CHALLENGES

Where are the best conditions for the strong, consistent winds necessary for using wind as a power source? Is the national grid extensive enough? What would it take to access sufficient wind in those areas to economically produce power?

Wind turbines are not yet cheap, the energy they produce is not yet storable, and extending the national grid to the remote regions where the wind is strong is an expensive and lengthy process.  Each of these factors adds considerably to the total cost of harvesting wind power.

Wind may be a renewable, sustainable resource, but it still is a threat to birds and bats that fly in the vicinity.  How extensive is the problem and what needs to be done to minimize it?

Wind

Wind can be harnessed to produce electricity. Wind turbine technology is advanced, and under appropriate conditions can be used to provide substantial power to an electrical grid or to furnish a remote, off-grid location with a significant portion of its power requirements.


However, wind is a variable power source. It is only productive where and when the wind blows. This difficulty can be partially solved by building turbines of sufficient height and in especially windy locations.  But to provide the consistency needed to deliver base power, it is often necessary to supplement wind with additional power sources, such as natural gas plants or hydroelectric dams.


There are also environmental challenges presented by wind as a power source. In some locations wind turbines are a threat to birds and bats, and their use has encountered resistance from groups seeking to protect wildlife.  People living close to wind farms also complain of the noise.


The aesthetics of wind turbines meets with mixed review. Some people consider them attractive, while others object strongly to their presence on the landscape.


There is a high initial cost for construction of a wind power farm, due both to the cost of the turbines themselves and the expense of extending high power electrical lines to the farm from the national electrical grid.


Finally, wind is location dependent. A wind power farm must be located where the wind blows. Although there are sufficient locations in the USA where optimal conditions exist for wind power to make a substantial contribution to the national electrical power supply, these  locations are usually distant from population centers where power is most in demand and, thus, remote from the electrical grids that furnish power to those populations.

 

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More Energy, Less Land?

VIDEO: Click here for Caltech's innovative Field Laboratory for Optimized Wind Energy and see how these vertical axis wind turbines FLOWE.

Architects imagine a wind mills as sculpture.