Wind Power The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative by zwk61917


									Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative

                                                                     Wind Power:
                                                            The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative
                                                                                        By Matt Valdin
                                                                                   Environmental Technology
                                                                                     Santa Clara University
                                                                                         May 14, 2004



           As the harmful side effects of fossil fuel burning become evermore recognized, the use of clean, renewable technology becomes essential to our health,

 economy and environment. Petroleum and coal emit harmful pollutants into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming, acid rain and a host of other aliments.

 Equally considering is the dependence of the economy on a finite resource such as oil. With world energy consumption rapidly rising, demand is increasing for
 renewable energy sources that have no significant health impact or environmental degradation. Of all these so called “green” energy sources, wind power has been the
 most widely used and successful. Wind power is based on the same principals as windmills used for centuries; it harness air currents to perform work. With modern

 advances, wind can now used to power cities, industries and homes. While only currently supplying a minor amount of all US electricity, wind power potential to
 supply a significant amount of energy to US that will, unlike fossil fuels, never will be depleted or harm the environment.

                                                                               Wind Power Technology
                                                                                       Wind as Energy
           Wind power is actually a secondary form of solar power. The Earth receives about 1.74 x1017 kW/hour from the sun in the form of solar radiation. About 1-2%
 of that energy is absorbed by the air in the form of heat. Areas of the Earth closer to the sun, like the equator, receive far more sunlight than northern and southern

 regions, which corresponds to hotter air. The hot air then rises and drifts high into the atmosphere then natural drifts to the poles. As the Earth spins on its axis, the
 drifting air remains unaffected by the Earth’s movements. This difference in movement pattern is what causes wind; air is actually staying still while the world is

 moving beneath it. As the air cools, it sinks down into areas of low pressure, and cycles back to the equator, creating convention cells. These cycles of warming and

 cooling are what create global weather cycles.

                                                                         Wind Tower Design and Mechanics (1 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative

           The power of wind is captured in wind towers. Modern US wind towers follow a simple design; three propeller blades sit atop a large pool usually 30-50m tall.
 The center of the propeller is then connected to a turbine rotor. Most US designs typical generate between 50-500 kW of energy, although the larger European designs

 stand about 135m tall and can produce up to 1.5 MW in a single tower.

 Wind energy is captured and converted into energy by lift. The propeller blades are designed to have one side with an arch and the other straight. As wind passes over a
 blade, air is forced to travel a greater distance over the arch of the blade, creating of low pressure above the curve. This unequal pressure difference forces the blades to

 rotate in the direction of less pressure. The mechanical force generated by the movement of the propeller is then used to rotate a turbine to generate power.

           There is also a design that has propeller blades parallel to the main staff of the tower. These vertical axis wind towers (VAWTs) are not used or manufactured

 anymore because of the inefficient of the system and the complexity of setting up the apparatus. They were designed to harshness wind energy by lift as well, but

 required more cost in the manufacturing and were prone to falling down and needed cable cords in order to hold it in place.

                                                                                     Energy Generation
 Commercial towers are often placed together in wind farms. Wind farms are generally constructed in areas of particular strong wind strength as to allow investing in

 large numbers of wind farms highly profitable. Towers are placed in climates that feature regular high winds. Such areas include, coasts, atop hills or in planes and

 valleys. Winds also move at faster velocities at high altitudes so the taller the tower, the more energy can be generated.         Generally, towers are economically viable in

 areas that receive wind speeds between 11-13 mph. Though tower location and wind patterns are essential for energy generation, it also depends on size and efficiently.

 State-of-the-art towers are taller, with larger propeller blades. These newer technological innovations allow for wind to be economically harnessed at lower speeds,

 greatly increasing the area of the Earth where wind power can be an effective energy source.

                                                                                Economics of Wind Power

           Wind power is the most cost-effective source of clean, renewable energy in the world today. The price of wind power, on average, dropped 80% since the
 1980’s from 30 cents/kWh to 4-5 cents/kWh, roughly the price of fossil fuel energy. With additional federal subsidies of 1.5 cents/kWh generated by commercial or (2 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative

 private wind tower owners, wind can be a very affordable energy alternative. Only natural gas turbines are cheaper per kWh.

 Most of the cost of energy production is in the construction of the towers themselves. As much of 70% of the expense of wind towers in the initial cost of capital, only
 30% operation and management costs. As a result, once the initial investment is made, power generation will be cheaper than receiving power from other utilizes and

 the cost of invest will be repaid in money saved in a matter of years. Furthermore, as long as wind power because increasing used, wind technologies will being to
 experience economies of scale. It is predicted that once towers became mass assembly-line built, price of energy will dramatically decrease to 1-2 cents/kWh and be the

 cheapest source of electricity in the world.

