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WNY GOING GREEN: WIND POWER

Saturday, 04.02.2011 / 10:51 AM / Blue & Gold Make Green
By Michael Jafari  - Graduate Assistant (2010)
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WNY GOING GREEN: WIND POWER
Wind is traditionally known to create waves, move objects and push sails, but it can now be used as a substitute source of energy.

Wind is the kinetic energy of the air in motion.  Its energy can be converted into a useful form of energy through use of a wind turbine that can create electricity, wind pumps and wind mills for mechanical power. 

Wind turbines are the devices used to transform wind energy, which eventually converts into electricity. As wind pushes the turbine blades around, the spinning motion turns the turbine rotor, which then drives the shaft of an electric generator housed within the turbine. The transmission lines can then deliver the generated electric power from prime wind energy areas to any location.

Wind energy could be the breakthrough in power that the world has been asking for in order to shy away from our reliance on fossil fuels. According to Cristen Conger’s article at discovery.com, Mark Jacobson and a colleague from the University of California drafted a world-wide blueprint for converting 100% of the earth’s energy use to renewable sources in 2009.  The result showed that wind power is the best choice because of its little carbon footprint compared to the energy it produces. 

The article goes on to say that Jacobson claims that 15% of the land on Earth has enough wind speed capacity to meet global energy needs many times over, and the U.S. energy policy calls for 20% of the nation’s total energy use to come from wind power by 2030.

As a result of the demand in wind energy, wind farms, or a large group of wind turbines, are popping up more and more in the United States, primarily in Texas. A large wind farm may consist of hundreds of individual wind turbines and cover hundreds of square miles, but the space between the turbines may be used for agricultural purposes. A wind farm doesn’t necessarily need to be located in a large area of land, as they could also be located offshore to take advantage of strong winds blowing over the surface of an ocean, river, or lake.

Conger wrote in her article that wind farms are not only preserving energy, but they also are much friendlier to the environment compared to fossil fuels and electricity.  The actual ground needed for even a small wind farm is less than two square kilometers, and the wind power systems can preserve the green space surrounding turbines, plus reduce the amount of interaction with local wildlife, especially compared to habitat damage caused by coal mining and fossil fuel drilling.

Now that the awareness of limited energy resources has been recognized, several companies have figured out ways to use wind turbines in residential homes.  A company called Skystream can build and install wind turbines at residential homes in an attempt to shy people away from using electricity.  The installer would then connect it to the home’s electric meter, so it can work with the house’s electric utility to power the house.

When the wind isn’t blowing, the utility supplies your electricity, but when it’s windy out, your Skystream pivots to catch the best wind and provides clean, quiet electricity. When it creates more electricity than you need, your meter can actually move backwards, meaning you are giving electricity back to the utility.

We may not be far enough along to consider wind power as a source of energy, but the strides being taken are good signs of progression.  Because wind is a limitless energy source, it will not only decrease our dependence on valuable resources like electricity and fossil fuels, but it would be a huge step in helping the world become a better place environmentally.

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