Monday, May 17, 2010

Energy Needs by Vickie Johnson

Wind Energy
Vickie Johnson
Environmental Studies
Dr. David Terrell
Warner Pacific College
May 1, 2010
Wind Energy

Since the industrial revolution our country has benefitted from both renewable and non-renewable energy resources. Without our non-renewable energy resources such as fossil fuels, oil, coal and natural gas, technology would not have advanced to its current levels, providing us with the luxuries we enjoy today. The development and retention of these vital energy resources is essential to the inner workings of our country. Unfortunately, progress is not perfection and we have managed to deplete our precious energy resources to a level which indicates they may disappear in the coming decades or centuries. This realization has encouraged mankind to research and implement new energy resources or better utilize those resources which are currently available without limitation from our creator.
Dating back to 3200 B.C., the ancient Egyptians utilized wind power to sail their boats along the Nile River. It is believed the Chinese invented the windmill and historians purport the Persians were using windmills to grind grains and pump water around 200 B.C. By 1000 A.D. the Vikings had explored and conquered the North Atlantic because of the power of the wind. The Dutch needed windmills to pump water from their flooded fields and the French farmers were able to transport water using wind energy to irrigate their crops. Throughout time we have been harnessing the mighty power of the wind. By gaining a better understanding of how wind energy is generated we may be able to preserve our priceless natural resources and find a sustainable solution to our energy problems. (“Comparing,” 2009).
Wind energy is an indirect form of solar energy and is generated by different air temperatures in different locations. The ideal location for wind turbines is on large bodies of water, which also proves to be the most expensive location in terms of installation, maintenance and retention of electricity produced. Coming in second, oceanfront property, mountainous regions, plains or plateaus with nearby bodies of water generally have consistent winds. Winds are created by warm air rising during the day and cooler air from oceans or lakes rushing into the warmer regions. For example, the Columbia River Gorge is an ideal location for wind turbines due to the consistent winds during particular months. Cool, coastal air is pulled into the Gorge by the warm, desert air, producing a vacuum effect. Global wind patterns like prevailing trade winds are created due to differences in air temperature between tropical and polar regions. Technological advances have allowed us to “harvest” the wind, creating electricity in the process. (“American Wind,” 2010).
Wind flow, or kinetic energy, when harvested by modern wind turbines is converted by a generator to produce electricity to power homes, businesses, schools, and the like. Wind turbines, like aircraft propeller blades, turn in the moving air and power the electric generator supplying an electric current. Simply stated, a wind turbine is the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. Windmills were introduced to the United States in 1854 and the first wind turbine to generate electricity was constructed by inventor Charles Brush in Cleveland, Ohio. (“Comparing, 2009).
The oil crisis in the 1970’s started the interest in wind power and renewable energy in the United States. Wind energy is the fastest growing energy sector and has expanded globally over twenty-five percent each year between 2000 and 2005. Currently, many countries throughout the world are utilizing wind energy to produce electricity. In fact, Germany and Spain meet thirty-five percent of their electrical needs by harnessing the wind. In 2008, the United States wind energy industry installed over 8,500 megawatts of new generating capacity, enough to serve over two million homes. Meteorological evidence suggests wind power could meet electrical needs of the entire country. When exploring renewable energy development, the costs should always be considered. (“Wind Energy Development,” 2010).
Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators of electricity. Roughly 80% of the cost is the machinery, with the balance being site preparation and installation. Off shore sites are more expensive to develop due to installation, maintenance and retention of electricity costs. Fortunately, costs to develop wind farms have decreased due to economies of scale and new technology, falling nearly twenty percent since 2005. After a wind farm is established and producing electricity, they are financially sound. (“Alternate Energy,” n.d.).
Wind turbines have been shown to produce twenty-three times more energy than they consume. Comparatively, nuclear energy produces sixteen times more energy than consumed, coal eleven times more energy and natural gas only five times more energy than is consumed. Long term potential for wind energy is believed to be five times the 2006 global energy consumption or forty times the electricity demand. Distribution of the electricity will remain stable as it cannot be affected by fuel market price fluctuations. (Brennan & Withgott, 2008).
There are additional benefits to the development of wind energy. By offsetting more polluting forms of energy generation, wind energy can actually improve air quality and our health by reducing carbon dioxide and other greenhouse gas emissions. Wind energy decreases our dependence on non-renewable energy resources such as fuel imports and does not require the use of fossil fuels. Economically, continued development of this industry will prove to be financially beneficial to society.
The installation of wind turbine farms increases employment opportunities through the implementation, maintenance and access of such sites, in addition to the creation of mechanical parts to construct the machinery. Approximately 85,000 people are employed in the wind industry today, up from 50,000 one year ago. In addition, the infrastructure is usually improved with the installation of wind farms due to road, transportation and power upgrades which benefit the local community and land owners. With the recent reductions in agricultural uses of farm land, farmers will have income producing opportunities once again through the leasing of their property for wind development, increasing their revenues and providing additional property tax income for the local government. (“Wind Energy Facts,” 2010).
Further development of wind energy will continue to make important contributions to our economic growth and stability. It has already become apparent that the installation of wind farms encourages ecotourism and supports the dialogue and progression we are engaged in as a society in becoming more “green,” always seeking new ways to both protect and power our planet.

References
Alternate Energy Sources. n.d. Retrieved from: http://www.alternate-energy-sources.com.html Retrieval date: April 20, 2010.

American Wind Energy Association. (2009). Retrieved from: http://www.awea.org/pubs/factsheets.html. Retrieval date: April 21, 2010

Brennan. S., Withgott, J. (2008). Environment: The Science Behind the Stories. San Francisco,
CA. Pearson Education, Inc.

Think Quest Organization. Comparing Alternative Energy Forms – The History of Wind Power. (2009) Retrieved from: http://library.thinkquest.org/17658/wind/windhistoryht.htmlRetrieval date: April 25, 2010.

Wind Energy Development. Retrieved from: http://windeis.anl.gov.html
Retrieval date: April 21, 2010

Wind Energy Facts. Retrieved from: http://www.windenergyfacts.eu.html
Retrieval date: April 20, 2010