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Introduction to Wind Energy
Updated on:  Friday, December 11, 2015 09:07 AM

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Many years ago David Johnson, P.E.,  helped a local Denver company develop an electronic control circuits for a small wind generator which they were perfecting.   They  were fortunate to be near the  National Wind Technology Center  (NWTC) test site near Boulder, Colorado.   They were able to do much of the testing using NWTC's automated data acquisition system. 

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Wind Basics
Wind is a form of solar energy. Air pockets heated by the sun form positive pressure areas which move toward cooler negative pressure zones. It is this uneven temperature that cause the air to move, making wind.  There is a lot of energy in the wind. In its most violent form, tornadoes, the moving air can pull trees out of the ground and destroy entire cities.  Using wind to do useful work is an old practice. Wind mills have been used to grind grain and pump water for over 2000 years. Converting wind power to electricity, however,  is a rather new scheme. Efficient and cost effective wind generators have only been developed within the last 15 years.
About 2,000 Megawatts of electricity is currently being generated in the United States by the wind. The figure reaches about 10,000 Megawatts world wide. As the technology improves, the installed cost per kilowatt hour should be able to compete with power plants burning fossil fuel. Currently it costs about $0.05 per kilowatt hour from wind sources. Since the wind energy systems do not demand any water or produce any pollution, they are considerably more environmental friendly than conventional power plants. That is one of the reasons that wind is now the fastest growing energy resource. World wide, the equivalent electrical power of 10 medium size coal fired power plants are being supplied by the wind.
All of the major wind energy sites or wind farms, use large arrays of medium size wind turbines that are carefully positioned in windy locations. Giant wind turbines do exist but they tend to be less cost effective than many smaller units. The electricity they produce is generally connected to the electrical power grid. When the wind blows, the extra power generated allows the utility companies to cut back on the amount of fossil fuels burned.
Some areas of the U.S. are especially wind energy rich. Areas that have both high wind zones and large expanses of flat land are especially valuable. One source claims that if all the potential wind energy in the state of North Dakota were to be developed, it could produce about 60% of the electrical needs of the entire U.S.  I concluded that there are many positive reasons to build more wind energy sites.
 

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