Definition of Wind Power
What Is Wind Power?
Wind power captures the energy in moving air. What you may not realize is that wind is actually a function of solar energy. As the sun heats the earth’s surface, it does so unevenly which creates wind cycles. By tapping into these wind cycles, we’re able to create wind power, mostly in the form of electricity.
Wind turbines are the tools most often used to capture wind energy, though in the past (and in some places still today), windmills were and are used to create mechanical power for pumping water and running machinery. There are both small and large wind turbines; some are used individually to provide electrical energy to remote locations, while others are combined into large wind farms that are connected to the electric grid to provide electricity to larger communities. Wind turbines can be installed on land or offshore where winds are more consistent and strong.
Wind power is not practical in all locations across the globe because of variances in the wind cycles and speed. And since wind cycles change throughout the day, wind power is often not steady enough to provide 100% of an individual home’s or a community’s energy needs. Supplementing wind power with solar energy, geothermal heat pumps, or low-impact hydro plants helps to minimize the fluctuations in wind power production.
Some have expressed concern that wind turbines threaten bird populations given that birds can strike the turbines and die. However, other human-related factors such as domestic cats, hunters, utility transmission lines, lighted communication towers, agricultural chemicals, and automobiles all negatively impact bird populations to a greater extent than wind turbines.
The American Wind Energy Association estimates that if the US were to produce 20% of their power through wind energy, they would avoid 825 million tons of carbon dioxide – that’s like taking 140 million vehicles off of the road. This would go a long way to reducing America’s greenhouse gas emissions.
1. Wind Power and Climate Change. (n.d.). Retrieved November 13, 2010, from American Wind Energy Association: http://www.awea.org/documents/factsheets/Climate_Change.pdf