28 Mar 10 Facts you didn’t know about Wind Energy
1.- The oldest rotary windmills are considered to have been used regularly in agriculture and other purposes since 2000 B.C. by peoples of what would today be China and the Middle East who already sensed what the German physicist Albert Betz, the father of physics governing modern wind turbines, called The Theory of Wind Energy, presented and published in his book “Wind-Energie” at the beginning of the 20th century, almost 3000 years later.
2.- The first wind turbine as we know it was created in 1888. Named the Brush turbine, an automatic wind turbine, it measured 17 m in diameter and had 144 wooden blades that moved slowly. Despite its considerable dimensions, it was only capable of generating a few kW. Battery-powered, it ran for two decades. The first modern turbine saw the light in the 1940s in the USA. It has been 130 years since mankind began to supply themselves with electricity produced by wind power.
The bad points
3.- The biggest cost of large wind is not the manufacture of the wind turbines themselves, which already costs hundreds of thousands of euros, but their maintenance and the cost of preparing the ground. This cost is not only economic but also environmental, since they require a great foundation and infrastructure that irremediably modifies the land, in addition to generating a minimum of waste in its maintenance.
4.- Although wind power does not represent the greatest cause of manmade birds’ casualties, it does have a great impact. This is mostly because the constant and laminar air currents used by migrating birds are also the perfect site for wind farms, making them literally “wind-powered crushers” along birds’ flight routes. At the same time, the sound frequency emitted by the fast turn negatively affects bats.
5.- Conventional wind turbines can only operate in a given wind range. They usually reach their nominal speed between 12 and 24 m/s, wind speeds that are rare to be found near the ground in a constant way so they make them high. In order not to be dismembered by the centrifugal force, the big ones have brakes that keep them at a maximum turning speed in case of very strong wind. These brakes sometimes fail resulting in terrible accidents.
6.- A good high-voltage electricity distribution network like the one we have in Spain loses 1 electron for every 10 that it carries. To avoid this the solution is distributed energy, local generation of energy with the production point near the consumption point. Wind power is not only viable for large generation in windmill farms but also for local production in smart grids and self-production completely off-grid. This market is currently dominated by solar energy, but small-wind is becoming increasingly popular.
7.- Spain is the fifth country in the world on wind power installed after China, the United States, Germany and India. With a total of 23,484 MW of installed power, wind energy was the second largest source of electricity generation in 2018. Wind energy covers more than 19% of the energy consumed in the country on average annually, with 1,123 wind farms installed where 22,578 people work in 2018.
Other renewables compared
8.- Being a fluid denser than air, water contains much more energy than air does. This makes gravity based hydroelectric power a more efficient source of mechanical power generation than wind. On the other hand, hydropower is one of the renewable sources with the greatest environmental impact, usually leaving the land unrecoverable.
9.- Wind energy is one of the alternatives being currently studied for providing energy to a future colony on Mars. Although solar energy is still the best option, the accumulation of dust over the surface of the panels can be an issue. On the other side, the low density of Martian air would make current wind turbines very inefficient, they should evolve for this mission. Another nice alternative could be geothermal energy.
10.- There are nice wind alternatives to common wind turbines. Some don’t use blades, some are vertical or suspended, some have interesting shapes that gives them nice features, but in one way or another, all the wind turbines rotate to generate power. Vortex Bladeless is the only company trying to develop a wind turbine which is not based in a rotation, therefore it is actually not a turbine.