Frequently Asked Questions
Wind power is the result of using the wind to generate electricity. In the past windmills were used to grind grain or pump water. Today, a large wind turbine can power all the electricity needs of at least 350 homes. There are many different methods of producing electricity, including burning coal and other fossil fuels. Yet most of these ways hurt the environment by polluting the air and water, and releasing dangerous gases into the Earth's atmosphere. Wind power does not have these effects, which is why we call it a clean, Earth-friendly energy source.
If the wind is blowing hard enough, starting at 7 mph, the blades of a wind turbine will spin. The blades are connected to a drive shaft located in the nacelle, or the box on the top of the tower. As the blades turn, the drive shaft turns and produces electricity. The electricity flows down the tower and into a transformer located outside the turbine. Inside the transformer, the electricity from the turbine is converted to a voltage that we can use for power. The power flows to the project's substation and then into a large power grid. From here, the wind generated electricity is sent through utility lines to its final destination. Can you store the energy from a wind turbine?
Currently, there is not a cost effective way to store the energy that a wind turbine produces. Once the power generated from the wind is turned into electricity, it is directed to the electrical grid for immediate use by consumers.
Simply put, an average one megawatt wind turbine will produce enough energy for the annual needs of 350 average households. The amount of energy produced by a turbine varies depending on several factors, namely the size and reliability of the turbine, and the speed that the wind is blowing. These factors together produce the turbine’s capacity. Typically modern turbines range in size from 660 kilowatts to over 3 megawatts of capacity. They are placed in fairly windy locations with minimum wind speeds in the range of six meters per second (around 13 miles per hour). Wind turbines generally run at 30 to 40 percent capacity, so a 1 MW turbine could produce around 3 million KWh of electricity in a year.
The actual space that a turbine tower occupies is small, usually less than 100 square feet, but some towers require fenced-in enclosures for additional monitoring equipment, transformers, and other equipment.
Electricity generated by wind turbines typically costs around 5 cents per kWh. This is competitive with traditional sources of electrical generation and is the cheapest renewable energy source. Considering factors such as the rising cost of fossil fuels, the cost of pollution including greenhouse gasses, and the cost of site rehabilitation when a power plant closes, the cost of wind power is competitive with, and may actually be less than, fossil fuels. After a wind turbine is purchased and installed, the operating costs are minimal and the fuel is free.
The time it takes to build a project varies with the size of the project, the number of turbines, and other factors. Most utility-size projects take over a year to complete. However, in certain cases, the construction time is much less. The 80 MW Llano Estacado Wind Ranch™ at White Deer, for instance, took only three months to construct.
Migratory bird “flyways” make a minimal impact on bird populations. In fact, overhead high-voltage power lines, and automobiles pose significantly greater threats to birds than do wind turbines. Wind Energy America Wind Power takes many steps to ensure that wind projects have minimal impact to birds. For instance, Wind Energy America uses underground wires and tubular towers to eliminate bird perching, and U.V. reflective paint to make sure that birds see the turbines. Wind Energy America also conducts avian studies so that turbines are not located in the way of migratory paths.
Modern wind turbines produce almost no mechanical noise. Most of the noise produced by the turbine is from the swish of the blades slicing into the air, and even this is relatively low. Typical noise levels are less than 50 Db on the ground below the blades, equivalent to the sound of normal conversation.
How much wind power is currently being produced in the United States? According to the American Wind Energy Association, the total U.S. production of wind power is around 25 gigawatts. New wind projects made up 42% of the U.S.'s total new power-producing capacity constructed in 2008, adding 8.4GW of new facilities into the grid.
According to the U.S. Department of Energy, all U.S. electrical energy needs could be met by the wind in Texas and the Dakotas alone.
The Renewables Portfolio Standard (RPS) is a public policy currently passed by the state legislatures of ten states that promotes and requires the development and use of renewable energy. Additionally, many states provide incentives for individuals and companies that build or operate wind turbines. The national production tax credit is an important piece of legislation for the wind power industry. The tax credit makes wind power competitive with other energy sources. In March 2002, the production tax credit was extended to cover 2002-2003, and in September 2004 it was extended through 2005. Unfortunately, due to the uncertainty of further extensions, the wind industry has a difficult time planning future wind projects for fear that they will not be cost competitive.
Educate Yourself. Know and understand the benefits of renewable resources and you will be better prepared to explain them to your relatives, friends, and neighbors. Actively Advocate. Activism is an important part of the development of renewable resources. Vote for candidates who support wind power. Petition, write, call, fax, or email your elected officials. If you let them know how you feel, they will consider your position when the time comes for them to vote for legislation that favors renewable energy and specifically wind power. Use "Green Power." While these actions will help shape the public debate and increase the acceptance of wind and other renewable sources of energy, the most important determinant of the success of wind power will be market acceptance. Many utility companies offer consumers the option of purchasing “Green Power” at a slightly increased rate. This is electricity generated from renewable sources. By making the choice to purchase renewable energy, you send the message to utility companies that you are concerned about the environment, and are willing to pay a little more to protect it. Furthermore, you can invest in the stock of publicly held wind development companies and turbine manufacturers. Additional capital allows these companies to develop new wind projects and create new and more efficient technologies.
Wind Energy America is a company with a mission. Our mission is to reverse time and to make our land, water and air pure again. Being part of the wind power business means that we are choosing tomorrow. We are not satisfied with simply envisioning a better future. We are actively involved in creating a better future for the environment and for humanity.
