Renewable Resource

Wind Energy

Wind power is an affordable, efficient and abundant source of domestic electricity. It's pollution-free and cost-competitive with energy from new coal- and gas-fired power plants in many regions. The wind industry has been growing rapidly in recent years. In 2011 alone, 3,464 turbines went up across the United States, and today, American wind generates enough electricity to power more than 11 million homes, creates steady income for investors and landowners, and provides manufacturing, construction and operation jobs for at least 75,000 Americans. A typical 250 MW wind farm (around 100 turbines) will create 1,073 jobs over the lifetime of the project. And by generating additional local and state tax revenues from lease payments, wind farms also have the potential to support other community priorities, such as education, infrastructure, and economic development.

How Wind Energy Works

The wind's kinetic energy can be harnessed by a wind turbine. The wind moves the turbine's blades, which transfer energy through a central hub to a generator. The generator converts this mechanical energy into electrical energy that is then delivered to the power grid.

How Much Wind Energy Cost

According to the U.S. Department of Energy, the cost of wind energy has come down 85 percent in the last 20 years. As of 2010, top performing wind farms in areas with excellent wind resources had costs averaging about 7 cents per kilowatt-hour, making wind the most cost competitive source of non-hydroelectric renewable electricity. Major federal incentives for wind energy include a tax credit for the power a wind turbine generates over its first ten years of operation. This production tax credit expires at the end of 2012, and could take 37,000 renewable energy jobs with it if Congress fails to renew it.

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  • Wind energy produces no polluting emissions of any kind, including those that cause global warming.
  • Wind turbines use a fuel that's free, inexhaustible and immune from the drastic price swings to which fossil fuels are subject.
  • With careful siting and outreach to the local community, wind farms can be built in a fraction of the time it takes to construct coal or natural-gas power plants. A 50-megawatt wind farm can be completed in less than a year.
  • In the right location, it takes only three to eight months for a wind energy farm to recoup the energy consumed by its building and installation -- one of the fastest "energy payback times" of any energy technology on the market.
  • Although bird and bat safety are ongoing concerns, wind power does not contribute to the plethora of other environmental and public health costs caused by conventional fossil power production: acid rain in lakes, mercury in fish, particulate-matter respiratory illnesses, coal mine slag, nuclear waste fuel storage, and so on. The National Academy of Sciences estimates that electricity generation from coal, oil-fueled vehicles and transportation, and electricity production from natural gas caused an estimated $120 billion in damages in 2005, with health-related damages accounting for almost all of these costs.
  • The growing use of wind energy creates manufacturing and technical jobs, and significantly more jobs per dollar invested compared to non-renewables technology, according to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory.
  • Wind power consumes no water during operation. This will be an increasingly important attribute as the water-energy nexus grows in importance and as water use becomes an increasingly important facet of defining sustainability.
  • Disadvantages

    However, there are some disadvantages which may put a dampener in its popularity. Though the costs of creating it is going down, even today a large number of turbines have to be built to generate a proper amount. Though wind power is non-polluting, the turbines may create a lot of noise, which indirectly contributes to noise pollution. Wind can never be predicted. Even the most advanced machinery may come out a cropper while predicting weather and wind conditions. Since it will require knowledge of the weather and wind conditions on long-term basis, it may be a bit impractical. Therefore, in areas where a large amount of energy is needed, one cannot depend completely on wind. Many potential wind farms, places where wind energy can be produced on a large-scale, are far away places. Therefore, the economical nature may take a beating in terms of costs of new substations and transmission lines. It can't be dispatched. This may also put a spanner in depending upon wind power as a primary energy supplier. Wind energy depends upon the wind in an area and therefore is a variable source of energy. The amount of wind supplied to a place and the amount of energy produced from it will depend on various factors like wind speeds and the turbine characteristics. Some critics also wonder whether it can be used in areas of high demand.

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    Where Wind is Generated

    The first municipal use of multiple wind-electric turbines in the USA may have been a five turbine system in Pettibone, North Dakota in 1940. These were commercial Wincharger units on guyed towers.[15]

    In 1980 the world's first wind farm, consisting of twenty 30 kW wind turbines was installed at Crotched Mountain, in New Hampshire.[16]

    From 1974 through the mid-1980s the United States government worked with industry to advance the technology and enable large commercial wind turbines. A series of NASA wind turbines were developed under a program to create a utility-scale wind turbine industry in the U.S., with funding from the National Science Foundation and later the United States Department of Energy (DOE). A total of 13 experimental wind turbines were put into operation, in four major wind turbine designs. This research and development program pioneered many of the multi-megawatt turbine technologies in use today, including: steel tube towers, variable-speed generators, composite blade materials, partial-span pitch control, as well as aerodynamic, structural, and acoustic engineering design capabilities.

    Later, in the 1980s, California provided tax rebates for wind power. These rebates funded the first major use of wind power for utility electricity. These machines, gathered in large wind parks such as at Altamont Pass would be considered small and un-economic by modern wind power development standards. In 1985 half of the world's wind energy was generated at Altamont Pass. By the end of 1986 about 6,700 wind turbines, mostly less than 100 kW, had been installed at Altamont, at a cost of about $1 billion, and generated about 550 million kWh/year.

    In terms of installed wind power capacity, the United States is currently second only to China.[19] As of 31 December 2012 (2012-12-31)[update], the top five states with the most wind capacity installed are:

    • Texas
    • California
    • Iowa
    • Illinois
    • Oregon
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