Tapping into our planet’s renewable energy sources might be the key to preserving the Earth’s natural resources.
While harvesting renewable energy sources, we are also helping to preserve the planet, as the large plants that generate our electricity are well-known for polluting.
Wind power is one source of renewable energy, but there aren’t many people who fully understand how it works. If you ever wondered about how wind energy is related to solar energy, or how humans can harvest it and convert it to electricity, let us show you!
How Is Wind Formed?
Believe it or not, wind energy comes from the sun. That’s right! Solar energy is converted into wind.
The simple explanation is that the Earth’s atmosphere isn’t heated evenly by the sun.
As you know, the sun’s radiations are responsible for warming different water bodies all across the surface of the planet.
The rates of warmth differ from one region to another, just as the temperatures during the day and night.
Both water and land absorb the sun’s light in different quantities but also reflect it differently. As a result, the atmosphere is unevenly heated, which causes hot air to rise. As the hot air rises, cool air is drawn to the surface of the Earth, to replace it.
The wind is the result of this air exchange. Naturally, with these explanations in mind, it becomes obvious why wind is more powerful in other regions, and is so dependent on microclimates. Wind is widely spread across hilltops, coastlines, and high altitudes.
What Are Wind Turbines?
Wind is a renewable source of energy, which means that humans are looking for advanced ways of harvesting it and turning it into power. One of the most popular man-made inventions for harvesting wind energy is a wind turbine.
Wind turbines convert the power of the wind into mechanical energy, which is then used to create electricity. A wind turbine is basically a conversion device, which has two basic forms:
- Vertical-axis wind turbines look like a huge eggbeater.
- Horizontal-axis wind turbines are similar to giant propellers (and they are also the most common ones found today).
There are lots of components required to make a wind turbine work, such as the rotor, the nacelle, the mainframe, the tower, the tail, the inverter, electrical cables, power disconnect devices, and others. But, three of them are important to remember if you want to get a big picture of how a wind turbine works:
- The rotor, which is also known as the blade, is the element that converts wind power to rotational shaft energy.
- The drivetrain is a mechanism that includes a generator and a gearbox.
- The tower is the main body of the wind turbine, which houses the other components.
Once kinetic wind energy has been converted into electricity, it travels to a power grid, which can then be redirected by electric utility companies to households.
The distribution lines are means of transporting electricity from wind farms to larger transmission lines.
When an area has a large number of wind turbines built close to one another, they form a wind farm. Such a wind farm can be considered a power plant that fuels a particular grid with electricity.
The Ups & Downs
Harvesting wind energy and converting it into electricity has its ups and downs, of course. The biggest and most important advantage is that we’re dealing with a renewable source of energy that can never be tapped out.
Wind is a constant source of energy and can provide electricity that’s clean, and doesn’t pollute. Your typical power plant will always be a threat to the environment, because of its air pollutants. Wind energy, on the other hand, doesn’t emit any greenhouse gases, and is eco-friendly.
As far as disadvantages go, the major problem is the initial investment required to harvest wind energy at a level where it can supply the masses with electricity.
Harvesting wind energy requires a massive upfront investment in infrastructure, even more, compared to what fossil-fuel generators need.
While it may be a sustainable way of producing electricity in the long run, there’s a lot of machinery required to reach that level, but wind costs are highly competitive compared to technologies that require fuel purchase.
There are a few environmental concerns related to harvesting wind energy, such as the fact that wind turbines are very noisy. Some activists are concerned with the fact that the rotor blades might kill birds.
Another important thing to consider is that wind is not a constant, and while it may be predicted in some areas, it won’t always blow each time electricity is needed.
Naturally, not every wind that blows on the face of the Earth can be converted into electricity. Keep in mind that there are remote locations that make good wind sites, but they are scarce compared to those that aren’t.
Wind Turbines vs. Windmills
When hearing about wind turbines, people think of the old Dutch buildings surrounded by fields of tulips. Windmills have been around for centuries, and they may be visually similar to wind turbines. But windmills were constructed to turn the wind’s energy into mechanical energy, which was then used to pump water or grind grain.
Windmills did have their role, but they didn’t have the mechanisms to convert wind energy into electricity. Wind turbines do not have more than 8,000 parts that work together to collect wind energy and convert it into electricity.
Harvesting wind energy is a field that still requires a lot of study and even more investments.
But using the Earth’s renewable resources through manmade harvesting mechanisms (such as wind turbines, solar panels, etc.) may be the best way to save what’s left of our planet.