Nomen est omen – Bliss Wind Farm near Eagle, New York
Wind energy is touted by some as the clean way to go, although those who live close to a wind farm often complain about the noise pollution. People are even divided about aesthetics: some call wind turbines plain ugly, others find them beautiful. Whatever you think, they sure beat some square old power house in terms of sleekness. See for yourself, as we’ve caught a few of these modern day windmills at sunset…
Crossing the barbed wire line:
Wind turbines casting a shadow in Forss, near Thurso Highlands, Scotland:
All lined up to take a dip at Marker Meer in Enkhuizen, North Holland:
Image: Mingo Hagen
According to Wikipedia, a wind turbine is “a rotating machine which converts the kinetic energy in wind into mechanical energy.” The distinction between a traditional windmill and a modern wind turbine is that the former uses the mechanical energy created right away to power machines – for example a pump or grinding stones – whereas the latter converts it into electricity. Wind turbines are also called wind generators, wind power units (WPU), wind energy converters (WEC) or aerogenerators.
Who’s competing with whom? Tree and turbines in Berg, Austria:
Image: Andrij Bulba
The next image looks slightly dangerous. Wind turbines, low hanging power lines and a sinking barge? What’s going on?
Sunset scene in Emmaton, California:
Image: Big D2112
Did you know that the first machines for harvesting wind power were already used in Persia by around 200 BCE and that the first traditional windmills were built in Iran in the 7th century? And who would have thought that the first electricity-generating windmill was installed by James Blyth in Scotland in 1887 and another built in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush in 1888? The first model of the modern horizontal-axis wind generators was used in Yalta, USSR in 1931.
Old and new windmills in Benton County, Indiana:
All quiet on the southern front – Te Apiti Wind Farm in Tararua, New Zealand:
Image: Stuart Yeates
Stretch those blades and catch the sun – Te Apiti Wind Farm again:
Modern-day wind generators are mainly horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTs); vertical-axis turbines do exist but are less commonly used. HAWTS usually have three blades, 20 to 40 m (65 to 130 ft) in length, which are pointed into the wind by computer-controlled motors. The blades rotate 10 to 22 times per minute and can reach top speeds of up to 200 mph. The HAWT base is a tubular steel tower of 60 to 90 m (200 to 300 ft) in length.
Attaching a 40m, 8 ton blade to Turbine No. 21 in Scout Moor Wind Farm, England:
Image: Jamie R. Mathlin
Wind park under a neat cloud cover:
Standing tall in a red and green composition:
Image: Chris Ly
Strong winds are needed to get those enormous blades going, each of which weigh between four and eight tons! Lots of research therefore goes into determining the best location for a wind turbine, let alone a whole wind farm. Should the winds actually be too strong, each generator can be shut down. Hopefully.
The calm before the storm:
Image: alva borealis
Leaving aesthetics aside for a moment, as we all know beauty lies in the eye of the beholder, the wind turbine’s major advantage is that it is a clean way of energy production which uses a natural resource that is easily and freely available. Plus, it is often the only option in remote locations. Critics point to the high transportation and installation costs of wind turbines but once up, they are fairly easy to maintain. An area that certainly deserves more research is the prevention of bird accidents as thousands of birds and bats are killed each year that get within reach of wind turbines.
True blade runners in North Palm Springs, CA:
Image: Raymond Shobe
Catching the last bit of sun for dramatic effect:
How much energy do wind turbines produce? The largest wind turbine currently manufactured, the Enercon E-126, has a height of 198 m (650 ft), a diameter of 126 m (413 ft) and delivers up to 6 MW. The Repower 5M, only slightly smaller, delivers 5 MW and Matilda, a turbine in Gotland, Sweden produced 61.4 GWh during its 15-year lifetime. By way of comparison, a single megawatt can power 250 homes.
On or offshore? Fenton Wind Farm near Chandler, Minnesota:
Wow, no Photoshop needed here! Toora Wind Farm in Victoria, Australia:
How does wind energy compare to other forms of energy generation? Well, the numbers speak for themselves: although in 2008, 121.2 GW were generated worldwide, that was just 1.5% of worldwide electricity usage. Individual countries have a higher percentage of wind power versus other energy generation. Denmark leads with almost one fifth (19%) of its electricity demand created through wind power. Spain, Portugal, Germany and Ireland follow with 11%, 11%, 7% and 7%, respectively. Plans are underway in Brazil, India, the United States, France and China to grow this sector further.
Saluting the fading sun – Melancthon Wind Farm in Shelburne, ON, Canada:
Image: John Vetterli
…and then waving good-bye, bathed in red:
Image: John Vetterli
Though wind energy is an attractive alternative to fossil fuels because it is clean, renewable, readily available and widely distributed, and produces no greenhouse gas emissions, the current usage is surely only the tip of the iceberg and we will see a rapid growth in this field as well as in microgeneration.
Image: D.B. King
We’ll even throw in a free album.