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Wind Power

Clean Energy for Whole Communities
 
One wind turbine has the potential to provide clean energy to a whole community. Learn more about wind energy here.

What is Wind Power?

Wind power has been in existence for hundreds of hundreds of years with the earliest known use being for powering sails. Wind power is power obtained from wind. When we think of wind power today, pictures of wind turbines generally pop into our heads. These giant, modern day looking windmills take in the wind’s kinetic energy and convert it into electricity that can be used to power a single home or a whole community depending on the size and number of wind turbines.

There are currently two main styles of wind turbines used, vertical-axis wind turbines (VAWTS) and horizontal-axis wind turbines (HAWTS). VAWTS are completely vertical which allow them to always be aligned with the wind. They are rather rare and look a little like an egg beater. VAWTS are closer to the ground causing them to take up more space, but makes maintenance easier. HAWTS are what most people think of when they hear wind turbine. Looking kind of like a giant pinwheel in the sky, they typically have 3 rotating blades connected to a long tower. They can range from 50 feet to over 500 feet tall. There are also many technologic advances and other new styles of wind turbines being researched and developed throughout the world that are changing the way we view wind power. One new style, called Windspires, can be found at Quinnipiac’s York Hill Campus in Hamden, CT. Check out 10 Innovations in Wind Power to learn more about future possibilities in wind power.

Offshore wind turbine (Photo courtesy of DOE/NREL)

It is currently estimated that the wind energy potential in the United States is 10 times the amount of electricity consumption for the entire country. The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) is looking to increase the use of wind energy in the supply of U.S. electricity. In 2008, the DOE published a report examining the possibility of using wind energy to generate 20% of the nation’s electricity demand by 2030. For more information, please visit A New Vision for United States Wind Power.

How Does Wind Power/ A Wind Turbine Work?

Wind turbine diagram

In order to generate wind power, you first need wind. Wind is created as a result of warm air suddenly rising. When the sun shines down, it heats up portions of the land. Some of the heat is absorbed by the air. When the temperature is just right, hot air quickly rises up, and cooler air quickly flows in to fill in the space the hotter air left behind. This quick moving air is the wind.

Wind can be used to spin the blades of a wind turbine and generate power. A standard horizontal-axis turbine consists of three main parts- rotor blades, a shaft, and a generator. Rotor blades are the large panels that rotate in the sky. They are similar to an airplane wing, where wind passes around both sides of the blade, and the shape of the blade causes uneven air pressure. This uneven pressure causes the blades to spin. The blades act similarly to a sail on a ship, where the wind transfers its energy of motion to the sail, or in the case of wind turbines- the blade. The blades are all connected to a rotor which is connected to a shaft. The blades move the rotor which spins the shaft. The shaft then spins gears at an increased speed, which powers a generator that produces electricity.

For more information on all things wind power, visit the U.S. Department of Energy - Wind Power

Different Types of Wind Power

There are three major types of wind power:

Utility-scale wind:

Refers to large wind turbines that produce more than 100 kilowatts. The electricity produced is used for large scale buildings, or goes to the power grid and is distributed by electric utilities. Large turbines are often placed in groups creating what is called wind farms or wind plants.

Green Mountain Power's Searsburg Wind Power Facility in VT
Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL

 

Distributed wind (aka “small” wind):

Refers to turbines that produce 100 kilowatts or less. These smaller turbines are primarily used to power a home, farm, or small business. Excess energy produced can be sold back to the grid. Turbines that produce over 100 kilowatts, but are used to meet onsite energy demand  and are either connected on the customer side of the meter, directly to the distribution grid, or are off-grid in a remote location can also be considered distributed wind.

Wind turbine installed at Centerville Elementary School in Beverly, Mass.
Photo Courtesy of DOE/NREL

Check out Distributed Wind on the U.S. Department of Energy's website for more information on smaller turbines.

Offshore wind:

Refers to wind turbines that are offshore in a body of water.

Siemens 3.6 MW Offshore Wind Turbine (Photo courtesy of DOE/NREL)

For more information on offshore wind, visit the U.S. Department of Energy's page on Offshore Wind Research and Development.

Wind Power in Connecticut

Wind turbines require an average wind speed of 12 miles per hour at the turbine hub height in order to be successful. In Connecticut, the most suitable conditions tend to fall along the shoreline and in Litchfield County, although other areas of higher elevation are possible. For homeowners and businesses interested in small wind power, contact the Clean Energy Finance and Investment Authority (CEFIA) for more information.

wind turbine in field of flowers

Some examples of wind energy in Connecticut include Quinnipiac’s York hill campus wind turbine garden as well as the wind turbine project in Colebrook

Wind power is listed as a Class I renewable energy source as defined in the Connecticut General Statues (CGS) Section 16-1(a)(26)(ii).

 

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