Wind energy is the fastest-growing source of power on the planet. With our tremendous wind resources-what some have deemed the ‘Saudi Arabia of wind’–the United States can become a world leader in wind energy. It’s no surprise that wind energy accounted for 93 percent of total installed renewable electricity capacity in 2008. In fact, in 2008 the United States surpassed Germany as the world leader in installed wind capacity. The Department of Energy has stated that we can get 20 percent of our power from wind energy alone by 2030.
Already, wind energy can compete with coal powered energy in terms of cost at around 4 cents per kilowatt hour. However, the federal government’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory projects that the price of wind energy will fall even further over the next decade, making it the most economically competitive renewable energy technology.
As a growing power source, wind energy can become a major force for economic development. Wind development can save consumers money and bring construction jobs, leasing royalties, and increased tax revenues to local communities. If the United States were to reach the DOEs 20 percent wind energy supply scenario roughly 800,000 jobs would be created, annual property tax revenues would increase to $1.5 billion, and annual payments to rural landowners would increase to $600 million by 2030.
How Does it Work?
Standing as tall as 300 feet to capture the full force of the wind, modern wind turbines use state-of-the-art technology to turn wind into electricity. When the wind blows, the blades begin to spin, turning an electric generator to create electricity. This electricity is carried through the turbine tower underground, where it feeds into the electric grid.
A gas turbine, also called a combustion turbine, is a type of internal combustion engine. It has an upstream rotating compressor coupled to a downstream turbine, and a combustion chamber in-between.
Energy is added to the gas stream in the combustor, where fuel is mixed with air and ignited. In the high pressure environment of the combustor, combustion of the fuel increases the temperature. The products of the combustion are forced into the turbine section. There, the high velocity and volume of the gas flow is directed through a nozzle over the turbine’s blades, spinning the turbine which powers the compressor and, for some turbines, drives their mechanical output. The energy given up to the turbine comes from the reduction in the temperature and pressure of the exhaust gas.
Energy can be extracted in the form of shaft power, compressed air or thrust or any combination of these and used to power aircraft, trains, ships, generators, or even tanks.