Renewable Energy: A Comprehensive Guide to Wind Power

This is the third post in our new Renewable Energy series, where we will give the ins and outs of renewable energy that is able to be used throughout residential and commercial spaces.


What is it?

Wind is a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth’s surface, and rotation of the earth. Wind flow patterns are modified by the earth’s terrain, bodies of water, and vegetative cover. This wind flow, or motion energy, when “harvested” by modern wind turbines, can be used to generate electricity.

The term ‘wind power’ is used to describe of the process in creating the energy – how the wind generates mechanical power or electricity.

How does it work?

Wind turbines are most commonly known to be seen on a large scale, through wind farms; turbines can be utilised residentially too, though.

Put simply, a wind turbine is the opposite of a fan – instead of using electricity to make wind, they use wind to make electricity. The turbines turn in the moving air and power an electric generator that supplies an electric current. The wind turns the blades, which spins a shaft, which connects to the generator and produces electricity.

How wind turbines convert wind power, to mechanical power, resulting in electric power

Horizontal turbines are made up of three main components; a blade or rotor, which converts the energy in the wind to rotational shaft energy; a drive train, which usually includes a gear box or generator; and a tower, that supports the rotor and drive train.

How much carbon does it produce during manufacture?

A wind farm typically produces up to 20-25 times more energy during its operational life than was used to construct and install the turbine.

How is it beneficial and how beneficial is it?

Wind power is a renewable, non-polluting resource that creates clean and non-polluting electricity. Unlike fossil fuels, wind power produces no air pollutants. Costs of wind power have decreased majorly over the last decade, however compared to fossil fuelled generators, they are still more expensive initially.

How efficient is it?

Wind power gives a significant return on investment (RIO), as it is free energy that also has an endless renewable power source. With wind energy, it is a lot more efficient in places that will see more wind, such as on a hillside or a coastline.

How much does it cost?

Photo credit: windturbineshome.net

Residential wind turbines vary in sizing and the amount of power they can generate; there are two main types to be used on homes, either roof-mounted or free standing. On your home, a wind turbine can either be connected to the national grid, where you can earn money from the energy that you generate, or stand alone, where the energy produced is stored into batteries. As said, they range in sizes, generating from less than 100W to around 50kW. Small scale turbines are usually used to charge batteries or something similar, due to the amount of energy being produced being so small. However, those of 600W upwards can generate electricity for homes and businesses.

Rooftop models usually range from 0.5kW to 2.5kW in size, whereas pole-mounted, stand alone turbines range from 5kW to 6kW.

To give a rough estimate on price: a 1kW roof-mounted turbine will cost up to £3,000; a 2.5kW pole-mounted turbine will cost between £9,900 and £19,000; and a 6kW pole-mounted turbine will cost between £21,000 and £30,000.

How long does it take to payback?

The life-cycle of renewable energy sources is always a topical and debatable subject. A 2 megawatt turbine, usually found on a wind farm, will offer a net benefit within five to eight months from the start of its use.


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