 Even though wind power is competitive and profitable, the market price for wind energy still disguises the true value of the renewable energy source to society. Since

 wind power produces no harmful externalities, like toxic pollutants, there is no extra cost incurred on society in the form of health damages. No mining or drilling for a
 fuel source is needed, so there is far less impact on the environment in the operation of the towers. By using wind power, less money needs to be spent on health care

 and environmental restoration. Therefore, the true value of clean power is actually higher to society than the market values it.

           Using a green technology source such as wind power has enormous payback to society. First and foremost, it is a source of clean energy that can be relied upon

 and does not burn or used any fuel. Fossil fuels emit SO2, NOx, CO2 or other pollutants into the atmosphere went burned, causing health and environmental

 degradation as well as contributing to global warming. 1 MW of energy generated by wind power in the US prevents the release of 1,341 pounds of CO2, 7.5 of SO2

 and 3.5 pounds of NOx. Additionally, fossil fuels have a finite supply. Firms may be able to develop new technologies to extract new sources of petroleum and coal
 and even develop more efficient ways of power generation but deposits of these resources will run dry in time. Furthermore, the process of drilling or mining fossil
 fuels disturbs the natural landscape and can have a variety of environmentally harmful activities even before burning it. Wind emits no green house gases or other

 harmful pollution to the environment and as along as the sun continues to shine on the Earth and create wind power, there will be an endless supply of wind to draw

 upon for energy.

           Wind power is also a great source for energy for regions of the world that do not have an electronic grid in place, either because of isolation or of poor

 economic conditions. Any area with significant source of regular wind can use this technology for electricity and forgo the more expensive and time consuming
 alternative of installing power lines in order to get to these remote locations. (3 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative

 Self-sufficient from of power generation has been very popular in farming regions. Agricultural lands generally are devoid of trees and either on plains or foothills-
 prime location for tower building. Farmers can install wind towers, which can be subsidized by the government, on their property supply all their energy needs. Only a

 few towers are needed to provide the one farm with electricity, which take up very little land. Since the power generation is clean and safe, the surrounding land can
 still be used for agricultural purposes. While the installation these towers has a high initial cost, the long term savings from low operation and management costs can

 cover the price of installation within a few years of construction. Farmers can even profit from wind power by allowing commercial wind power companies to build

 wind farms on their land.

                                                                                 Wind Power Drawbacks
           The main draw back of wind power is that it is subject to day-to-day weather conditions. These fluctuations cause unpredictable amount of energy generated.

 Often, wind blows hardest in the winter and at night, when energy demand is at its lowest. Therefore, energy generated during low-demand periods must be stored into
 batteries for later use, adding to the expense of the construction and creating inefficiency in the system. However, this draw back can be turned into an ascent when

 combined with hydrogen technologies. During these “off” hours, energy generation by the towers can be used to heat water until it separates into oxygen and hydrogen
                                                                                                                  electrolosis, NOT heat
 gases. Hydrogen the can be used to power fuel-cells in cars or burned for electricity during peak electricity demand hours.

           One of the more common complaints of wind power has nothing to do with economics or engineering, but aesthetics. Wind towers are typically placed in areas
 where they disrupt the sight of the natural horizon, upsetting by passers. This green source of energy is even called an “intrusion” on the landscape. While this

 drawback may reasonably be upsetting to some, people must realize the many benefits that using a clean, sustainable resource brings. One can argue that wind farms

 have beauty by allowing us to live in an environmental sound way or in the fact that smog does not block complete view of the horizon, which would be the case if we
 continue to use fossil fuels.

                                                     One of the major and most unusual environmental impacts of wind tower has been the problem of birds flying into the

 propellers of the towers.     This problem is, for unclear reasons, extremely unique to California, especially at the Altamont Pass wind farm near San Francisco. Birds, (4 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative

 particularly raptors, have had a tendency to fly directly into the spinning blades and getting sliced to pieces. Some hypothesize that they try to perch on the tops of
 towers or birds to ride natural air currents to save calories but happen to be great places for wind farms. The endangered Golden Eagle has been the hapless victim

 several times, which immediately sparked concern in the biological community. However, studies show that most birds change flight patterns when seeing wind farms

 from a distance. In fact, there are more bird deaths by collision with cars than there are will towers and do not pose as a significant danger to the raptor populations.

 Wind tower engineers have taken precautions to prevent further bird deaths. Larger, slower moving propellers are being installed in new tower models to increase the
 response time of birds to avoid the blades. Furthermore, towers have been designed to have reflective surfaces to discourage birds’ attempts to roust on the towers.
           The only other environmental issue is that large tracts of land must be set aside for the use of wind towers. While the land that the towers will occupy can be

 used for other purposes, like farming, it will require millions of acres of land to satisfy a significant part of US energy demand. However, this has been a mild concern
 and more limits the energy capacity of a region that damaging the environment. Fortunately, wind farms can also be built in the sea, allowing for more of the Earth’s

 surface to be dedicated to wind power generation without significantly harming it.

