electricity generation » wind power - Overview of wind energy generation.

Wind Power

Wind has been one of the main forces utilised throughout history for industry and for transportation. Not only has wind been used to grind grain and to pump water, but it was also the force behind the large fleets of sailing ships which discovered the new world. In recent decades, however, it has been the ability of wind to power turbines and thus generate electricity that has increased its status in the minds of many. Wind has been recognized as an important renewable resource, on par with hydro and solar power in terms of usability in the real world.

Many governments and electricity utility companies are now expanding their power portfolios to include wind farms, whilst large businesses are using the wind turbine technology to supplement their mains power supply. Whilst farmers have been using wind power for years for irrigation, it is now possible for them to utilize wind turbines for electricity generation; likewise remote communities can rely on wind power for the same purpose.

Basic Principles And Methods

Wind power is of course most effective in areas with high or regular winds, though they can work in other places such as along sea-fronts, near bodies of water, or even at high elevations where winds which cannot be felt on the ground may blow. For the United Kingdom wind power is a feasible option, particularly as one of the alternatives, solar, does not work as well in the low levels of sunlight which occur throughout most of the year.

The main principle behind wind generation is that the blades of the generator, spun by the force of the wind, turn a turbine contained within the generator which in turn converts kinetic energy into mechanical energy and then into electricity. As such it's important to position the generator in a location where it will be exposed to the wind; moreover if the wind is prone to change of direction it is of further importance that the wind turbine spins on a vertical axis rather than the more common horizontal axis (vertical axis turbines can adjust to rapid changes of wind direction instead of having to be set in a fixed position).

Increasing Urbanisation

Within the United Kingdom wind turbines are commonly found off-shore (Blyth Offshore, North Hoyle, Scroby Sands, Barrow and Burbo Bank are some of the better known wind farms in ocean locations) or in rural locations (Blood Hill near Hemsby in Norfolk and Whitlee Wind Farm near Glasgow are good examples of this trend).

A growing awareness of the need to incorporate renewable energy into the electricity grid has led to the planning of urban wind farms, however, such as the turbines in Dagenham, Greater London, and on the docks of the Mersey in Liverpool.

The British government, through its Renewables Obligation legislation, has made it clear that electricity utilities will have to provide renewable electricity in increasing volumes and as such it is likely that the trend of wind farm construction will continue.