By Katie Anderson on July 27th, 2011
We’ve used the wind as an energy source for a very long time. In the Middle Ages, wind power was used to grind wheat, which is essentially where the word “mill” in windmill originates.
The impetus for modern wind turbines was driven by the oil crisis of the mid-70s. In fact, the technology advanced at such a rapid pace, that wind energy has gone down as one of the top ten inventions of the 80s.
A wind turbine is essentially a device that converts kinetic energy from the wind into mechanical energy. Wind turbines harness the power of the wind and use it to generate electricity.
The use of wind turbines can be a great way to provide a source of clean and renewable energy for your home or business. Small-wind turbines – also referred to as micro-wind turbines – are capable of producing enough electricity in a typical home to help power the lights and electrical appliances.
A wind turbine is one of the most simplest methods of renewable energy. Wind turbines work when wind causes the fan blades to rotate, driving a generator that converts the rotational energy into electricity, supplementing the mains supply.
To emphasise the capabilities of modern wind turbines, a 2.5MW turbine for example – of the kind you are likely to find in off-shore wind farms – has the power to generate around 6.5 million units of electricity each year. In simplistic terms, that’s enough to meet the annual needs of over 1,400 households or brew 230 million cups of tea.
Wind energy is also a key ingredient for the United Kingdoms’ future energy growth and the country’s overall plan to reduce carbon emissions.
Is wind energy right for my home?
- There are two types of turbines – mast mounted and roof mounted.
- As a general rule, the higher the turbine the better, but you do need to be aware that planning permission may very well be required. So it is important to consult your local authority to find out what planning permission might be needed.
- Wind speed is perhaps the most important factor. You’ll need an average wind speed of around 5m/s or more. Our wind turbine calculator will give you an indication of the expected wind speeds in your area.
10 Top Facts
1. The UK is the windiest country in Europe. In fact, around 40% of all the wind energy in Europe blows over the country.
2. A modern wind turbine is designed to run continuously for over 20 years, or for 175,316 hours. Compare that to a car engine, where the design life time is 20 times less at only 4,000 to 6,000 hours.
3. Wind turbines are a remarkably robust piece of technology. Designed to be operated remotely, they require minimal maintenance, around 40 hours per year.
4. There are wind turbines installed and generating electricity in the Arctic and in the North Sea.
5. The blades on a modern wind turbine can sweep 48 tons of air every second, which is around the same weight as 10 elephants or 5 double decker buses.
6. In the last 20 years, the power production of wind turbines has increased by a factor of 100, while the costs of generating electricity from the wind has fallen by 80%.
7. The first wind farm in the UK was built at Delabole in 1991.
8. Turbines can have either a vertical or horizontal axis.
9. The United States and Germany are two of the world’s leading countries when it comes to wind energy. Other contenders include China and Spain.
10.Some of the first turbines that produced energy from the wind were used in 200 b. c. in Persia (now known as Iran).