Wind Farms And Their Impact

Published: 11th March 2011
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Wind farms pertain to a commercial-scale collection of wind turbines in the same location for the purpose of generating electricity. In a large wind farm, as many as several hundred individual turbines can stretch out for hundreds of miles although it must be emphasized that the land itself can be used for other purposes. For example, it can be used for agricultural purposes wherein plants are cultivated and livestock graze on the grass.

Many wind farms are also being built in offshore locations. In this way, the strong winds blowing over the sea's surface can be harnessed for mankind's use, not to mention that there are no obstructions to impede the flow of the wind.

If you're looking for information on how to generate power on a residential property, see this video about how to build a wind generator here.

Location and Layout

As can be expected, the best location of wind farms is in areas where the winds are stable, strong and constant in terms of speed, direction and frequency. This means that the area must have a near-constant flow of favorable winds all throughout the year with little to no likelihood of turbulent, sudden and extreme gusts of wind. This is the reason why careful planning is poured into the identification of the ideal location even before construction starts.

For horizontal axis wind turbines, the minimum wind speed required for power generation is 10 miles per hour with the optimum wind speed being 30 miles per hour. For vertical axis wind turbines, the minimum speed required can be lowered at just 5 miles per hour.

The selection of the ideal site begins with a wind atlas and then validated by wind measurements. Although the existing meteorological wind data may be accurate, operators of wind farms will collect data on the field to validate the information. In fact, wind observation will be performed for at least a year before the decision to proceed with the wind farm can be made. Or perhaps, the project will be scrapped depending on the data gathered.

The height of the wind turbine also affects the power generation capacity in wind farms. The general rule is that the higher the rotor blades are placed, the higher the electricity generated. Scientists have discovered that the wind speed increase in proportion to the seventh root of the altitude, thus, if the altitude of the turbine is doubled, the wind speed increases by 10% and the power generated increases by 34%.

The distance between the wind turbines must also be taken into consideration to ensure efficient power generation. In present calculations, 7 rotor diameters was the optimal distance but studies are pointing out that the distance may not be sufficient. Instead, wind farm operators are looking into widening the distance between wind turbines to 15 rotor diameters.

Of course, wind farms are businesses. As such, the site of the wind farm must conform to both the expected local demand for the power generated and the transmission capacity of the wind turbines. In fact, wind farms are not exactly autonomous of the main grid since the former must have access to the latter in order to transport whatever energy is generated by the turbines.

Impact on Environment and Society

The popularity of wind energy lies partly in its eco-friendly attributes as well as the almost-romantic sight of the blades gently turning in the air like so many giant's pinwheel toys. Just to mention a few of these benefits:

Wind turbines do not consume fuel, water and other resources beyond the land on which these are placed. Even the land can be used for other purposes - for example, plant cultivation and livestock grazing - as the blades are high up in the air to graze the heads of humans and animals on land. Wind power does not contribute to air pollution, unlike its fossil fuel-powered counterpart. Even the noise pollution that critics in the past have accused wind turbines of is now virtually non-existent. The energy produced by the wind turbines are equal to the energy used in their construction within a few months.

Admittedly, there are problems related to wind farms. One of these issues is the danger to birds and bats, of which there have been many reported killings. Also, wind turbines can interfere with the radar systems on the ground, which are essential for defense, weather and air traffic control.

The future of wind energy is up in the air, pun not intended. In time, the issues that plague wind farms can be solved and we can have a cleaner source of energy.

Again, if you want to learn more about wind power and what you can do to help the environment, see this video about how to build a wind turbine.

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