Wind Power

Wind Electricity Generation Facts:

  • The first wind turbine was invented in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush.  The turbine’s diameter was 17 meters (50 feet), it had 144 rotor blades made of cedar wood, and it generated 12 kilowatts (kW) of power. 
  • Although the USA pioneered electricity generated by wind, as the oil industry and America’s love for the car took hold, investment in wind energy declined. 
  • We can only imagine what kind of a world we would have today if we had continued the development of wind energy in line with our other technological advances of the 20th Century. 

Global installed electrical capacity* 6,500 gigawatts (2016)

  • 64% generated by Fossils Fuels (coal, oil, gas)
  • 17% generated by Hydroelectricity
  • 7.5% generated by Wind (472 gigawatts onshore, 15 gigawatts offshore)
  • 5.5% generated by Nuclear
  • 4.5% generated by Solar (303 gigawatts solar PV, 5 gigawatts solar thermal)
  • 1.5% generated by Biomass

*Above 1 megawatt

Today wind energy is on rapid catch-up. 

Wind has some advantages over solar power and some disadvantages. 

The main advantages are that wind power can generate electricity at any time of the day or night as opposed to solar when obviously it must be daytime, and wind can be placed in environments where solar PV is impractical, i.e. stormy, dark regions. 

The main disadvantages of wind power are that it is inconsistent and maintenance heavy; as a rule, the more moving parts to an item, the more maintenance it requires. 

A solar panel (passive generation) unless fitted with a solar tracker basically just sits there generating energy, and aside from cleaning every now and then and monitoring the infrastructure, it runs itself. 

Wind turbines (active generation), particularly the huge nine-megawatt towers of today each larger than 4 football fields, require incredible industrial and technological know-how, and high costs not just to construct but throughout their life. 

Economies of scale and improving efficiencies of generation, transmission, and storage ensure that as part of the renewables mix, the wind is here to stay. 


The Wind Turbine Industry Today:
 

  1. Wind Farms
    Modern wind farms are described in terms of onshore and offshore. A recent trend in the highly urbanised developed world has been to move wind farms offshore, where there are fewer planning and regulatory issues, and fewer people to complain about low-level noise and problem aesthetics. 

Despite the obvious drawbacks for ocean based wind farms – inhospitable environment, difficulty of maintenance, salt and environmental degradation, as well as the ever-present hazard of a wayward ship colliding and destroying a turbine (it’s never happened) offshore wind is a strong and growing business. 

Europe leads the way followed by China in ocean based generation. Reducing costs and universally proven technology means more investors are willing to come on board and fund ever-larger projects. 

Another interesting offshore development is in experimental floating wind turbines. The ability to relocate turbines during their working life making them commodities potentially to be bought and sold and moved around the world’s oceans like chess pieces according to wherever they are needed most, makes this an attractive and interesting proposition. 

Floating platforms also negate the prohibitive costs of undersea foundations. Concrete footings are very expensive to dismantle at the end of a fixed turbine’s (25 year) life and there are strict rules preventing them being left on the sea bed which must be returned to its natural state when the structures are removed. 

Whilst it is true that a turbine on a floating platform adds to maintenance costs, it can if necessary be brought back to land for repairs and upgrades far more easily than a fixed turbine, so there are pros and cons. 


Controversies

Wind farms are often unpopular on land due to perceived low-level noise pollution and poor aesthetics (personally I like them but it is a matter of taste!). 

To mitigate this, translucent coatings can reflect and visually blend the shaft and blades into the environment, and noise reduction technology can be utilised

Of great public concern is the potential damage to wildlife and particularly birds. In a recent successful planning application for a series of wind farms in the Forth and Tay, Scotland, it was claimed that 1,500 seabirds could be killed each year. 

Quite properly methods must be employed to reduce this as much as possible, however it is easy to exaggerate the negative impact of wind turbines on bird populations. A recent study in California where wind generation is well established, showed that wind turbines in the USA are responsible for around 5% of bird deaths compared with static communication towers, 0.3% compared with agricultural pesticides, and 0.04% compared with bird deaths attributable to domestic cats.

Wots Hot® Energy began business sourcing funding for a single 500 kilowatt wind turbine in rural England, and we have maintained close links with several of the largest global wind energy players ever since. We are happy to help clients connecting with this industry and exploring their wind energy goals. 

Please contact Wots Hot®Energy here for further information.

  1. Localised Electricity Generation
    An exciting aspect of modern urban planning and one which Wots Hot® Energy is embracing is the ability to generate electricity in ever-increasing and ingenious ways and incorporate this seamlessly into urban development. 

For example lamp posts and utility poles were in the past a cost item, now they are opportunities to generate power and income. 

Modern utility poles are platforms for:

  • Street lighting powered by the Sun through solar PV with internal battery storage
  • Built-in wind turbines to bolster energy generation
  • Technology and security hubs incorporating Wi-Fi hotspots, as well as CCTV and other security systems designed to make a community safer 

For further information on eco-products and urban design to make your community self-sustaining, contact Wots Hot® Energy here. 
.

  1. Portable Mini-Turbines
    There is an expanding range of products on the market which can generate electricity through a combination of mini-turbines and solar PV, small enough to be dismantled and carried from one place to another in a backpack, or else set up semi-permanently or permanently in an outbuilding, shelter, tent, camper as required. 

An interesting twist on this is the ‘underwater mini-turbine’, which fulfills a similar function using the flow of water in a stream – useful for campers and hikers. 

The world is truly an exciting place to be right now. Developments in portable, small-scale and even wearable renewable energy generation mean that electrical power is available to anyone anywhere. 

Wots Hot®Energy is committed to renewable energy generation and can advise and supply your entire renewable energy needs. We are equally committed to charitable giving and community development, and if we can assist your not-for-profit project with assistance or advice, please get in touch here.