Here’s a look at how wind energy works, what it’s used for, and how it can improve our daily lives.
What is Wind Power?
Wind power captures the wind that flows freely through our atmosphere and converts it into mechanical energy. This mechanical energy is then turned into electricity. Windmills are the earliest example of wind power. These structures used the wind to pump water, ground grain, and other things. Read more on rainwater harvesting systems.
A modern wind turbine is essentially a high-tech version of a windmill. Modern wind turbines harness the wind’s kinetic energy and convert this energy into electricity. Many wind turbines have three blades which sit atop a steel tubular tower. They range in size, from large to small. The size of the turbine depends on the demand of the entity it’s required to power. Here’s a look at the history and advantages of wind energy in South Africa.
Wind is a type of renewable energy. There are three main types of wind power.
Three Main Types of Windpower
- Utility-Scale Wind: These turbines are massive. Larger than 100 kilowatts, they’re developed to supply large amounts of energy to power grids. The energy that’s created is managed and distributed accordingly.
- Distributed or “Small” Wind: These are small turbines that are 100 kilowatts or smaller. These often supply power directly to a home, farm, or small business.
- Offshore Wind: These are wind turbines erected in bodies of water. They operate globally but have yet to reach the shores of the United States.
How Wind Turbines Work
When the wind blows past a turbine, the blades rotate. The rotation of the blades triggers an internal shaft, which also spins. This shaft is connected to a gearbox, which increases the speed of rotation. The gearbox is connected to a generator which ultimately produces electricity. Often times, a turbine is made up of a steel, tubular tower, which can be up to 325 feet in height.
This tower supports the hub of the turbine, which secures the wind through the means of turbine blades. The “nacelle” of the turbine houses the shaft, gearbox, generator, and controls. A wind turbine is equipped with wind assessment equipment. This equipment will automatically rotate into the face of the wind and will angle its blades to optimise energy capture.
What is a Wind Farm?
Wind turbines are often constructed close together, in windy areas that are also highly commercially or residentially developed. This cluster of wind turbines is known as a wind farm. It’s essentially a wind power plant.
How Wind Energy Gets to You
Wind turbines are constructed in such a way that allows wind-generated electricity to reach a power grid. Once wind energy is available in the main power grid, operators stand by to deliver the energy and power to where it is needed.
Smaller transmission lines known as “distribution lines” collect the electricity generated by the turbines on wind farms and transport them to larger transmission lines, or network transmission lines. The electricity is then able to travel long distances to the locations that need it. Finally, smaller distribution lines deliver electricity directly to both towns and homes.
How Wind Projects are developed
The potential for wind energy in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban is massive. Experts are estimating the energy potential to be ten times the amount of electricity for the entire country. Strong wind availability varies by region and topography. Wind energy projects are developed by companies looking to develop areas with strong winds.
These investors or companies also look to review other factors, such as land access, transmission line access, ability to sell the electricity, and public engagement/acceptability.
- Once a site has been identified, a developer will conduct an assessment known as a wind resource assessment. Siting, permitting, and transmission studies also occur, over several year periods.
- After early stages of development, a contract will be sought out, by a developer. Capital will be raised for the purpose of electricity purchase, wind turbine purchase, and construction specialists.
- Finally, the project is considered complete. A turbine has a lifespan of roughly 20-30 years. The operator is expected to maintain the wind farm throughout the entirety of its lifespan.
Benefits of Wind Energy
Wind energy is a clean and renewable form of energy. It uses virtually no water while pumping billions of dollars into our economy, every year. Since 2008, the United States Wind Industry has generated more than $100 billion in private investments.
Additionally, wind energy is drought resistant. It can provide jobs for millions of landowners, with developers paying landowners to buy turbines for their land. Finally, wind energy is almost emission free. The turbines don’t emit conventional pollutants and use very little water.
Advantages and Challenges of Wind Energy
Wind energy is one of the fastest growing energy sources in the world. This is primarily based on the fact that it offers many advantages. Research efforts are aimed at addressing the challenges associated with using wind energy on a larger scale. Keep reading to learn more about the advantages of wind power in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban, as well as some of the challenges the energy source faces.
Advantages of Wind Energy in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban
The advantages of wind energy is that its a completely clean fuel source. It doesn’t pollute the air like other sources of large-scale energy production that rely on fossil fuels. Wind turbines don’t produce atmospheric emissions, either.
The Wind is a domestic source of energy, meaning the nation’s wind supply is abundant and unsusceptible to foreign trade/intervention. Over the past 10 years, cumulative wind power capacity in South Africa increased by an average of 30% annually. This growth rate outpaced the previous annual growth rate, which was a mere 28%.
The advantages of wind energy Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban is that its sustainable. The Wind is essentially a form of solar energy; winds are generated by atmospheric heat, which is provided by the means of sunlight, rotation of the earth, and surface irregularities. As long as the sun shines brightly in the sky, energy will be harnessed by wind-powered turbines.
Wind power is quite cost-effective. It’s not only low-priced, but it’s quite renewable. It’s one of the cheapest renewable energy options we have. The average price is four to six cents per kilowatt per hour, which is dependent on the resource availability. Read more on living life in the green zone.
Wind turbines can be built on existing farms or ranches, which greatly benefits the economy of rural areas. Most wind farms in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban are constructed in rural areas. Farmers and ranchers are able to work on their land because wind farms take up very little space. Wind farm owners also pay rent to the farmers and ranchers who allow them to use their land. This acts as another source of income which is another one of the advantages of wind energy for rural areas.
Wind turbines create jobs. In 2014 alone, the wind sector invested more than $8 billion of capital in the U.S economy, solely to build projects related to wind-farms. This, in turn, employed more than 73,000 workers. According to the Wind Vision Report, wind-powered energy has the potential to supply more than half a million with jobs in areas such as installation, maintenance, and supporting services by 2050.
Disadvantages of Wind Energy in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban
One of the disadvantages of wind power is that it doesn’t operate solely from the wind. A turbine has to come equipped with a conventional generator, which can be costly. Depending on the condition of an area, the wind farm might not be very competitive, unless subject to specific regulations which require residents to source their energy from wind farms.
Good winds are often in remote locations and are often far from areas where they’re needed the most. Costly transmission lines often have to be built from wind farms to the city which is another one of the disadvantages of wind energy in Johannesburg, Pretoria, Western Cape and Durban.
Wind resource development may not be very profitable when compared to other uses of a specified lot of land. Electricity generation is often less valued than commercial or agricultural development.
Another disadvantage of wind energy is that turbines can cause both noise and aesthetic pollution. Although wind power plants don’t have much impact on the environment. There are concerns that exist over the noise produced by the turbine blades. Especially when compared to other power sources such as conventional power plants.
Turbine blades may damage the wildlife. This is another one of the disadvantages of wind energy. Birds have been known to accidentally fly into the turbine blades. This can be hugely disruptive to ecosystems if it occurs on a frequent basis. Thankfully, much of this has been abolished, thanks to certain technological advancements in wind turbine technology. Read more on the solar power facts.
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