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The Future of Wind Power for Communities

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Commercial wind turbine farm

Commercial wind turbine farm

Commercial wind turbine farm

Matt Theberge, Author

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ALASKA- As the world looks toward the future, energy companies are scrambling to produce enough power with limited fossil fuels and increasing pressure to reduce emissions. Because of this, renewable energy sources, specifically wind power, are becoming more popular to residents and commercial businesses. To many, wind turbines provide an efficient way to power their community, but others believe that they are not practical.

According to a report by scientist Ernest V.F. Hodgson, wind turbines are categorized into two groups: commercial turbines and residential turbines. The main difference between them is size; commercial wind turbines are what people tend to see on hills or wind farms. On the other hand, residential turbines can be found on buildings and small farms, and they produce much less power than commercial turbines.

The design of the wind turbine is fairly simple, gusts of air move over the curved blades, causing them to move like a pinwheel. The turning motion powers an electrical motor, which is then connected to the entire grid. The power they produce can supply almost anything, but the amount of energy generated depends on two things, how fast the turbine is spinning and how large the blades are.

This is where the commercial and residential turbines are split. Commercial turbines turn at slower speeds, but their blades are much larger, so more power can be produced. Residential turbines are often limited by their size, so to make up for this, they will often spin at faster speeds since their blades are smaller and moved more easily. In addition to the standard, pinwheel-like setup (also known as horizontal-axis turbines), residential turbines can also be vertical-axis turbines, where the blades are pointed upward. This allows the turbine to stay relatively small and allows the turbine to spin regardless of the wind direction.

There are many positive benefits of wind power, the largest being that it is an efficient way to produce clean energy. On the U.S. government’s website for power generation, energy.gov, it is stated that unlike other renewable sources such as geothermal and hydropower, wind turbines do not need a source of water to function. Therefore, they can be placed in very remote areas in almost any climate on earth. In addition to a renewable supply of wind, the United States has plenty of high-wind areas both on the coast and in the center of the country. In the last few years, technology has allowed wind power to be produced more efficiently and more cheaply than ever before, and before long, the cost may even be better than fossil fuels. Commercial turbines and wind farms allow for vast amounts of remote, unusable land to be converted into space for renewable energy. A great example of this advantage is the Kotzebue Electric Association Wind Farm on the western coast of Alaska. In the little, hard-to-get-to town, 19 commercial wind turbines produce over 60% percent of the town’s power. Compared to importing fossil fuels as power, the wind turbine’s efficiency is a vital source in order to keep the town successful and modern. In addition, the company saves money because it does not have to import as much diesel for the community.

However, there is a problem with setting up new wind farms: the cost to build them. According to the Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy, a government-run program, wind farms often have trouble because “Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators.”

In addition, for local residents, the biggest downside to being in proximity to commercial wind turbines is the noise. According to gereports.com, a information site run by General Electric, wind turbines can produce between 40 and 50 decibels of noise when placed at the minimum distance from a house (300 meters). To put things into perspective, that noise level is less than an air conditioning unit but greater than a refrigerator. In addition, commercial turbines are very expensive to build, and precautions have to be taken by engineers to ensure that they will not fall over and land on other buildings. They also cannot be built in populated areas that need the power due to the large size of their blades. As for residential turbines, engineers have to make them smaller in order to be placed on or around houses and farms. Because of this, they are more prone to break and must be maintained more often.

With more and more research, wind power is becoming cheaper and more efficient across the country, to the point where it can be a viable alternative to other sources of energy. In addition, its usefulness in remote, open locations is critical. If we are going to need more energy, than wind power should be keep being relevant and studied.

Works Cited

“Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy.” Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy |

Department of Energy. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 May 2017.

Hodgson, Ernest V.F. Residential Wind Turbines and Noise Emissions . N.p.: n.p., n.d. Web.

11 May 2017.

“How Loud Is A Wind Turbine?” GE Reports. N.p., 23 Feb. 2016. Web. 11 May

2017.

Images:

http://wonderfulengineering.com/38-high-def-wind-turbine-pictures-from-around-the-world/

https://cleantechnica.com/2014/04/22/uge-raises-bar-vertical-axis-micro-wind-turbines/

https://www.eenews.net/stories/1060026559

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The Future of Wind Power for Communities