Wind power is harnessing the energy of wind to make energy. Wind power can occur in the use of sails, wind mills, water pumps and being converted to electricity through the use of wind turbines.
Wind power has a long history of use dating back thousands of years. Originally used to power sail boats and irrigation pumps a useful modern use of wind power is it’s conversion to electricity. Wind power is generated by turbines that are turned by the wind and this energy is converted to electricity.
The amount of electricity generated by wind energy is variable due to the changing nature of wind and weather patterns. Wind power forecasting can be used to estimate the output of a wind turbine but this is generally only effective in the short term. This is one reason areas with a high average wind speed are targeted for commercial wind farms.
Wind power can be used on a small scale or a large commercial Wind Farm. A wind farm is a collection of wind turbines in the same area that are combined to produce electricity to feed a grid.
The Roscoe Wind farm in Texas, USA is a large wind farm that comprises of 627 wind turbines. It has the capacity to power over 250000 homes. This wind farm covers 400 square kilometres. One notable feature of this wind farm is that it is spread over land owned by approx 400 different people. A wind farm setup like this allows multiple parties to share in the profits of electricity generation while continuing to graze or use the land around the wind turbine towers for other uses.
Wind Power has a relatively large initial capital setup cost but the ongoing operation of a wind farm costs fairly little. In comparison, gas and coal power alternatives have a large initial startup cost + a large ongoing operational cost. One of the arguments against wind power is the aesthetic problems caused by wind farms. Wind turbines have to be positioned in a prominent position to maximise exposure to the wind.
It is estimated that a 50 megawatt wind farm can reduce greenhouse emissions by between 65000 to 115000 tonnes per year. A wind farm, when installed on agricultural land, has one of the lowest environmental impacts of all energy sources. The energy used to construct a wind farm can be generated within 3 years of it’s operation and a wind farm is generally estimated to produce energy for 20 – 25 years.
Wind Power in Australia
Currently there are around 53 wind farms in operation around Australia. Wind Power currently generates a little over 1% of Australia’s energy demands. South Australia is leading the nation with the amount of power the state is generating from wind energy. Approximately 51% of Australia’s wind power is generated in South Australia. The Lake Bonney wind farm, in South Australia, is located on land perfect for a wind farm. The area it covers is agricultural land previously cleared for farming and located close to existing electrical transmission infrastructure which allows electricity to be dispatched to the grid and delivered easily to homes and businesses. The Lake Bonney wind farm is expected to deliver enough power for 44000 households.
If you’re interested in assessing the viability of a wind project + for further information CSIRO published a useful guide called Wind Resource Assessment in Australia: A Planners Guide which you can download for more detailed information.