                                                                      Current and Future Use of Wind Power
           While wind power only constitutes as 1% of all power generation on Earth, it is the fastest growing commercial source of power in the world. It is

 conservatively estimated that up to 20% of the US power demand can be meet with wind power if fully implemented. However, a recent team of Stanford engineers

 estimated that there is more than enough wind power in Texas, North Dakota and Kansas to supply all US energy several times over. Recent technological innovations
 enabling wind gathering at lower speeds, greater heights and with greater efficiency are vastly increasing the energy potential of wind. Even the possibility of building

 offshore wind farms are being considered, thereby further reducing environmental and aesthetic impacts of wind towers and opening up the possibility of harvesting

 even more wind.

           As more money is invested in wind power, further advances in wind technology will make wind tower more efficient and economical. Wind power has only
 been on the market for 25 years, and is already competing with decades worth of technological progress with fossil fuels, nuclear, and hydroelectric power. Many
 European countries have already decided to have a large percent of their power be wind energy. Denmark, for example, has successfully implemented policy to have

 20% of their nation’s energy be supplied by this effective power source. In fact, Demark is home to Hornes Rev, located in the North Sea, and is the world largest

 offshore wind farm, capable of powering 150,000 households. 21

 The future of wind power indicates as though the ocean will be home to many future wind farms. Wind speeds are much higher in the oceans, thus providing much

 more energy potential than on land. Ocean wind farms, for the time being, are usually placed in shallow waters to cut the cost of construction. Building towers in the
 ocean my generate more electricity, but it does have much more operational and management difficulties, driving up the cost. However, the extra wind energy far

 exceeds the additional costs, and many wind farms are already operational and will producing energy cheaper than their land counterparts in 5 years.

           The US has been slow to adopt wind energy as a power source. This has been to the fact that fossil fuels are much cheaper here than in Europe, providing less (5 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
  Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative
   incentive for funding alternative fuel sources. Additionally, lobbyists have much more power over the US energy policy and slowed the transition to a “greener”
incentive for funding alternative fuel sources. Additionally, lobbyists have much more power over the US energy policy and slowed the transition to a “greener”
   economy. The great political barriers, not technological or natural obstacles, prevent full use this clean alternative. As fossil fuels become increasingly rare, however,

   the economy will begin to favor a cheaper source of power. Furthermore, the supply of wind is not controlled by any foreign political entity, such as OPEC, and would
   add to a more self-sufficient economy. As a result, wind power would make the nation and the environment stronger and healthier, and can still be expected to become

   increasingly used globally in the near future.

   i All Photos and Graphs Courtesy From: 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,
   [1] 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,
       American Wind Energy Association. 2004. American Wind Energy Association. 25 April 2004,
   [3] 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,
       Wind Energy Topics. 2004 Department of Energy. 25 April 2004,
       How Energy Works. 2000. Union of Concerned Scientists. 1 May 2004,
   [6] 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,
       How Energy Works. 2000. Union of Concerned Scientists. 1 May 2004,
       How Energy Works. 2000. Union of Concerned Scientists. 1 May 2004,
       Ari Reeves. Wind Energy for Electric Power. 2003. Renewable Energy Project. 8 May 2004
        Energy From: Wind. 2000. Power Scorecard. 25 April 2004.
        How Energy Works. 2000. Union of Concerned Scientists. 1 May 2004,
        Ari Reeves. Wind Energy for Electric Power. 2003. Renewable Energy Project. 8 May 2004, (6 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]
Wind Power: The Viable Fossil Fuel Alternative
      Energy From: Wind. 2000. Power Scorecard. 25 April 2004.
     American Wind Energy Association. 2004. American Wind Energy Association. 25 April 2004,
      Drew Robb. “Offshore Wind Struggles to Gain Foothold in North America.” Power Engineering. 8 (2002.) 11 May 2004. http://web2.infotrac-
      Lester R. Brown. Wind Power Set to Become World’s Leading Energy Source. 2003. Earth Policy Institute. 1 May 2004,
 [17] 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,
 [18] 2004. Danish Wind Industry Association. 25 April 2004,

           Good paper, but you need to proof read your work.
           Good explanation of wind power. I do think that you could have gone into the technical side a bit more and given us an idea of the
           amount of power that can be generated vs wind speed. Is there a min or max wind speed that prevents the use of this type of

           HTML: 10
           Technical Content: 9
           Environmental Impact: 9
           Societal Impact: 10
           References: 10 (7 of 7) [5/14/2004 11:13:08 AM]

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