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Understanding How Wind Power is Converted Into Electricity

As oil prices continue to rise and even the United States President admits we are "addicted to oil", alternative energy resources are in increasingly high demand. One of these alternative sources is wind energy. In order to understand how wind can help produce power and energy, it is important to look at exactly how wind power works.

Wind Power is Renewable Energy
Wind power is a source of renewable energy, meaning it will not diminish, as is the case with fossil fuels for oil or coal. It is a source of energy that is replenished every day the sun heats areas, causing air to fill low-pressure areas creating wind. That wind power can be used to create energy that can power our buildings and homes.

The Wind Power Electricity Conversion Process
According to the American Wind Energy Association, the forces of wind are converted to electricity through the use of a wind turbine. In a standard modern wind turbine kinetic energy from the win's moving air molecules is turned into rotational motion by the rotor. A rotor is a three-bladed device (looking like the rotor on a household fan except much larger) that sits at the front of the wind turbine. Wind causes the rotor to turn a shaft that transfers the motion to a nacelle, the large housing at the top of a wind turbine tower. Inside the nacelle, the rotating shaft enters a gearbox that increases the shaft's speed of rotation. The fast rotating shaft is connected to a generator that converts the movement into electricity and medium voltage.

Once the wind has been converted into medium voltage electricity, equivalent to a few hundred volts, that electricity goes down through heavy electric cables in the tower to a transformer which is able to increase the voltage up to a few thousand volts - the distribution voltage. This voltage power, which flows more easily through electric lines, travels through underground lines to a collection area where the power can be combined with other wind turbines.

This electricity from wind power is usually sent to nearby farms, homes and towns for usages. If it is not sent to towns and homes is it sent to a substation where the voltage is increased greatly to a few hundred thousand volts (called transmission-voltage power) to be sent through very tall transmission lines to distant cities and factories.

The Possibilities of Wind Energy
There are several countries, including the United States, that are utilizing wind power. Nearly 20% of Denmark's electricity is generated by wind power, and it has proven to be very reliable and inexpensive for them. The AWEA notes that the wind resource in the United States is vast, with theoretically enough wind power flowing across the US to supply all of the countries electricity needs. North Dakota, one of the largest current sources of wind energy, has the potential on its own to supply over 40% of the nation's electricity and there are strong enough winds for electricity conversion at sites in 46 states.

The disappointment comes for advocates of wind energy in the fact that only less than 1% of the United States' electricity is currently supplied by wind power. There are hopes that 6% of the nation's electricity could be supplied by wind power by 2020, the same amount of electricity that hydroelectric power supplies today.

For future wind projects to be implemented, several people must be involved. The greatest responsibility lies in the developer who negotiates with landowners to allow wind power turbines to be placed on the landowner's land. The developer must also find financing either through investors, government funding, or community involvement. People must work together to make wind power a legitimate source of energy in the United States and countries abroad.

» For more information on alternative energy visit Energy Voyager.

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