[Paleopsych] More on wind power
shovland at mindspring.com
Fri Aug 19 14:50:48 UTC 2005
Harnessing the power of the wind using modern wind generators is one of the
most popular sources for green power. Wind is created when the sun's rays
cause temperature and air density differences between two or more air
masses on the earth's surface. To equalize these pressure differences, air
is drawn to a new location, creating wind. Other geographic factors affect
the speed of the wind and its consistency.
Wind power is becoming an economically attractive energy source because of
rising fuel costs, such as gas, coal and nuclear energy. It is also an
environmentally attractive source of power because wind generators don't
pollute the air or water. Extracting electric power from the wind requires
the right site, a reliable machine and the flexibility of the power system
to adapt to a capricious air stream.
Evolution of wind technology: Wind power technology has advanced in recent
years from smaller, single home generators, to larger, high-powered
machines of several hundred kilowatts suitable for mass deployment in
megawatt-scale machines. Sitting on towers as tall as a 20-story building,
these wind plants often have blades 300 feet long from tip to tip. Several
wind generators are often clustered together to create wind farms.
California has been a leader in using wind power, due to their available
wind resources in mountain regions, and their expanding need for
electricity. Wind energy supplies one percent of the state's electricity.
California's wind plants extend over more than 27,000 acres, yet only 10-15
percent of the area is actually occupied by the turbines. The blustery
region just east of the San Francisco Bay area boosts more wind turbines
than anywhere else in the world, nearly half of the state's total.
The basic principles of wind turbines is fairly straightforward. A typical
wind power system consists of a generator, blades, steel tower,
meteorological equipment and on-site controls. Most wind generators require
utility power to start and are subject to local rules/regulations.
Drawbacks/dangers of wind machines: Windmills can be noisy because blade
tips can approach the speed of sound; many turbine blades must be regularly
scrubbed to avoid impairment of aerodynamic efficiency; large wind farms
need expansive tracts of land; wind is intermittent and as wind speeds drop
below eight mph, electricity generation stops; rotor blades could possibly
kill or injure migratory birds.
Several electric utilities and communities have recently launched wind
Traverse City Mich. supplies power to 170 homes and businesses, which pay
an additional 1.58 cents per kilowatt-hour, or about $7.58 per month. Their
wind generator features 144-foot long blades perched on a 160-foot tower.
With winds in that area averaging about 14.5 mph, it generates about 1.2
million kilowatt hours of electricity a year, enough for about 200 homes.
In 1993, Iowa's Waverly Light & Power installed and began operating an
80-kilowatt wind generator for a population of 9,000. The $129,000 system
demonstrates how a small utility can own and operate wind generation. Alta,
Iowa also broke ground in 1998 for a $200 million wind farm with 259,750
kilowatt turbines, the largest in the U.S. to date.
Great River Energy in Minnesota (formerly United Power & Cooperative
Power). This power supplier began by pre-selling 3,750 "blocks" of wind
generated power to interested consumers (1 block = 100 kilowatt-hours).
Businesses and home owners have contracted to pay $2 extra per month for
each 100-kWh block of green power that they use. Now that all the needed
energy has been sold, Great River is building the $1.7 million wind farm in
Altamont Pass and two smaller wind farms, all located in California,
produced enough energy to power a city the size of San Francisco. That's
2.8 billion kWh of electricity, or the equivalent of about 5 million
barrels of oil.
One California-based turbine manufacturer, U.S. Windpower, joined forces
with Iowa-Illinois Gas & Electric to set up wind farms on agricultural
land. This will generate about 250 megawatts for area utilities and benefit
Marshall (MN) Municipal Utilities and Minnesota Windpower worked and
installed five 12-kilowatt (kW) wind turbines on city property, to serve
Wind resources throughout the U.S. in relation to physical characteristic
Highest wind energy (class 7): Alaska (the Aleutian Islands and coastal
areas of western Alaska. Also producing high winds are isolated areas in
Hawaii and the Pacific Islands and isolated, high mountain summits and
ridge crests in portions of the eastern and western U.S.
High averages of wind energy resources include (class 4 or higher): Great
Plains, from the Texas panhandle and western Oklahoma to North Dakota and
western Minnesota; southern Wyoming; Northwestern Montana plains; the
Atlantic coast from North Carolina to Maine; the Pacific coast from Point
Conception, California to Washington; the Gulf Coast along southern Texas;
much of the Great Lakes shorelines; portions of Alaska, Hawaii, Puerto
Rico, Virgin Islands, and Pacific Island; exposed ridge crests and mountain
summits throughout the Appalachians and western U.S.; and isolated wind
corridors such as the Columbia River gorge in Oregon and Washington and San
Gorgonio Pass in California.
The future of wind power:
Wind power will not provide a reliable contribution to the energy mix until
we can store excess electricity generated on windy days for use when the
wind doesn't blow. However,
Wind energy's environmental benefits, coupled with dramatic cost reductions
in turbines and an increase in their reliability, are causing increases in
wind projects being proposed to decision-makers and communities throughout
the United States.
For more information, available publications on wind power include:
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