Wind Power is Clean
A 1 megawatt wind turbine will annually displace emissions of 1, 600 tons of Carbon Dioxide, 9 tons of Sulfur Dioxide and 4 tons of Nitrous Oxide, reducing smog, acid rain and greenhouse gases. It would take 900,000 trees to absorb the same amount of Carbon Dioxide that a 1 MW wind turbine displaces. Wind turbines require only minimal amounts of water for periodic blade cleaning. Wind energy production uses less than 1/600 as much water per kWh of electricity produced as nuclear power uses, and approximately 1/500 as much as coal uses. Unlike fossil fuels and nuclear power plants, wind projects have absolutely no adverse environmental impact associated with fuel development and transportation of waste disposal.
Wind Power is Non-Obtrusive
Wind farms require only five percent or less of total land for turbines and access roads, allowing previous land uses such as ranching or farming to continue while the wind farm is in operation. Animals are not disturbed by the projects, and most animals will graze right up to the turbines. Tubular towers, UV reflective paint and underground wires discourage birds from perching in harms way and dramatically decrease bird deaths. Also careful precautions are taken so that turbines are not in the way of migratory paths. Improvements in turbine technology have greatly decreased noise levels of turbines. At site perimeter, the noise of a turbine is less than that of a home’s background noise. Unlike most energy sources, wind is free and the supply is never-ending.
Wind energy is the process of using the wind to generate mechanical power or electricity. In the past, windmills were used to grind grain or pump water; wind turbines today convert mechanical power into electricity for homes and businesses. With today’s technology, wind energy could provide 20% of America’s electricity. Today’s wind turbines are very different from the windmills of the past. Modern wind technology takes advantage of advances in materials, engineering, electronics and aerodynamics.
As one of the leading developers of wind projects in the United States, Wind Energy America utilizes only the most technologically advanced turbines in the business. The quirks of older turbines made wind power highly undependable; however, today’s turbines are efficient and dependable, even quiet.
Modern turbines typically begin generating power at wind speeds of 9 miles per hour (mph) and output increases up to 28 mph. Utility scale wind farms need average wind speeds of at least 14 mph to economically convert wind energy into electricity. Today’s turbines maximize energy output by adjusting to different wind speeds. In dangerously high winds, turbines shut off automatically.
As the wind blows, the blades on the wind turbine turn. The blades are connected to a drive shaft that turns an electric generator to produce electricity. On a modern wind farm, this electricity is fed into the local utility grid and distributed to customers just as it is with conventional power plants.
While every project is unique the life cycle of a wind farm generally has the following steps.
1. Site assessment
Review site characteristics to determine its suitability for a wind farm As a first step in a wind farm’s life we undertake a detailed screening study of a potential site to assess its suitability, looking at factors such as wind speed (assessed at this stage using a database of information), landscape characteristics, environmental designations, distance from dwellings and proximity to grid lines. Put in place a land lease/option agreement (giving rights to begin development and setting the terms of a lease) and the development process then begins.
Monitor/confirm site wind resource. One of the first and most important steps in the development process is to confirm the initial wind speed assessment and to do this we install a temporary meteorological mast on the site fitted with an array of anemometry equipment. The more data we can gather the better, but generally we like to have at least 12-24 months worth before taking a project into construction. Consult with individuals and organizations with an interest in the project Begin permitting process at the same time as gathering wind data. This will include detailed site surveys and environmental studies which are supported or performed by specialist independent consultants. The scope of these depends on the characteristics of a particular site but would typically include:
- Ground conditions & hydrology
- Traffic and transport
- Aviation (FAA)
- Socio-economic impact
- Begin grid interconnection process
Once planning is complete and permitting has been obtained, construction works for the project are put out to competitive bid. Where practical we like to use local companies for the civil works (access roads, turbine foundations and any buildings) and electrical construction where possible, while the wind turbines and specific turbine associated electrical equipment are supplied by one of the large turbine manufacturers. Depending on the project these contracts are either let separately or rolled up into a single “turnkey” package.
In parallel with this, an agreement is entered with grid management organization to connect the wind farm to the grid.
Complete pre-construction activities
Receive Wind Turbine Components
Install Wind Turbines and interconnect with the grid
All construction work is carried out in compliance with conditions set out in the permits (which amongst other things would usually cover delivery routes and working hours) and also in accordance with standard construction methods and all applicable health and safety legislation.
Depending on the project, construction takes anything between 9 and 18 months and, once complete, the wind farm then moves into the operational phase.
Modern wind farms are fully automatic, continually reconfiguring themselves to extract to most energy out of the prevailing wind conditions, and are managed using remote telemetry from an off-site operations centre. Maintenance requirements are minimal (overall availability levels are typically 97% or higher) and servicing is carried out by specialist engineers, generally under a contract with the original turbine manufacturer. The electricity generated is usually sold under a “power purchase agreement” to one of the many electricity supply companies, who in turn sell this on to domestic and industrial consumers. Ongoing payments are made to the landowner in return for the lease of the land and these are either linked to the amount of electricity generated or the income received from selling it. Operate and maintain the wind farm for 20-25+ years
5. Decommissioning and Restoration
At the end of a wind farm’s life, typically after 20-25 years of operation, the project may be decommissioned or re-powered. In the case of decommissioning, wind turbines and other equipment are removed/recycled and foundations broken down to a depth of around 1m. The site is then restored to its original condition and in accordance with any other requirements of the permits. In the case of repowering new equipment replaces the existing equipment or it is refurbished in order to further the life of the project and the income to the landowner.