Don’t let the name fool you––a wind farm doesn’t just refer to agricultural ventures. It simply refers to an operation generally composing more than one wind turbine, aiming to turn the wind’s kinetic energy into electric energy. But the big question is: how do these wind farms work?
In general, wind farms work when a group of wind turbines are strategically places to harvest wind, which is then turned into energy. This is of course a very simplistic explanation, the actual workings of a wind farm are far more complex.
Continue reading to learn more about these renewable energy sources and how they’re reducing our collective carbon footprint.
What Is a Wind Farm, and How Does It Work?
The U.S. Department of Energy reports that a wind farm is generally a group of wind turbines that have one goal: to generate energy. They’re typically found in regions with rolling hills, small mountains, and open plains. California is actually home to one of the nation’s largest wind farms, boasting 600 wind turbines.
To understand how a wind farm works, you first have to understand how a wind turbine works and generates energy. Consider the following:
- One installs a wind turbine on their property. While small wind turbines can cost up to $5,000, wind turbines for commercial and agricultural purposes can cost more than $75,000 each.
- Once installed, the wind will turn the blades, creating kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is energy generated by motion, which causes energy particles to speed up.
- The kinetic energy is transformed into electrical energy and is stored in a generator.
- The generator is connected to various devices, which may include homes, industrial machines, and other power-based appliances. These devices are powered by the electrical energy stored in the generator.
The more wind turbines on one’s property, the more energy they will generate.
Different Types of Wind Turbines, Different Purposes
At first glance, all wind turbines look the same. But this is not the case. There are different wind turbines designed for different environments. There are generally two designs:
- Horizontal-axis turbines are the most common design––typically the ones people are used to seeing. These mills generally have three to four blades, and they are usually located uphill.
- Vertical-axis turbines are one of the rarer models on today’s market, and the U.S. Department of Energy is researching how to best use these devices. They’re generally located near large bodies of water, like lakes or oceans.
You can learn more about the different types of wind turbines and their applications by visiting the Environmental Information Administration’s (EIA) website.
Do Wind Farms Actually Work?
Absolutely. Wind energy is one of the most sustainable renewable energy sources available, right next to solar energy. With the right weather conditions, even just one wind turbine can power an entire home for months. Some benefits of wind farms include:
- Wind energy is cost-effective, meaning that aside from initial installation costs, homeowners and business owners pay little out of pocket to power their appliances.
- Wind energy is a domestic source of energy, meaning that people don’t have to rely on foreign exports or rising and falling energy prices.
- Wind turbines are readily-available to install. If one owns a big piece of property, they don’t have to bulldoze dozens of acres to install a wind turbine. As long as it’s 300 feet from an already-existing structure, it can be installed.
Like Everything, Wind Farms Aren’t Perfect
While wind farms are an amazing source of energy, they’re not perfect. Some challenges associated with wind farms include:
- They pose a danger to wildlife. It’s not uncommon to find dead birds around the base of wind turbines. These fatalities are either because the wind turbines interrupt migratory patterns or because birds simply don’t see them.
- Many areas are hesitant to allow wind turbines on residential property. Some communities argue that wind turbines are “ugly” and interfere with city skylines. They’re also really loud, so people don’t want their homes next to one.
- Some areas aren’t conducive to wind farms. As mentioned, California is a great place for wind farms because of its climate and terrain. It’s just a great way to harness the wind’s energy. Some places, like Florida, are not great for wind energy because it simply doesn’t have that much wind. It’s great for solar energy, however.
Is Installing a Wind Farm Right for Me?
If you live in a single-family home under the right conditions, you could benefit from just having a small wind turbine on your property. However, if you’re a business owner that’s running an agricultural operation (just an example), a wind farm could benefit you.
The U.S. Department of Energy suggests that before running out and buying wind turbines, you should ask yourself these questions:
- Do you live in a densely populated area?
- How big is your property?
- What is your monthly energy consumption like?
- Will your county allow you to install a wind turbine?
- Are you comfortable with paying expensive starting costs?
If you’re still on board with getting a wind turbine, you should also consider an appropriate height and how many watts you’re hoping to generate.
A Final Word
Long story short: wind farms use by converting wind energy into electricity. Whether converting your home or business to wind energy depends on your situation.