Bigger, Better Wind Turbines

On land wind turbinesWind turbines have become increasingly popular over the years, because of the need to search for more environmentally friendly alternatives to coal power plants, which have been the primary electric source for many, many years.

Wind turbines back in the 80s were considered too inefficient and expensive to maintain despite the fact that it is a fantastic renewable energy source. Kinetic energy from the wind is turned into mechanical energy by the turbines, which in turn is used to generate electricity. Simply put, turbines use wind power to generate electricity, converting the spinning movement of the blades into power.

To maximize the electricity generated by the wind, the wind turbines have to be installed in a strategic area that has a constant flow of air. There is more wind the higher up you go, so many turbines stand at colossal heights above the ground. There are both offshore and on land wind turbines, and they often form a grid to create commercial energy.

In an environmentally conscious new world that seeks to reduce the carbon footprint that we leave behind, most technologies are now moving towards smaller, more compact forms, reducing carbon emission and production energy. The manufacturing process also creates a lot of carbon and uses up natural resources, so it only makes sense that smaller machines would be more efficient.

However, in the case of wind turbines, larger is actually better. According to Fort Felker, the director of wind technology in the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory in Golden, Colorado, larger turbines are more environmentally friendly in the long term because they are capable of harvesting more energy.

Back in the 1980s, standard wind turbines could only produce 50 kilowatts of electricity. With modern improvements, a large wind powered turbine can now produce up to 3,000 kilowatts of electricity. In fact, Felker deduced that thanks to the improved capacity of this technology, 1,000 smaller turbines can be replaced with a grid of just 500 larger turbines, which is cheaper to maintain and requires less materials to manufacture.

Offshore wind turbinesA single 1.0 MW turbine can power up to 350 households a year, but the average size of new turbines range between 1.5 MW to 2.0 MW, creating even more power than ever before. However, scientists and engineers would not stop there — some developers now want to build 10 MW turbines offshore to generate even more electricity. Siemens, one of the leading wind turbine manufacturing companies now create turbines 12 times bigger than the ones that were used back in the 1980s.

When it comes to wind turbines, Henrik Stiesdal, the chief technology officer at Siemens stated that it would be possible double the electricity generated by wind turbines every year. Increasing the size increases the capture. However, scientists need to find the proper equilibrium to maximize energy capture. When a turbine reaches a certain size, energy capture slows down so there is an optimal size that should be maintained.

The future of wind turbines are very bright, and larger turbines have seen a 14% decrease in its environmental impact. Bigger is definitely better and greener when it comes to wind power.

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