Wind Energy

wind-farmAs America strives for a “greener” lifestyle, energy sources like wind power come more and more to our attention. But how does it work? Are Americans really utilizing it, or just talking about it?

The creation of wind power can be thought of in terms of a fan. The wind turns the blades, which are connected to a shaft that is made to spin with the rotation of the blades. That shaft is connected to more mechanics that increase the speed of the turning that ultimately powers a generator. The generator produces electricity from the energy created by the wind.

Wind turbines come in two basic varieties: with horizontal axis and with vertical axis. The horizontal variety can have two or three blades. Two bladed vertical axis turbines spin downwind, while three bladed axis turbines spin upwind. Most of the research on wind turbines has been done on this type.

Wind turbines also come in a variety of sizes, suitable for single home or suitable for larger, more industrial purposes. One of the great advantages in equipping your home with one, even aside from your utility savings, is that any access power you generate can actually be sold back to your utility company. While they can be expensive to install, usually ranging from $6,000 to $22,000, it could not only save you money, but make you money on your utility bills.

In recent years, the US has been increasing its use of wind power faster than any other country. As of 2006, wind machines were used to generate electricity in 28 states, the largest producers being Texas, California, Iowa, Minnesota, and Oklahoma. In 2006, these machines generated a total of 26.6 billion kWh of electricity for the year. This would be enough to power 2.4 million households, but is unfortunately an almost miniscule slice of nationwide electricity production. Even at 26.6 billion kWh of electricity produced; wind power was only responsible for about 0.4% of total electricity production in the US. However, that is 2.5 times the amount that was produced by the US in 2002. Since 2006, wind production has been increasing dramatically, though reliable statistics on its use have been unavailable.

It’s speculated that the major drawbacks of wind power, for the US consumers, are the high initial investment of a wind turbine and the lack of visual appeal many find in their appearance.