Understanding wind energy

Power generated from wind is not a new concept. Humans have been harnessing wind power for centuries, and wind energy is a viable option for generating electricity that can be harnessed by businesses and homes.

The National Resource Defense Council asserts that wind power is an affordable, efficient and abundant source of domestic electricity. Because it does not produce pollution, wind power also is beneficial for the environment. The United States Department of Energy says the United States is home to one of the largest and fastest-growing wind markets in the world, and the department has made wind industry a critical part of their plan for clean energy technologies.

Today’s wind power is harnessed through wind turbines instead of smaller windmills. The turbines are mounted 100 feet or more above the ground on towers and can work with the faster, less turbulent winds at this height. Wind energy has the potential to provide 20 percent of America’s electricity, which is equivalent to the amount currently provided by nuclear power. The group Alternative Energy says wind power is now the world’s fastest growing energy source and has also become one of the most rapidly expanding industries, with sales of roughly $3 billion in 2008. In 2011, 3,464 turbines were erected across the United States, and according to the NRDC, wind energy now generates enough electricity to power more than 11 million homes.

How does wind energy work?

The blades on a wind turbine act like an airplane wing. When the wind blows, low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. This low pressure pocket pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn, called lift. The force of the lift is actually much stronger than the wind’s force against the front side of the blade, which is called drag. As the rotor continues to spin, it also spins a generator to produce electricity. Turbines may be connected to a power grid to power larger areas or be stand-alone units for personal use. Many electricity providers have contracted with wind plants to offer wind-powered electricity to customers.

Powering your home

Consumers who want to try wind power can have small wind turbines installed. This enables them to generate their own power and cut energy bills. Depending on where you live and the regulations in place, a wind turbine can be suitable for use on a property of one acre of land or more.

Homeowners can determine household electricity needs by examining bills. Then find out if local zoning allows for wind turbine installations. Speak with companies that specialize in wind turbines, such as those listed by The Small Wind Certification Council, to determine if it is cost-effective to get a wind turbine. Even when the wind is not blowing, many systems store power in batteries for on-demand use.

If installing a wind turbine on your own is not practical, consult with electric energy providers to find out if any programs are in place to offset energy production by working with wind plants. Green programs are in effect all over the country, in which all or a portion of electricity harnessed is generated by renewable resources.

Wind power can be a clean and renewable way to power your home.

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