Could wind energy turbines become a major power source in the future? Wind energy is a fairly well-known source of renewable energy. As there are increasing concerns about the future of providing energy, especially when trying to cut down on fossil fuels, wind energy is becoming increasingly popular as an energy source.
What Are Wind Energy Turbines?
Image from https://canwea.ca/wind-facts/why-wind-works/
Wind turbines use the power of the wind to generate electricity. They work on the same principle that allows airplanes to fly by having the wind pass over the turbine’s blades. The resulting pressure difference between the upper and lower surfaces creates lift, which causes the rotor to turn. As the turbine’s blades turn, the kinetic energy of the wind is converted into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is transmitted through a drive shaft to an electrical generator in the turbine’s nacelle. The resulting electrical current travels via underground cables to a substation, where it is converted to a higher voltage for larger electricity transmission or for a distribution grid. The energy is then delivered from the substation to the electric utility and customers.
The turbine’s blades typically start turning when the wind speed reaches approximately 12 km/h and shut down when the winds become too strong, usually around 88 km/h. That operating range means wind turbines produce electricity between 70 and 90 percent of the time. How much they generate at any given point depends on the wind speed.
Some of the benefits of wind energy are that generating power from wind is carbon neutral and can also be used to produce hydrogen and synthetic fuels like kerosene and diesel in a climate-friendly way. Wind is so abundant that it can potentially supply the entire global energy demand a few times over. This will be vital for transitioning energy generation from relying on fossil fuels to more renewable energy.
Another advantage is the overall-low cost of wind energy. Though wind farms or individual turbines can be expensive to install, the operating costs are relatively low. Their fuel (wind) is free, and the turbines do not require much maintenance over their lifetime.
Despite these benefits, one issue involving wind turbines is how they will be dismantled and recycled after they are too old to use. Though wind energy turbines have a long life, up to 50,000 wind farms will need to be shut down and replaced by newer and much more efficient wind power technology by 2050. This will require properly disposing of the concrete found in the foundation, the steel in the tower, the gearbox, and a compound of plastic with glass or carbon fiber used in the rotor blades. Some of these issues can be remedied by crushing the concrete and using it in roadwork, and the precious steel can be recycled into new steel. Other valuable metals such as copper and aluminum can also be reused in different ways. However, recycling the rotor blades made from plastic composites is more difficult. In the United States, old rotor blades have ended up in disposal sites. In Europe, they have mostly been used as an alternative fuel for burning in cement kilns and waste incinerators. However, there are other countries hoping to solve this issue. Denmark is currently producing the first recyclable rotor blades for large offshore plants.
Another issue involving wind turbines is potentially endangering nature, especially birds.
The increased amounts of wind turbines also mean that reports of birds killed by wind turbines are increasingly common. Few studies have investigated the phenomenon, but estimates suggest that between 10,000 and 100,000 birds are killed by turbine blade strikes annually in the UK. However, there are ways to lessen this issue. A small-scale study in Norway found that painting one of the wind turbines blades black, reduced bird deaths by 70 percent.
What Impact Could Wind Energy Turbines Have Globally?
Some wind energy turbines are being created to be both functional and aesthetically beautiful! NYC-based designer Joe Doucet put together a series of “kinetic walls” using rotary wind turbines to achieve some hypnotic visual effects. Each wall featured about twenty-five vertical turbines, and each turbine is connected to a 400-watt generator for a total peak power output of 10 kW. Like a rooftop solar setup, these could either be connected to an energy grid or run through a battery system for storage. Doucet says the turbines will be “almost silent,” producing “no more noise than a gentle whirling.” They should also be safe for use around children since there are no pinch-points in the rotation, and even a little one could easily stop the lightweight blades from turning.
Meanwhile, Australia is planning to develop three major offshore wind projects, with two of these projects set to incorporate floating wind technology. Madrid-headquartered BlueFloat Energy said it was looking to develop the projects with advisory firm Energy Estate, which is present in the Australian cities of Sydney, Canberra, and Adelaide. These proposed facilities are the Hunter Coast Offshore Wind Project, the Wollongong Offshore Wind Project, and the Greater Gippsland Offshore Wind Project. The 1.4 gigawatt Hunter Coast Offshore Wind Project, which would be in waters off Newcastle, New South Wales. The Wollongong Offshore Wind Project is set to have a capacity of 1.6 GW and be spread across two sites off Wollongong, New South Wales. Meanwhile, the 1.3 GW Greater Gippsland Offshore Wind Project will be set in the waters off Victoria’s Gippsland region.
What Impact Could Wind Energy Turbines Have In Canada & KW?
Canada is also trying to capitalize on wind energy. ACCIONA is a global energy company that operates exclusively in the renewable energy sector and mainly works with wind, solar photovoltaic, hydroelectricity, biomass, and solar thermal energy. The company has successfully delivered large infrastructure projects across Canada since 2001.
Image of the Lamèque Wind Farm from https://www.acciona.ca/projects/energy/wind-power/lameque-wind-farm/
One of their projects includes the Lamèque Wind Farm that they completed in 2011. This wind farm is ACCIONA’s first wind farm in New Brunswick, and it is estimated to generate enough zero-emission electricity to power approximately 8,000 homes! This project also provided jobs and increased revenues for New Brunswick through investments in local infrastructure, lease agreements with local landowners, and property tax revenues from the project over its lifetime. Constructing the wind farm project created hundreds of jobs as well.
Image of South Kent Wind Farm from https://www.power-technology.com/projects/south-kent-wind-farm-ontario/
There are also several wind farms in Ontario, including South Kent Wind Farm. The South Kent Wind Farm is a 270MW onshore wind farm located in the Chatham-Kent municipality of Ontario, Canada. The project generates enough electricity to fuel 100,000 Ontario homes. Construction of the onshore wind project started in early 2013, and operations officially began in April 2014.Though wind energy turbines have their risks in how they are eventually dismantled and the potential dangers to wildlife, the benefits of using wind energy greatly outweigh the costs by creating new jobs, providing renewable energy, and overall having low costs with their operation. Do you think wind energy turbines will become a more significant part of delivering energy in the future? Let us know by tagging us at @SustainableWat!