Have you ever thought about the wind, other than it feels pretty great when it’s blowing through your hair? Wind is pretty cool for another reason — it is also a free, renewable form of energy that fits into the country’s power grid.
So, what exactly is wind power? Simply put, wind power is the ability to make electricity out of the wind that is continually blowing in the earth’s atmosphere. This kinetic energy is caught by wind turbine blades and transformed into mechanical energy through a spinning generator.
There are three different types of wind power. Wind turbines that are larger than 1000 kilowatts and that deliver electricity to customers via power companies produce utility-scale wind. Distributed wind utilizes turbines of 100 kilowatts or less to directly power a home, farm or small business. Offshore wind power is generated by turbines found in large bodies of water, normally on the continental shelf.
Wind produces energy by making the turbine spin. This rotation sparks the generator, which produces the electricity. Wind speeds are measured and the turbine is automatically rotated to face the strongest breezes so that the maximum amount of energy is produced. Wind turbines are able to generate electricity about 90 percent of the time and are able to operate when wind speeds reach 6 to 9 miles an hour. They automatically shut off when wind speeds reach 45 miles an hour in order to prevent damage to the equipment. Wind turbines have been found to produce more than 40 percent of their maximum capacity over a year.
Wind turbine and windmill should not be used interchangeably. while windmills do produce mechanical energy, they do not generate electricity. The energy windmills produce can be used to pump water, grind grain as well as other types of work.
When several wind turbines are found together, they comprise what is known as a wind farm and produce energy together into the power grid. Once that electricity is part of the power grid. electrical companies distribute it to homes and businesses via transmission lines.
Wind energy has a lot going for it — it’s clean, renewable and supports thousands of well-paying jobs in the United States. It also cuts pollutants that are harmful to health and helps to protect everyone from air pollution.