If you’ve turned on the news recently, likely you’ve seen a story or two about the possibilities of wind farms to generate clean energy. The Biden Administration has been promoting the benefits of their proposed infrastructure bill. One of the allocations includes dollars for clean energy alternatives, including the development of more wind farms.
Wind turbines can be installed offshore to collect energy from strong marine wind currents, onshore along windy riverbeds, or across wind-swept land plains. The technology is relatively simple: wind turns the massive, propeller-shaped blades which turns a rotor. The moving rotor spins a generator, which creates electricity.
Wind turbines do hold great potential to produce enormous quantities of electricity.
- An average home uses 867 kilowatt-hours of electricity per month.
- An average turbine at 33% efficiency generates 402,000 kilowatt-hours per month.
This means one turbine generates enough electricity to power at least 460 average U.S. homes. In other words, in only 94 minutes, one wind turbine generates enough electricity to power one home for an entire month.
The US Wind Turbine Database currently maps 70,142 wind turbines with a total capacity to generate 127,013 megawatts of electricity monthly. You can view the map here.
What’s the downside of wind power?
The biggest challenge for using wind-generated electricity is storage. Winds are unpredictable and can produce a lot or very little, depending on the weather. During peak generation, excess power needs to be stored to provide energy when the winds are calm. All that generated power needs to go somewhere, and storing excess power is a bit complicated. There are various methods used, from enormous batteries to compressed air storage or using the excess energy to produce hydrogen, which can be converted back to electricity later.
Another challenge is measuring the impact of turbines on wildlife. Turbines can injure or kill birds and bats that are important in our ecosystem to reduce the insect population. Without these birds and bats, millions of acres of farmland become open to the risk of insect invasions and crop devastation. There are also concerns that sounds and vibrations created by offshore wind turbines can impact marine wildlife.
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The Rogue Valley Clean Cities Coalition’s mission is to enhance the livability of the Rogue Valley. We promote and educate on alternate fuels, seek to decrease dependency on petroleum, and promote clean air and water in the Rogue Valley via alternate fuels. Contact us today for more information!