Clean and Free with Wind Energy

One of the oldest forms of used energy in the world, wind energy is now one of the many alternative forms of energy being looked at to wean many countries off of their oil dependency. It's perfectly clean, totally free, and it's now being used to empower a large percentage of a country's energy needs in many cases. This type of energy does have a bit of science behind it though, so we'll take a look at what makes wind energy work and where it's being used right now.

The Science

Wind energy has been used for centuries, often to churn grain and other agricultural products. It was a popular alternative to watermills in dry places such as the southern United States and Mexico, and that's what most people think of when they imagine windmills, large structures with a fan spinning from the wind. Nowadays, wind energy is used to refer to the use of wind to generate electricity, but first it might be useful to understand wind itself. In a nutshell, wind occurs because of the temperature difference between the poles and the equator, and the Earth's rotation also contributes to wind being generated. Now wind is more prevalent above the ground, such as atop a mountain or hills, so that's where most wind turbines are positioned to generate electricity most effectively.

So as the wind comes streaming over hills and mountains, it turns a big fan, just like it would have on an old windmill. This fan in turn rotates a turbine, and the turbine generates electricity because of its rotation. Now, the only downside to wind energy is that it takes a lot of these wind turbines to generate comparable amounts of electricity to a hydroelectric dam, for example. However, new wind turbines have recently been developed which can be installed off the coast, and these particular turbines are real behemoths. They stretch hundreds of feet into the sky and are really a spectacle to see. These generate a lot more electricity because of their size than their land bound counterparts, but usable coastal waters are limited, especially as many people would prefer that most coastal waters be left alone.

To be fair, it's unlikely that wind energy could ever truly replace coal or oil, two of the largest (and two of the dirtiest) forms of energy. However, it can and will complement other alternatives, such as nuclear, solar, and hydroelectric power to generate our electrical needs as a society. With wind energy, we can all look to a cleaner and healthier future.