The United States’ dependence on fossil fuels is a little scary. Look at what it has gotten us into in the Persian Gulf (twice!). Using corn as fuel is also a little scary, but in a different way. Have you ever thought about how many people in the world are literally starving to death? How would it look if the United States grows an overabundance of food, only to burn it? What kind of impact would that have on our image as a nation? As I was thinking about these ideas, I remembered a website from GE called ecomagination that I came across when I was job hunting after college. I remembered it as being a fun and ‘flashy’ site about GE’s commitment to the environment. The one part of that site (and the company’s other sites) that I enjoyed the most was the section on wind energy.
How does wind energy work? First, let’s talk a little bit about wind. What is it? What causes wind? Wind is caused, indirectly, by the sun. The sun heats up the air over land more quickly than the air over the water. As the warmer air expands and rises, the heavier, cooler air rushes into the vacated place, creating wind. This effect is reversed at night, when the air over the land cools more quickly than the air over the water.
To capture the wind’s energy, a turbine’s blades rely on the laws of physics and aerodynamics. Lift is created as wind flows over the airfoils (the blades), creating a low-pressure pocket of air on the downwind side of the blades, causing them to turn. These blades are connected to a vertical- or horizontal-axis drive shaft (depending on the type of wind machine used) that turns and electric generator. In this process, the kinetic energy of the wind is converted to mechanical energy and then converted to electricity.
How cool would it be if we could develop a system of renewable energy based on wind, and then give our excessive fossil fuel dependence the finger? While you’re thinking about it, check out this award-winning video from EPURON GmbH, a subsidiary of Conergy AG, entitled Power of Wind. Or if you like YouTube, click here.
Feeling the love after thinking about wind power? Check out this DMB video, and then go get yourself a hug.