WIND ENERGY | Technical details, capacity and operation

Wind energy is the type of energy that can be obtained by taking air currents as raw material , which turn wind turbines, and then transforms said kinetic energy into electricity .

Wind consists of the movement of atmospheric air caused by heterogeneous heating, either by the effect of the sun or by the irregularities and rotation of the earth. It is a clean energy source, and currently the one that reports the highest growth worldwide in terms of renewable energy .

What is eolic energy?

Wind energy is part of clean and renewable energies and consists of using the power of the wind to produce energy . In general, the system that captures the wind transforms the kinetic energy into electricity .

In order to exploit this kind of energy , special equipment called wind turbines is required, a wind turbine that is located at the end of a tower, being the base of the electric power generator .

How does wind power work?

The air that is heated by the sun’s rays is usually light, so it rises and an area with low pressure is produced . The opposite happens when it cools. The pressure difference produces air flows and the air located in the area with high pressure moves to the areas with low pressure . The higher the pressure difference, the faster the air will flow and as a result there will be more winds .

The wind or air currents produce movement energy and this can be used by being captured by the rotating blades of a wind turbine. Formerly windmills were used to transform wind energy into mechanical energy and thus grind wheat. The rotating blades moved an axis and this at the same time mobilized the wheel that crushed the grains.

In modern wind farms they use wind turbines similar to large windmills. The blades move a generator that converts the energy of the wind into electricity. When the wind hits the blades it slows down, so only 59% of the wind energy is usable.

What is wind energy for?

Although one assumes that wind energy is only transformed into electricity, it can produce:

  • Mechanical energy: For pumping water through piston pumps , centrifugal pumps or helical screw .
  • Thermal energy :It is obtained from mechanical energy, either by heating or by compressing arefrigerant liquidin aheat pump.
  • Electric energy : It is the most common use, but it requires a storage system.

Characteristics of wind energy

Wind energy is an efficient technology that is produced in a safe and sustainable way, with regard to caring for the environment. The main characteristics of this energy are:

  • It is indigenous or belongs directly to nature.
  • It does not present harmful emissions.
  • It comes from an inexhaustible source .
  • Its use can lead to sources of employment and wealth .
  • It is very advanced compared to other renewable energies worldwide; only solar energy reaches it .
  • There is enough potential to supply wind energy to the whole world; it just needs to be further developed.

Advantages of wind energy

  • The energy source, the wind, is free and can be captured efficiently, becoming increasingly profitable.
  • The turbine used for energy production does not generate harmful or polluting gases .
  • It is completely renewable, since the wind never ends.
  • Although the wind turbines are large in size, each one occupies a small parcel of land . In this way, the remaining space can be used for other profitable uses such as livestock or agriculture.
  • Remote areas not connected to the conventional power grid can use wind power to generate their own supply .
  • Wind turbines require inexpensive maintenance.

Requirements to implement wind energy

Before placing a wind turbine or a wind power plant, it is important to know if there is the minimum wind resource required  for the installation to be viable. Three fundamental aspects must be taken into account.

  • Open space: It is important to determine if the open space is suitable for the installation of wind turbines. It must have, at least, a deck, roof, garden, lot, patio or land . This space must be large enough to place tensioners and supports to the wind turbine tower , if required. In addition to the space, it is necessary to ensure that the legal requirements for using the wind installation are met.
  • Unobstructed Space: Obstacles near the facility may directly influence wind speed and direction. They can also create turbulence that directly affects the performance of wind turbines, so it is vital to choose a location that avoids trees, buildings and any other physical barriers that impede the wind .
    The barrier will increase with the density , height and length of the obstacle. For example, a building will block more wind than a tree. To get an idea, the turbulence caused by an obstacle affects more or less twice its height vertically and between 10 to 20 times its height horizontally. That is whythe design must leave 10 meters free height and 7 to 10 times the diameter of the obstacle .
  • Sufficient wind resource: In this aspect, the wind factor is considered as such. Wind has two basic characteristics:
  1. Wind direction : It is the point from where the wind blows  and is measured with a weather vane . The analysis of the wind directions determine the orientation and location of the wind turbine.
  2. Wind speed : The intensity of the wind is measured in speed, Km/h, m/s or in knots. An anemometer incorporating a vane is used. Wind speed increases with altitude , since the friction caused by obstacles and the earth’s surface decreases. This decreases during the night and increases when the sun appears, between 12 and 16 hours.

Wind energy production capacity

Today wind energy has the capacity to produce more than 3% of the electrical energy consumed worldwide. It is expected to exceed 5% by 2020. Looking to the future, it is estimated that the energy produced by the wind covers 9% of world demand and even more than 20% in Europe alone.

There are companies that each year produce a total of up to 17,000 GV every hour, using only wind energy. This is equivalent to the electrical energy consumed by five million people.

Confusion between wind and tidal energy

Recently we have received inquiries about tidal energy developments in different areas of the world, and after investigating, it was about marine wind turbines ( offshore wind energy ), and not tidal.

Wind towers are usually located in areas of calm water, generally on a balanced triangular base, to take advantage of the flow and direction of the wind, but that does not convert it into tidal energy.

Tower 7 WFI – Offshore Wind Turbine – Offshore Wind Energy

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