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Where Can A Wind Turbine Be Built?

Where Can A Wind Turbine Be Built?

When I was reading an article online about the expansion of wind energy in recent years, I wondered where most wind turbines and wind farms exist around the world. So, I did some research to find out where wind turbines can be built. 

Where can a wind turbine be built? A wind turbine can be built and used almost anywhere in the world since there are no limits to where the energy from the wind can reach across the globe. Additionally, these turbines can be located somewhere onshore in fields and mountains or offshore inside the ocean. 

The industry of wind energy is constantly expanding and growing, and so is the construction of wind turbines almost everywhere you look. So, where can these machines be built? Are there any limits to where they exist around the world?

Related: A True Timeline to Build A Wind Farm

Where Wind Turbines Most Commonly Exist Around The World

Wind energy is becoming increasingly accepted in various countries and regions across the world. There are tons of residential wind turbines that can be located almost anywhere, as well as several large wind farms with hundreds of machines that collect and convert energy that is distributed to millions of people locally and across the globe. 

Some of the largest wind farms that are located within the United States are located in the state of Texas. These farms hold energy capacities of multiple megawatts of electricity, and transfer that energy to nearby homes and can even distribute it to other states.

Let’s take a look at some of the energy giants that contribute to the distribution of wind energy in Texas:

Capricorn Ridge has been operating for several years since it first opened in 2007, with its final phase of construction ending in 2008. The wind farm has a total capacity of 662 megawatts, with a total of almost 400 wind turbines each with a capacity of 1.5 megawatts.

In the entire farm, there are about 60 wind turbines with a total capacity of 2.3 megawatts. NextEra Energy, the owner of this wind farm,  happens to be the largest wind energy company in the United States. 

The Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center is another large wind farm located in Texas. This center is located in both Taylor and Nolan County, stretching almost fifty thousand acres between both counties. The entire wind farm has a capacity of approximately 735 megawatts of energy.

Across the entire property, there are almost three hundred wind turbines with a 1.5-megawatt capacity. There are also 139 wind turbines with 2.3-megawatt capacities throughout the farm. Horse Hollow was constructed in 2005 by a wind company called InvestEnergyGroup.

The Roscoe Wind Farm is located in Texas within the city of Roscoe, which it is named after. The developer and owner of the project is a company called E.ON Climate & Renewables. The project was originally constructed in 2008, with a second, third, and fourth phase of construction that finally came to an end in the middle of the year 2009.

The total budget for this project was over one billion dollars, with a total energy capacity of almost eight hundred megawatts. Immediately after the completion of the Roscoe Wind Farm, it was granted the title of the largest wind farm in the world, until the Alta Wind Energy Center was built in 2012.

The Buffalo Gap Wind Farm is a 500-megawatt wind project that is located near the city of Abilene in Texas. The exact location of the wind farm is within Nolan County and Taylor County. Originally owned by a company called SeaWest WindPower, the entire project was planned out in a total of three phases of construction.

The first phase holds almost 70 wind turbines with a capacity of 1.8 megawatts. The second phase is home to over 150 wind turbines with just 1.5 megawatts of energy capacity each, while the third phase consisted of over 70 turbines of 2.3 megawatts each.

All three phases were overseen by a company called AES Wind Generation who would soon buy out space, and officially opened for business in the summer of 2007.

Most of the electricity that is generated within the Buffalo Gap Wind Farm is sold to another energy company called Direct Energy as a result of a power purchase agreement that was signed between both parties.

Finally, the Panther Creek Wind Farm is another American wind project located in the state of Texas. With over three hundred wind turbines, the wind farm has a total energy capacity of over 450 megawatts of electricity. The project was constructed in three phases, with the first two opening in the year 2009.

The final phase of construction was finally completed shortly after, in September of the same year. The expansive land that the Panther Creek Wind Farm operates on is located between the Howard, Glasscock, and Sterling Counties, specifically within the city of Big Spring, Texas. Panther Creek has the ability to provide electricity from the wind to almost 140,000 local homes in the state of Texas. 

