Wind Power

The wind has been used for thousands of years as a source of energy. Sailors captured it in the sails of their ships and the Netherlands are famous for their use of windmill to drain polders forming agricultural land. Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electricity, wind mills for mechanical power, or wind pumps for water drainage.

The total amount of economically extractable power available from the wind is considerably more than present human power use from all sources (72 TW per year, or over five times the world's current energy use in all forms). However, many practical barriers need to be overcome to reach this theoretical capacity.

Electricity Generation

Large-scale wind farms utilizing Wind Turbines are connected to the electric power transmission network while smaller facilities are used to provide electricity to isolated locations. Utility companies increasingly buy back surplus electricity produced by small domestic turbines. The intermittency of wind seldom creates problems when using wind power to supply a low proportion of total demand. In addition, the strength of wind varies, and an average value for a given location does not alone indicate the amount of energy a wind turbine could produce there. Because so much power is generated by higher wind speed, much of the energy comes in short bursts. The consequence is that wind energy from a particular turbine or wind farm does not have as consistent an output as fuel-fired power plants. Power management techniques such as exporting and importing power to neighboring areas or reducing demand when wind production is low, can mitigate these problems.

 

Environmental and Aesthetic Impact

Wind energy, as an alternative to fossil fuels, is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, and produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation. However, the construction of wind farms is not universally welcomed because of their visual impact but any effects on the environment are generally among the least problematic of any power source.