Generating Electricity Using Wind Power

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Experiment 5 examined the fundamentals of three-phase power. The information presented here deals with a principal application of this technology, namely wind power.

Figure 6-26: Power-generating Windmills

Photo courtesy of Paul Gipe

Using the wind to generate clean, efficient and "cheap" electricity has been the dream of many people and industries for at least 100 years. However, until very recently the ability to achieve these three goals was elusive, mainly because fossil fuels were so plentiful and relatively inexpensive. Now with the threat of "global warming" along with the attendant pollution caused by the burning of fossil fuels, renewable energy technologies are making inroads into providing commercially attractive power sources.

While solar power is a great choice for localized electricity generation, wind power is certainly the choice for grid-based power generation. Modern wind generators, and the wind farms that host them, can provide large cities like San Francisco and even entire rural states with sufficient power to operate homes and businesses, alike. It has been correctly claimed that if our Midwest states like North and South Dakota were to build mega-wind farms, this flat, barren and constantly windy territory could become the "Saudi Arabia of the United States" in terms of grid-based wind energy generation.

For sometime now counties such as Germany, Spain and Denmark (in order of the percentage of use of wind power) have supplemented their existing fossil and nuclear power generation by the use of wind power. The United States is behind in similar programs, however it is on a course to catch up quickly. We will briefly explore these and other examples of wind power usage beginning with the primary types of wind turbines in use today.

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