There are a lot more wind farms that are located in the United States outside of Texas, including the largest wind farm in the entire world. This project is known as the Atla Wind Energy Centre and is located in the state of California.

The Energy Center has a total capacity of just over one thousand megawatts, which is equal to one billion watts of electricity. Even though this wind farm is the largest in the world, the company that owns it is planning to expand its capacity to add an additional five hundred megawatts in the future. 

Utility-scale wind farms that have been widely recognized for their size and energy output are not just limited to those within the United States. In fact, some of the biggest wind farm projects in the world are located internationally.

Big wind turbines in the desert at sunset background.

Walney Wind Farms, for example, is an entire collection of multiple large offshore wind farms in the Irish Sea, England. The farms are located close to Walney Island and Cumbria’s coast. The Walney Wind Farm project includes a few different phases: one, two, and the Walney Extension, which has an energy capacity of an estimated 650 megawatts.

Walney Wind Farms is currently considered the largest offshore wind project in the entire world. The project was developed by a company called Walney Offshore Windfarms Limited in the United Kingdom, which was a joint effort between two other companies called Dong Energy and Scottish and Southern Energy.

The London Array Offshore Wind Farm is an offshore wind turbine that is located in the United Kingdom, not too far from Walney Wind Farms. More specifically, the turbines are planted almost one hundred feet away from Thames Estuary, United Kingdom. This wind farm comes in second place for the title of the largest offshore wind farm in the world, directly behind the Walney Extension wind project. 

Another one of the most highly regarded wind energy projects across the globe is located in Gansu, China. The Gansu Wind Farm, also known as the Jiuquan Wind Power Base, is composed of a collection of individual wind farms that are completed or under construction currently.

They are all located in the western area of Gansu, China closest to the nearby city of Jiuquan, China. This area of the country is developing multiple wind farms and resources for clean and renewable energy, so there is a lot to look forward to in future years. 

The Space That Should Exist Between Wind Turbines

While discussing the topic of where wind turbines can be built, it is important to acknowledge the limitations that exist as far as space between each machine. There are close to millions of wind turbines all across the globe, and it seems like more of them are popping up in every direction almost every other minute.

Although there are so many wind turbines all over the world, there are regulations in regards to how far apart they should be spaced. These limitations are in place in order to maximize the efficiency of the machines and prevent damage to the hardware and parts of the outside of the turbine. 

The minimum space required to build wind turbines will vary depending on the size and reach of each turbine’s blades.  More specifically, larger turbines that are on a utility-scale will require much more room in between them than a smaller residential turbine that might reside in the backyard of a farmhouse.

Some turbines have the energy capacity to create several megawatts of energy, which translate to one million watts each. As an example, take into consideration a large industrial turbine with an energy capacity of 2 megawatts.

This particular machine would require approximately one and a half acres of land in between itself and another turbine or itself and any obstructing objects including buildings or fences in the area. 

On the other hand, smaller wind turbines will require much less space and multiple of these machines will be able to be placed on a smaller amount of land while still being able to function properly.

The general rule of thumb for calculating the minimum distance that should be placed in between each wind turbine is the approximate measurement of 7 rotor diameters of the specific blades of that turbine. The diameter can be calculated by measuring the length of one of the rotor blades extending outward from the center of the rotor hub.

This calculation of the rotor blade’s diameter will then be multiplied by the number 7 to determine how much of a distance should be established between each turbine. 

If the limits of minimum space between wind turbines are ignored, there are consequences that will come with the closeness of the machines. This is due to the fact that there are certainly logical reasons that motivate the space limitations that should be placed between each functioning wind turbine.

The first and most obvious reason for these general rules is so the turbines do not run into each other while they are spinning with the wind. Wind turbines possess very long rotor blades that spin with the wind and work to harness its kinetic energy in order to take it in and convert it to usable electricity using a variety of components within itself. 

