Alternative Energy Options: Wind Power

Category: Ecology


Wind energy, which is known to humanity for already many centuries, becomes even more actual and demanded today, in time, when our planet suffers greatly from harmful carbon and chemical emissions, and the nature loses the war with technological progress, which requires more and more fuel resources every new day. Understanding that it is running out of natural resources, the humanity turned back to the usage of natural sources of energy, which lately almost seemed to be forgotten and abandoned. Certainly, the scientific and technical progress of the XX-XXI centuries not only did harm, but also helped people a lot by presenting the technologies, which let us use natural energy much more effectively and efficiently than centuries ago. However, for many people, wind energy may seem to be something modern at first sight, since today it is associated with the wind turbines, which appeared not so long ago, as well as the usage of the wind power on a large scale, which started even later. Nevertheless, as an old folk proverb says, “Everything new is a well-forgotten old”.

What is Wind Energy and How it Works

According to the U.S. Department of Energy (“How Do Wind”, 2013), wind energy is a type of solar energy and is caused by the sun that is constantly heating our planet’s atmosphere, constant rotation of our planet and the irregularities of its surface. Larry West (2103) adds that wind depends a lot on one more significant factor: the temperature of the surface of the Earth becomes cooler at nighttime and warmer at daytime, when the sun is heating. These changes of the temperature, which make Earth’s surface unevenly heated, is also one of the most important conditions that cause wind. All these conditions combined together provoke the changes in atmospheric pressure by a simple scheme: according to the laws of physics a hot air rises up, which causes the reduction of the pressure, and so the cold air flows in its place to offset the loss of pressure. This movement of the air is actually called wind. In technological meaning, the U.S. Department of Energy (“How Do Wind”, 2013) defines wind energy as a process of converting the energy of wind into electric light or mechanical energy generated with the help of wind turbines. Today this type of energy is not so widely used: less than one percent of the world’s energy is generated with the help of wind power.

The Usage of Wind Power Today

Nowadays, more attention is being paid to this cheap and profitable way of getting energy: wind turbines use the kinetic power of the moving air in order to generate electricity, which, in its turn, can be used for water pumping, grinding different kinds of corn to get flour and other specific tasks. In Holland, for example, wind energy is still used to keep the lowlands dry and capable of farming (“Functions of Windmills”, n.d.). Large windmills are used here for draining, although this technology of draining lands is more than 500 years old.

The history of using wind power as a source of getting electricity started in 1888 in Ohio, where the first windmill was installed. It looked quite different from today’s wind turbines and had a lot of blades, which were 50 feet long (“Wind Power”, n.d.). Nowadays, a lot of farms and private households already shifted to the energy of wind, becoming independent from the huge electric companies, and, as a result, from huge payments for the used electricity. What is more, starting from 2011, the Empire State Building (New York, USA), which is considered to be one of the highest skyscrapers in the world, has been supplied with electricity received from the wind turbines, and it already purchased 100 million kWh of the wind turbine energy from Green Mountain Energy Company (“The Empire”, 2011). Now, this company is chosen to be a full-time electricity supplier for this legendary skyscraper. In other words, from now on, the Empire State Building is a 100% wind-powered building, which has already gained a well-deserved title of the most ecologically friendly buildings in the world. Especially firmly this title consolidated after Empire State Building administration spent $13.2 million on changing all 6500 windows in the entire building, which now have the newest energy insulating glass. This will save a tremendous sum of money, which were usually spent on paying electricity bills. And this is a good example of profitability and efficiency of the wind power energy.

Advantages and Disadvantages of the Wind Power Energy

As any other technology in the world, wind power energy has also its own advantages and drawbacks. According to the survey made by Larry West (2013), the main advantages of wind power are the low cost of energy produced by wind turbines and an opportunity to save large sums of money spent on the electric supply. Also, the wind energy is renewable and absolutely clean, leaving no emissions at all, unlike, for example, power plants that use fossil fuels to get electricity. Other good sides of wind energy include almost total absence of noise and vibration (“Increasing”, 2011). Moreover, the wind power makes the owner of the wind turbine installed in the household totally independent from electricity supplying company. The owner of such turbine can use electricity round-the-clock, paying no money for it or rather small sum if the energy supplier is a company that uses the energy of wind to get electricity. Also, unlike any fossil fuel, which is usually rather expensive, the price for wind energy declines every year due to the development of modern technologies, which make the wind power energy even cheaper.

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Unfortunately, nothing is ideal, and such source of energy as wind power also has its drawbacks. The first one is that wind turbines need huge territories to be built on and to produce enough amount of energy that would supply many households and companies. As a result, this leads to another drawback, and Larry West (2011) is very clear about it: the wind turbine farms, being located close to cities, hinder the urban development and agriculture a lot, demanding huge territories that could be used to plant some kinds of corn, fruits or vegetables or to graze the cattle. Scientists of the University of Minnesota also add that wind turbines require a constant flow of air to work properly, and so they need a plain and windy region to be installed in. In addition, the wind turbines wear off rather quickly, especially if they are located in the places with extreme and severe weather conditions (for example, if the wind farms are located at the ocean coasts, where the salty air is rather aggressive to many materials of the turbine and the storms are likely occur).