concept is Windstalks, which are carbon fiber poles that are 180 feet tall. This eliminates the spinning blades and generates electricity by the swaying motion of the pole. There are electrodes placed between the discs of the pole and when pinched the friction builds it generates power. At the top of the pole is an LED light which lights up accordingly to how much energy it produces. If the pole is not producing power, then the LED does not glow. The project is still in concepts mode and the actual design of the Windstalks is unclear.
Other closely related articles in this wiki include:
- Farming the Wind: Wind Power and Agriculture. (n.d.). Retrieved January 30, 2016, from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/smart-energy-solutions/increase-renewables/farming-the-wind-wind-power.html
- Exploratorium. (2012, September 13). Science in the City: Altamont Wind Farms. Retrieved from https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NfOZjsOaqSQ
- Rogers, P., & Group, B. A. N. (2015, November 8). California’s first offshore wind farm proposed near Morro Bay. Retrieved January 30, 2016, from http://www.dailynews.com/environment-and-nature/20151108/californias-first-offshore-wind-farm-proposed-near-morro-bay
- Environmental Impacts of Wind Power. (2013, March 5). Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/our-energy-choices/renewable-energy/environmental-impacts-wind-power.html
- Grover, S. (2015, October 2). Are bladeless turbines the future of wind energy? Retrieved February 9, 2016, from http://www.mnn.com/green-tech/research-innovations/stories/are-bladeless-turbines-future-wind-energy
- Perkins, S. (2014, November 20). Wind power is looking up — to the clouds | Science News for Students. Retrieved February 15, 2016, from https://student.societyforscience.org/article/wind-power-looking-to-the-clouds
- Quick, D. (2010, August 13). Windstalk concept is a wind farm without the turbines. Retrieved March 1, 2016, from http://www.gizmag.com/windstalk-concept/16647/
Relevant online sources to this wiki article include:
- Night warming effect over large wind farms - by Eoearth
- Wind power - by Eoearth
- EROI - by Eoearth
- Department of Energy - by DoE
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