These blades must be long in order to effectively generate power from the wind and essentially scoop the air into its center almost like they are the machine’s arms.

Therefore, if two different wind turbines were placed directly next to each other with little to no space in between them, the blades would likely crash into each other when any kind of wind speed is present. Wind turbines move according to the speed of the wind, so faster wind speeds translate to faster rotation speeds. 

In the event of a severe storm or extremely high wind speeds, if one of these turbines was to suffer any damage to the hardware, it could transfer over to the next turbine.

For example, if the first machine’s braking mechanisms were not working properly during a harsh wind storm and an outer component like one of the blades flew off of the machine, it would immediately interfere with the other turbine, most likely causing severe damage to it as well. 

Aside from the most obvious physical reasons, there is an additional theory that supports the reasoning for spacing out wind turbines according to regulations. This theory is known as the “wake effect”. It concludes that some wind turbines are able to take more energy than others if they are in certain locations.

More specifically, the wind’s kinetic energy can be slowed down or completely taken away by a wind turbine that is too close to the same area as another group of turbines. 

Take a small wind farm as an example, with several wind turbines within a small space without too much room in between them. If the wind began to blow in the direction of 2 of the turbines that were located in front of the others, those turbines will begin to sense the wind speeds and turn their blades to collect the kinetic energy.

These 2 turbines would be able to gain from the full amount of kinetic energy supplied by the wind, as they would be the first turbines to have access to it.

The other turbines directly behind them, however, will not be able to gain the full amount of kinetic energy from the same gusts of wind, because the turbines in front of them slowed down the momentum, so they might only get a small percentage of energy. This happens due to the fact that kinetic energy in any form is created by a consistent movement. 

Therefore, when the wind freshly grazes the blades of a turbine without any interference before it, that turbine will gain all of the possible energy the wind turbine has to give, or at least as much energy as they are able to take from it at any given time.

When something obstructs the wind’s path to the next object that is behind it depending on the given direction of the breeze, the obstructing item will take the majority of that kinetic energy that is promoting movement of the wind, and the speeds will be automatically slower when they pass the first machine. s

Besides the motivation of safety with the minimum space limits between wind turbines, there are additional reasons why these rules should be followed, including the actual efficiency potential of the machines.

On average, it has been reported that each wind turbine currently requires a distance of approximately 300 feet between them. This is equal to an estimated total of 7 complete rotor diameters for the averagely sized wind turbine.

In recent research, it has been hypothesized that wind turbines might even need a little bit more space between them, exceeding previous limits for minimum spacing requirements. 

A study that was conducted at Johns Hopkins University proposed that for maximum efficiency, each wind turbine will require much more space to collect and convert energy as freely as possible.

The total space required will include a variety of factors, including efficient space for the concrete foundation underneath the towers that work to keep them standing upright into the wind.

This should be a stage in the initial planning of the wind project, and the foundations of each turbine should not interfere with any others to create adequate space. The distance between the field of wind turbines and nearby power substations should be properly measured and planned out as well.

The results of the research confirmed that there should be an average for 4 megawatts per square kilometer accounted for when planning a wind farm project. 

Why Wind Turbines Shouldn’t Be Placed in Some Areas 

In addition to the fact that the machines need room to operate freely and have the ability to generate as much electricity as they possibly can, wind turbines have been proven to have adverse effects on various ecosystems across the world, including endangered species of wildlife.

The most frequent reports of animal deaths caused by wind turbines involve flying species like birds and bats. There have been numerous studies performed on this subject in order to highlight the connection between wind turbines and bird and bat fatalities. The species that are most affected by these dangerous machines are bats by a long run. 

In fact, it has been reported that millions of bats a year suffer deaths from the spinning blades of wind turbines or the intense pressure they create in the atmosphere. Even worse, wind turbines account for over three-fourths of all bat deaths across the entire globe every single year.

