Wind Power in the US – Green Energy
In our critical search for alternative energy sources, wind power has grown by leaps and bounds since the 1980’s. The largest wind farm, multiple wind machines in one location, is currently the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center in north central Texas. This facility numbers 421 turbines. The combined spin from this massive project generates clean energy for 220,000 houses. The US ranks second in the world to Germany in wind energy capacity. However, the total amount of energy produced is only a fraction of one percent (0.4 percent as of 2006) of the total amount of electricity produced in the US.
Unlike other options, wind machines produce no air or water pollution. Wind machines operate on the principle of capturing the movement or kinetic energy of wind and converting it to electricity. The heating and cooling of the air at the surface of the Earth causes wind. The challenge with wind power is to find the optimal location for placing the machines. Many turbines will generate electricity at wind speeds of 10 miles per hour with a maximum output at 25 miles per hour. Differing landscapes, such as open plains, the seaside and mountain passes, offer a more reliable wind crop to be harvested.
If the location sites are studied and chosen carefully, the environmental impact of the windmills can be minimized. Across the US there have been several nuisance lawsuits based on visual and noise disruption. Some areas have even blocked the development of wind farms based on these concerns. The visual complaints seem to be a matter of opinion that falls into one of two camps: “eye-sore,” or reminder of green power progress. Authorities state, and the courts have found, that the noise is negligible and does not constitute a nuisance.
Contrary to popular myth, the wind machines do not create an electromagnetic disturbance, which interrupts cell phone, radio and other airwave signals. One substantial concern for wind power, however, is the effect on wild birds. There have been problems with migrating populations that call for creative solutions to the inherent dangers for the avian members of the planet. Overall, this alternative energy source driven by the natural occurrence of wind has a promising future. The country of Denmark, although ranked sixth in capacity, produces 20 percent of its electricity through the green power of wind. Even though humans have been harnessing the power of wind for thousands of years, this next step is still in its infancy. Let’s not “throw the baby out with the bath water” as the saying goes!