Saturday, February 14, 2009

Listen To The Wind

Wind generators are one of the most reliable forms of alternative power sources on the planet.

They manufacture power by transforming the kinetic energy of the wind into mechanical energy.

This energy is then either harnessed directly (in the case of windmills, for example, which were once used to change wheat into flour, or to pump water for farming) or coupled to a generator that creates a direct current that can be used in a more general sense.

In this article I will be talking about the type of wind generators that produce electric energy, as this is more useful to us in our daily lives.

Wind turbines are basically large windmills, with gigantic blades that rotate in the wind and produce power from the conversion of the wind’s force. Wind turbines are made of plastic, aluminum, steel and numerous other space-age metals.

Wind turbines do have a few negative effects on the environment.

One such negative effect is sight pollution. Wind turbines are very visible and quite unsightly because they must be put in proximity to windy, open terrain to be useful.

Wind turbines also require a great deal of energy in their manufacture. This energy is typically fossil-based, and it can take up to five years before wind tunnels are positive in terms of total carbon emissions.

Wind turbines also are linked to the mauling of rare species of birds. Birds have been mutilated as they passed through the turbine fans during migration.

Despite all of the downsides, however, wind turbines should be a choice when talking about a broad plan for renewable energy.

Once erected, wind turbines are amazingly efficient in a larger sense. They generate power from a natural, eco-friendly renewable resource, without the hidden social or environmental penalties that we incur with the use of fossil fuels.

There is no need to mine for fuel or to transport it; there are no global warming pollutants created and no need to store, process or dispose of toxic wastes.

At the low end of the scale, turbines can be as tiny as 5 feet in diameter and are capable of only a few hundred watts.

On the high end of the spectrum, turbines can be as big as 300 feet in diameter and are capable of generating two to five megawatts of power.

As with photovoltaic solar power generation, there might be rebates available for construction of wind turbines, and excess energy can be sold back to the power company.

Wind velocity is affected by topography and increases with height above the ground, so wind turbines are generally installed on top of large towers.

In a typical application, the wind turbine sits on top of a tall tower and generates low voltage direct current, which is used to charge a battery store.

This stored potential energy is ultimately used by routing it through an inverter that changes the low voltage direct current power into an alternating current that can be used in household applications.

By concentrating a substantial number of turbines into wind farms, a substantial amount of electricity can be stored and used, perhaps, for an entire city.

Because the wind doesn’t blow all of the time in many areas, wind turbines are used as adjuncts in hybrid configurations with many different technologies – photovoltaic panels and diesel generators, to name two – to provide a consistent source of electricity.

Unlike fossil-fuel stations, wind turbines are clean and green. They don’t create the carbon dioxide emissions that are causing greenhouse gases or the acidic emissions that cause acid rain.

Today’s turbines are divided into 2 categories: horizontal turbines and vertical turbines.

Horizontal axis wind turbines are actually far better at capturing the wind than vertical axis turbines given the same amount of swept area (which is the diameter of the circle traced by the outside tip of the rotor blades).

Although the public application of wind power has gotten widespread attention, there potentially is an even better use of this gift from Mother Nature, better than the massive wind farms you see on TV.

In fact, this alternate use of wind power could be a financial windfall for you.

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