These statistics were proven by the results of a study that was completed in recent years in the Appalachian Mountain region. A group of scientists tracked and studied the flying patterns of bats and calculated the fatalities that occurred when the animals came in contact with the machines.

Similar to the bat deaths that are caused by wind turbines, hundreds of thousands of bird deaths have been recorded as each year goes by that were caused by the blades of spinning wind turbines. 

Wind turbines actually account for a staggering total of 300,000 bird deaths annually. Unfortunately, most people involved in the wind energy industry have failed to acknowledge this issue, due to the fact that the turbines do not account for nearly as large of a percentage of bird deaths will all other causes considered.

In fact, it has been proven scientifically that birds are hundreds of times more likely to be killed between the paws of a common house cat than the blades of a wind turbine.

As a general rule of thumb, it would be a good idea for wind energy project developers to avoid certain areas that are home to endangered species in order to protect wildlife as much as possible. 

The Environmental Effects that Come With the Construction of Wind Turbines 

To go along with the limitations for where wind turbines should be placed around the world, there are concerns about the potential effect that an increase in wind turbines can have on the environment. Specifically, there have been several rumors over the years that wind turbines have a role in the cause of global warming.

Most people believe that when wind turbines spin their blades to collect the wind’s energy, they are actually generating heat with the constant movements they are caring out. 

In response to this common belief, two scientists from Harvard University performed a study to refute these exact claims. Their objective was to find out what would happen if the United States used wind turbines as the only source of electricity in the entire country.

The results of this research were that the total of all the turbines across the entire country would heat up the surface by approximately .24 degrees Celsius. The results of this research caused somewhat of an uproar because this number did not seem ideal for lowering global warming.

However, it is very important in this instance to understand that global warming is an epidemic that affects the entire earth including every country across the globe, not just the United States. Any temperatures that are measured within the United States alone are not considered to be global warming all on their own.

Even further, the United States is only one small area within the entire world, so even if the country were to adopt wind energy as the primary source of electricity, therefore raising the temperatures by .24 degrees Celsius, it would still not be enough heat to contribute in any significant way to global warming. 

In addition, wind turbines do not even generate heat on the earth’s surface, it just moves the heat around that already exists in the atmosphere. This process begins when the air that lingers just above the ground naturally drops in temperature and becomes cooler in temperature when the night time approaches.

When a wind turbine is rotating near this air that exists in every area of the world, the turbine will transfer the warm air that is pushed down by its blades from the next level of the atmosphere down to combine with the colder air below it.

This action causes the temperatures to get slightly warmer in the night time when the machines are on and functioning. If the same turbine was removed from its place and that area of the earth was examined, the cool air would still be present there even without the turbine. 

Wind turbines do not contribute to global warming, because the transfer of warm air does not make the entire planet hot. Since the blades of the turbine are just fanning the hot air toward the ground and causing it to blend in with the existing cool air, it is just rearranging the order that is present in the atmosphere.

Additionally, this is not a permanent action, as mentioned before. The wind turbine will not change the temperature patterns in any area no matter how long it is there and how many times it creates a small increase in temperature in the area directly below its blades. 

Related Questions

How much does it cost to purchase and build one wind turbine?

The cost to purchase and build a wind turbine will depend on the size and energy capacity of the individual machine. Most wind turbine machines themselves cost anywhere from $40,000 to $50,000 including the equipment only. When the cost of delivery and installation is added into the equation, a wind project can total upwards of $65,000. 

How Do Wind Turbines Work?

Wind turbines have several components that work together to convert wind energy into electricity. In short, the turbine will pick up on the speeds of the wind and the internal parts of the machine will relay the message through to the rotor blades. The blades will begin to rotate along with the speeds of the wind and collect its kinetic energy, constantly transforming and multiplying it until it is ready for distribution. 

Learn More

If you’re serious about learning more about wind energy, I recommend the Wind Energy Handbook on Amazon. This book is great for both students and professionals, and it holds invaluable information on the subject of wind power.