Wind Power: The Potential

       With growing concerns over climate change, fossil fuel emissions, as well as international markets, recent years have seen an expanding market in renewable energy sources.   Wind power is one of these.  While it has many benefits, there are also concerns over aesthetics,  noise, and dangers to wildlife.   This is the first of three articles that will look at the various aspects of wind power.  This one will serve as a general introduction.   The second article will address environmental concerns.  No energy source is perfect and the third article will look at whether the benefits of wind power outweigh the costs.

         The turbines produce electricity by using a rotor to operate an electrical generator.  Behind the rotor is an enclosure called the nacelle.   Inside there is a drive train connected to a cable inside the tower, which then transmits electricity.    Wind power areas are classed between 1 and 7, with 3 or above having the power density of 150- 200 watts per square meter or a wind speed of 11.4-12.5 miles per hour.   These areas are generally suitable for utility scale generation.  According to Encyclopedia Britannica  October 2018 the best sites in the U. S. are in the Great Plains and offshore.   In 2018 the largest wind farm  was the Jiuquan Power Base in China’s Gansu Province.  It has 7,000 turbines and produces more than 6,000 megawatts.   The largest offshore farm is the London Array in the outer approaches of the Thames Estuary.  It covers 47 square miles and produces 630 megawatts.

           Wind power is a growing industry.  According to National Geographic,  wind capacity increased around the world by 17,000 to 430,000 megawatts from 2000 to 2015.   The industry predicts that at this rate, one-third of electricity could be produced by wind power by 2050.  According to the U.S Energy Administration, which collects and analyzes energy information,  wind power produced 6% of the nation’s electricity in  2017.   According to their data, sources for U. S. electricity for 2017 are as follows:

Natural Gas     32%

Coal                   30%

Nuclear             20%

Petrolem           Less than 1%

Hydro                7%

Wind                  6%

Biomass              2%

Solar                    1%

Geothermal        Less than 1%


           While wind power produces no emissions,  there are concerns over dangers to wildlife.    In two weeks, the next article will address this side of the debate.



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