Wind Energy Facts
Wind power, or wind energy, is the term used to describe the process of turning wind into electricity. This is done when wind turbines convert the wind's kinetic energy into mechanical power (a spinning blade), which in turn is converted into electricity by a generator.
Humans have been harnessing the power of the wind for thousands of years, from propelling sailboats to windmills for pumping water and milling grain. Since 1979, wind power has increasingly been used to create electricity, replacing polluting fossil fuels such as coal and oil.
Commercial Wind PowerMost wind energy today is created by large, commercial wind farms operated by utility companies. These farms contain many giant wind turbines, each of which is capable of producing electrical power for thousands of homes.
These large wind turbines are obviously very expensive to build and install, requiring large amounts of capital. Homeowners can help support the construction of new large scale wind power capacity by joining a green power program offered by many utilities and 'green energy' suppliers, who guarantee that the same amount of power your home uses is created by a renewable energy system, such as a wind farm.
Residential Wind PowerGreen homeowners looking to supplement their traditional power or go totally off the grid by installing a residential wind energy system have more options available all the time.
Wind power has seen some dramatic decreases in costs over the last few years. Though wind energy still has a rather high initial investment, the resulting power created is totally free. Compared with fossil fuels, which are constantly getting more expensive, on a life-cycle cost basis, wind energy is becoming very competitive in the long term.
The federal government also offers a generous tax credit through 2016 for homeowners who install wind energy systems. Click HERE for more info.
Concerns with Residential Wind PowerThough wind energy is a wonderful renewable energy, it does come with its own set of concerns that need to be addressed.
First of all, the wind obviously isn't always blowing. For homeowners, wind energy makes a wonderful supplement to traditional energy sources, but may require expensive battery banks or other types of renewable energy (like solar) if the home is completely off the grid. This obviously raises the investment (and complexity) of the home's energy system.
Many communities have regulations against installations, like wind turbines, over a certain height. It's always a good idea to check for any local restrictions on wind turbines before making any final decisions on wind power for your home.
Wind turbines also have a history of producing unwanted noise and killing birds or bats that fly into the spinning blades. These issues are generally more associated with the huge commercial wind installations than residential turbines, and have been greatly reduced through improvements in design and installation.
Wind energy has a bright future as an important part of our energy supply mix, but it still has a long way to go. Watch as wind power grows through the 21st Century!
- In 2010 wind energy accounted for about 2.5% of the world's total electricity production.
- The U.S. is second in wind energy production, trailing China and just ahead of Germany.