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What is wind power?

What is wind power?Wind energy is one of the lowest-priced renewable energy sources

  • An average wind speed of 14mph is required to convert wind energy into electricity
  • The UK is the windiest country in Europe, so much so that we could power the whole country several times over using wind energy

Wind is one of the most common renewable resources in the world and recently man has come up with a clever way of using the wind to generate electricity.

Harnessing the energy from wind, caused by the movements of air of varying temperatures, and using it to our advantage is nothing new. If you’ve ever been in the countryside and seen old windmills, they work on exactly the same principle as modern wind turbines with one exception- we are using it to produce electricity instead of flour.

There are two main types of wind turbines:

Horizontal wind turbines. The most common is a horizontal wind turbine, which looks like a windmill. These have blades like helicopter propellors, each of which measures about 200ft across. That's about 2/3 the length of a football pitch! They are also typically as tall as a 20-storey building.

Vertical wind turbines. Vertical wind turbines, which look like electric whisks, are much less common.

How do they work?

The way that wind turbines generate electricity is relatively simple. The wind catches the turbine blades, which are shaped in such a way that they create lift (just like an aeroplane wing).

This lift causes the blades to spin around and turn a shaft which is connected to a generator using gears. Electricity is created in the generator by using powerful magnets and coils of wire. When the coils are spun quickly inside the magnets, they produce electricity.

Small wind turbines can be used to generate electricity on a small scale, for an individual house or even a caravan or boat. Larger wind turbines are more common and you will often see commercial wind turbines grouped together in wind farms.

Advantages

  • The wind is free, so no fuel is needed
  • No greenhouse gases are produced
  • The land under the turbines can generally still be used, e.g. for grazing or farming
  • They can generate electricity in isolated areas

Disadvantages

  • Sometimes there is no wind, so the turbines produce no electricity
  • Wind turbines can only be built in specific areas which are windy enough
  • Some people think wind farms are ugly
  • Wind turbines can kill birds, and affect TV reception
  • They can be noisy

Wind power in the UK

Currently wind turbines in the UK generate enough electricity to power just over 2 million homes, out of a total of 23 million in the UK.

So why don’t we use wind energy to power more homes in the UK? Firstly there are limited areas in the UK where it is considered windy enough to build wind turbines.

However, the main reason is that many people think that wind turbines are ugly and an eyesore. This combined with the difficulties getting planning permission in order to build a wind farm, means that this can only happen if the local residents, and planning authorities agree.

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