The term wind energy refers to the kinetic energy created by the wind in order to produce wind power. Wind energy can be converted by a wind turbine that does just that. When wind energy is harnessed to create mechanical energy, the tool for that still may be called a wind turbine or a wind power plant. Discover interesting facts about this renewable energy source and review some wind energy examples.
When mechanical energy enhances a unit by harnessing wind power, it may be called a windmill, wind pump or wind charger. Wind energy can be used for anything from power on boats, battery charging or electricity to being used commercially. Examples of how wind energy can be used include:
- generating electricity
- milling grain
- pumping water
- powering cargo ships (via kites)
- reducing carbon footprint
- land surfing
- kite surfing
Wind energy is often created on wind farms. Some wind farms are onshore, and the land is often used for additional purposes, such as allowing animals to graze. Some are offshore, which means they're over water.
- Muppandal Wind Park is the largest onshore wind facility in India. Developed by the country's Tamil Nadu Energy Development Agency, a government agency, this wind farm produces 1,500 megawatts (MW) of electricity.
- Jaisalmer Wind Park is India's second-largest onshore wind farm. It consists of a series of connected facilities in the state of Rajasthan, India. The facility has been producing 1,064 MW of electricity since 2012.
- Walney Extension is the world's largest offshore wind farm. It is located in the Irish Sea off the coast of Cumbria, England. It has the capacity of generating 659 MW of power. It provides enough electricity to power 600,000 homes.
- Kenya's Lake Turkana Wind Power Project (LTWPP) is connected to the country's national power grid. It features 365 turbines between two mountain systems. Each turbine has an 850-kilowatt (kW) capacity. Strong, steady winds that are predictable make this an ideal location to generate wind energy.
- The Gansu Wind Farm is currently being built in China. The massive onshore wind farm is being constructed in the desert near the Jiuquan province. Completion is expected during 2020. The planned capacity for this facility is 20 gigawatts.
- New Hampshire is home to the world's first wind farm. It is situated on the state's Crotched Mountain. Developed by a company called U.S. Windpower, the facility was established with 200 wind turbines and a total generating capacity of 600 kW.
- The Mojave Wind Farm, also known as Alta Wind Energy Center, is the world's second-largest onshore wind energy project. It has 600 turbines with extensive additional development planned. It currently has a 1,550 MW capacity, which is expected to ultimately expand to up to 3,000 MW. Wisely located in California's Tehachapi Pass, between San Joaquin and the Mojave Desert, the area is extraordinarily windy.
Wind turbines can function on their own or be connected to the power grid or solar cells. Wind turbines are designed with either a horizontal or a vertical axis.
- horizontal-axis turbines - Horizontal-axis turbines are the most common type. They usually have three long, thin blades. Some units have only two blades. They are very similar in appearance to the propeller of an airplane.
- vertical-axis turbines - Vertical-axis turbines are a newer technology than their horizontal-axis counterparts. Their blades are shorter and wider. They don't look like airplane propellers. Instead, their shape resembles the electric mixer beaters.
Wind energy is not new. It is known to have been used as early as 200 B.C. Boats with wind sails were used many centuries ago to transport people and cargo on the Nile. The original windmills were used in the Middle East in areas such as what is now known as Iran, and areas in Afghanistan. These wind-powered mills were used for things like grinding grain and refining sugar.
In Europe, windmills were first seen in the 11th century, though the first reports of wind turbines generating electricity were from Scotland in the late 1800s. Quickly, the technology moved to other locations such as the United States of America and the United Kingdom. By the early 1900s, Denmark and the U.S. were producing and using windmills for water pumping and on farms.