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I have researched how turbines assist in generating alternative energy. I found my research primarily from the Internet from sources such as the U.S. Department of energy. I then noted what a wind turbine does to help generate energy, and why it is used as an alternative energy. I also found disadvantages to using fossil fuels, and why it is important to use alternative energy like wind. I then researched how the wind turbine worked and what each specific component of the turbine did. Before researching, I hypothesized that wind turbines did very little to help the Earth's crisis of burning fossil fuels, but after researching, I discovered that many farmers and ranchers are using wind turbines to help conserve energy, and they are doing so at a very low cost. Using wind turbines can benefit everyone, and since it is a clean renewable energy, it will not pollute the Earth's atmosphere.
A turbine is a machine, containing a rotor that has blades. The turbines are powered by momentum, and the kinetic energy is converted to mechanical energy. A turbine works by using wind to make energy, which is opposite of a fan. There are two basic groups of turbines, the horizontal-axis variety, and the vertical-axis design. There are also many sizes of turbines ranging from 100 kilowatts to several megawatts. A turbine is constructed of many parts, including an anemometer, two or three blades, a brake, a controller, a gear box, a generator, a high-speed shaft, a low-speed shaft, a nacelle, a pitch, a rotor, a tower, a wind vane, a yaw drive and a yaw motor.
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Figure 1 (U.S. Department of Energy, 2006)
Figure 1 shows the components of the wind turbine. Each has a different function to aid the conversion of kinetic energy into mechanical energy. According to U.S. Department of Energy, the anemometer measures the wind speed and transmits wind speed data to the controller. The blades are lifted by wind and from that start to rotate. The brake is a disc brake, which is used to stop the rotor in emergencies. The controller starts up the machine at wind speeds of about 8 to 16 miles per hour; turbines do not operate at wind speeds above about 55 miles per hour because they might be damaged by the high winds. The gearbox is where gears connect the low-speed shaft to the high-speed shaft and increases the rotational speeds from about 30 to 60 rotations per minute (rpm) to about 1000 to 1800 rpm, the rotational speed required by most generators to
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produce electricity. The generator produces 60-cycle AC electricity. The high-speed shaft drives the generator, while the rotor, at about 30 to 60 rotations per minute, turns the low-speed shaft. The nacelle sits atop the tower and contains the gearbox, low- and high-speed shafts, generator, controller and brake. When referring to pitch, the pitch is when the blades of the turbine are turned out of the wind to control the rotor speed and keep the rotor from turning in winds that are too high or too low to produce electricity. The rotor includes the blades and the hub. The tower enables turbines to capture more energy and generate more electricity due to the height of the towers. A wind vane measures wind direction and communicates with the yaw drive to orient the turbine properly with respect to the wind. The yaw drive, which is powered by the yaw motor, is used to keep the rotor facing into the wind as the wind direction changes. (U.S. Department of Energy, 2006) Figure 2, below, focuses on the rotor and blades of the wind turbine.
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Figure 2 (Energy Research, 2007)
Wind is a renewable energy meaning it occurs naturally and is derived from sources. In the years ranging from 500-900 AD, the Persians created the first windmills. From there, over hundreds of years, the windmill developed and in the late 1880s, metal blades were then added. In 1888, Charles F. Brush was the first to use a windmill to generate energy. Windmills were then called “wind turbines”. In 1985, wind turbines were installed in California however these turbines were inefficient, since the turbines did not produce the sufficient amount of energy. In 2005, the Energy Policy Act “strengthened incentives for wind and other renewable sources” (Energy Kid’s Page). Since wind is a renewable energy and will always be available, it is a good alternative to produce energy rather than using the Earth’s fossil fuels.
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Advantages and Disadvantages
There are many advantages of using wind to generate electricity. One reason is that wind is a clean energy source, so there is no pollution created. When using fossil fuels, the air is polluted since they are coal or natural gases. Wind turbines can also be built on farms, so it is not a burden on the economy. Farmers find this beneficial because they can build their own turbines and the turbines do not occupy a large amount of land on their farms and ranches. According to the U.S. Department of Energy, “wind energy is one of the lowest-priced renewable energy technologies available today, costing between 4 and 6 cents per kilowatt-hour, depending upon the wind resource”. They also said “wind energy relies on the renewable power of the wind, which can’t be used up.” Wind is a form of solar energy; meaning as long as the sun is present, there will be wind.
Although there are many advantages from wind power, there are also disadvantages. One of the disadvantages was the cost of the turbines, but a turbine user must invest in the beginning to buy the turbine; it is a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators according to the U.S. Department of Energy. Even though the turbines take up less space on a farm, find a good place is hard. There needs to be enough wind that passes to power the turbines or else no energy will be generated. Wind also cannot be stored. At times energy is needed, but there is no wind. A final disadvantage is that the blades are noisy and dangerous. Birds have flown into the blades causing unneeded deaths.
Discussion and Conclusion
From what I have found during the research of this paper, wind turbines should be used as an alternative energy. The cost and effort that is needed to run a turbine is a
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fraction of the cost and effort used for fossil fuels. From the advantages that I researched, a farmer can easily produce a turbine and use the mechanical energy produced to run his farm. Because wind is a renewable energy, and is created because of the sun, there will not be a shortage of this energy, unlike fossil fuels. According to Wikipedia, fossil fuels are formed from the fossilized remains of dead plants and animals. The burning of fossil fuels by humans is the largest source of emissions of carbon dioxide, which is one of the greenhouse gases that enhances radioactive forcing and contributes to global warming. (Fossil fuel – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2007) Because of all the pollution that the fossil fuels are producing, wind, which is a clean air resource, will benefit the Earth because it is a nonpolluting source of energy.
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Figure 3 (Fossil Fuels, 2001)
Figure 3 shows the percentages of fuel types. However, this graph was made in 2001, and the amounts of coal have significantly grown. According to Union of Concerned, the U.S. uses 85 percent of the current fuel use. From the brief research that I’ve done on fossil fuels in the U.S. I can see we need to start using renewable energy that will not pollute the atmosphere and contribute to the rising greenhouse gas problem.
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Enzler, S.M. (2003). Lenntech. Retrieved July 31, 2007, from Fossil Fuels Web site: http://www.lenntech.com/greenhouse-effect/fossil-fuels.htm
(2005, August 10). The Hidden Cost of Fossil Fuels. Retrieved July 31, 2007, from Union of Concerned Scientists Web site: http://www.ucsusa.org/clean_energy/fossil_fuels/the-hidden-cost-of-fossil-fuels.html
(2006, November 30). Wind and Hydropower Technologies Program: How Turbines Work. Retrieved July 24, 2007, from U.S. Department of Energy Web site: http://www1.eere.energy.gov/windandhydro/wind_how.html
(2007). Energy Information Administration. Retrieved July 28, 2007, from EIA Kids Page Wind Energy Timeline-Milestones in Wind Energy Web site: http://www.eia.doe.gov/kids/history/timelines/wind.html
(2007, January). FLP Energy-Wind Energy. Retrieved July 27, 2007, from FPL Energy Web site: http://www.fplenergy.com/renewable/contents/wind.shtml
(2007, February 9). National Renewable Energy Laboratory. Retrieved July 26, 2007, from NREL: Wind Research Home Page Web site: http://www.nrel.gov/wind/
(2007, July 21). Wind Power. Retrieved July 27, 2007, from Wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wind_power
(2007, July 24). Fossil Fuel. Retrieved July 29, 2007, from Wikipedia Web site: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fossil_fuel
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