Overview of Wind Energy
Wind energy has been a tradition in the United States
going back to the 1800's and in Europe back to the 12th century.
Many of our cherished images of the great plains and western United
States are replete with images of windmills being used to irrigate and
pump water. The use of windmills for generating electricity
began in Cleveland in 1888 and by 1908 there were 72 windmills being
used to create electricity.
Today advances in the design of modern wind turbines are leading to a great revival
in the use of wind energy. Wind energy is not limited to the giant wind
farms that are sprouting up on hillsides around the world.
have been tremendous strides in the efficiency of small
wind turbines so that nearly anyone with an acre of land can take
advantage of this free energy source.
In fact, the number of people with that potential is greater than many
think. According to the US Department of
Energy, 21 million homes in the U.S. are built on one or more
acres of land.
Not every location is right for wind energy. Most urban
areas, for example, lack the acreage needed for windmills.
Moreover, in urban areas the obstructions created by buildings cause
the wind to be much too turbulent for use in wind generation. Zoning
and housing regulations can also impede the use of windmills even in
suburban and rural areas where there is enough space. Finally,
not all areas of the world have enough wind to make wind turbines
practical, though this limitation may be less than many people think.
There are now many micro-turbines which have been specifically
designed to work in low wind conditions. Tower height also makes a big
difference. The wind gets both higher and more stable as
you move up and 100 to 120 foot towers can capture a surprising amount
of wind even when the breeze at ground level is fairly mild.
According to the American Wind energy Association you need an
average annual ground speed of between 7 to 9 miles per hour of wind
speed at ground level in order to make effective use of wind energy.
The key thing to keep in mind is that this refers to an average wind
speed not a constant wind speed. As we all know wind is highly
variable and if the wind blows only part of the time, but blows strong
when it does, your average wind speed could be quite good. The
best way to find out if there is enough wind in your location is to
consult a regional wind map. You can find the latest wind maps
http://www.nrel.gov/gis/wind.html. Even more detail on wind
maps can be found in our Wind Maps section on this site.
In this section you can find out specific details on small wind
turbines and the wind towers that support them. If you wish to
do an in depth study of this topic we recommend you look at the
Resources section where you can find listings of books, magazines
and articles about wind energy systems. Also, you might want to
consider joining one of the many organizations who support this
approach to energy generation. You can find out about them by
looking in our Organizations section. Perhaps it is time
you began to go with the wind.