Wind Energy

Wind power is one of the most efficient alternative energy sources to combine with solar, especially out in the middle of a total self-sustainability project. Because when there is sun; there isn’t always wind, but when there is wind, there isn’t always sun, so the two systems (solar/wind) seem to be compliment with each other. Wind energy is now attractive for many reasons – it is renewable, clean and scalable.

Wind power is one of the most efficient alternative energy sources to combine with solar, especially out in the middle of a total self-sustainability project. Because when there is sun; there isn’t always wind, but when there is wind, there isn’t always sun, so the two systems (solar/wind) seem to be compliment with each other.

The economics of wind energy are already strong, despite the relative youth of the industry. The downward trend in costs is predicted to continue. The strongest influence will be exerted by the downward trend in wind turbine prices. As the world market in wind turbines continues to boom, wind turbine prices will continue to fall. The global wind energy market is expanding rapidly, creating opportunities for employment through the export of wind energy goods and services.

For additional information please refer to DoE’s excellent resource on Wind Energy: Wind map in your area.

Energy Guru's Indian Wind Sites database click

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Wind energy systems are a very reliable and versatile technology which have been used for hundreds of years for different purposes.

Water Pumping:
The wind has been used as a reliable and inexpensive water pumping power source for generations. Either a mechanical or electric water pumping system could be ideal for rural and remote locations to supply livestock, a household or even a small community.

Using the wind as an energy source for your cottage or boat could be efficient and inexpensive when compared to fossil fuel generators. An environmentally friendly wind energy system could power lights, radios and small appliances.

Farm and Ranch:
Used for centuries by farmers to pump water, today's wind energy systems can do much more for a modern agricultural operation. Because they are ideal where remote, low voltage power is required, wind energy electrical generators are used for such farm systems as electric fences and yard lights.

Home Use:
Rural home owners who want to help reduce the environmental impact of their energy use can reduce their reliance on grid power with a wind energy system. Even a mini wind energy system saves electricity generated from fossil fuels or nuclear energy.

Remote Communities:
Remote Communities: In remote communities where diesel generators often supply electricity, the use of wind energy not only makes environmental sense, it makes economic sense. Larger wind energy systems can reduce reliance on expensive and greenhouse gas-producing generators.

An expert on wind energy systems can help you assess your power requirements and determine if a wind energy system is feasible for your location.

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Wind turbines take common wind power and convert it into electrical wind energy. The wind turns the blades that crank the shaft which spins a magnet inside a housing that creates an alternating electromagnetic field, and thus electricity. The more wind the more spins and the more electricity a wind turbine will produce. Most wind turbines used on a commercial level are built with aerodynamics and make the most of the wind power they conduct.
Wind Energy Technology
Types of wind turbines:
Wind turbines are categorized according to a number of criteria:

The position of the axis (horizontal or vertical) is obvious. Horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWTs) can be further divided into those with rotors rotating in front of the tower (windward) and those rotating behind the tower (leeward) vis-à-vis the direction of the wind. The tip speed ratio and the number of blades determine the response of the drive, and hence how the wind turbine can be used. In modern wind turbines that generate electricity, there are different types of nacelles that turn on top of the tower to face the wind.

There are turbines with gearboxes and without and nacelles whose components (bearings, gears, generator) are positioned separately or have multiple functions integrated in one component (bedding of rotor shaft in the gearbox).

Poles (generally guyed) are usually only used for small wind turbines (up to 10 kW). Free-standing towers are either steel or concrete tubular towers or pylons.

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A totally free market - where all methods of making electricity compete on the same level - does not exist anywhere. In every country the price of electricity depends not only on the cost of generating it, but also on the many different factors that affect the market, such as energy subsidies and taxes.
    The cost of generating electricity comprises of:
  • Capital costs (the cost of building the power plant and connecting it to the grid)
  • Running costs (such as buying fuel and operation and maintenance) and
  • The cost of financing (how the capital cost is repaid)
With wind energy, and many other renewables, the fuel is free. Therefore once the project has been paid for, the only costs are operation and maintenance and fixed costs, such as land rental. The capital cost is high, between 75% and 90% of the total for onshore projects.
The capital cost breakdown of a typical 5 MW onshore project is shown below.

What influences the costs?
Here are two main influences which affect the cost of electricity generated from the wind, and therefore its final price:
  • Technical factors, such as wind speed and the nature of the turbines
  • The financial perspective of those that commission the projects, e.g. what rate of return is required on the capital, and the length of time over which the capital is repaid.
    Technical factors
  • The more electricity the turbines produce the lower the cost of the electricity. This depends on:
  • The windiness of the site.
  • The power available from the wind is a function of the cube of the wind speed. Therefore if the wind blows at twice the speed, its energy content will increase eight fold. In practice, turbines at a site where the wind speed averages eight metres per second will produce around 80% more electricity than those where the average wind speed is six metres per second.
  • Figure below shows how generation cost varies with wind speed.
  • Wind turbine availability: This is the capability to operate when the wind is available. This is typically 98% or above for modern European machines. The way the turbines are arranged: Turbines in wind farms must be arranged so that they do not shadow each other.
    Financial perspective
  • The economics of grid connected wind power depend very much upon the perspective taken.
  • How quickly investors want their loans repaid and what rate of returns they require can affect the feasibility of a wind project: a short repayment period and a high rate of return pushes up the price of electricity generated, as shown below.
  • How the cost of wind energy varies with wind speed and rate of return on capital.
  • The cost of wind energy has fallen since these figures were calculated, nevertheless the graph shows an indication of how wind speed and interest rates influence the cost.

Public authorities and energy planners tend to assess different energy sources on the basis of the levelised cost. These calculations do not depend upon variables such as inflation or taxation system. However, the perspective of private investors or utilities is different, and takes into account the variables introduced by government policy and shifts in financial and foreign exchange markets. These investors make decisions on project cash-flow and payback time.

Public authorities and energy planners require the capital to be paid off over the technical lifetime of the wind turbine, i.e. 20 years, whereas the private investor would have to recover the cost of the turbines during the length of the bank loan. The interest rates used by public authorities and energy planners would typically be lower than those used by private investors.

Why is the cost coming down?
Although the cost varies between different countries, the trend everywhere is the same - wind energy is getting cheaper. The cost is coming down for various reasons. The turbines themselves are getting cheaper as technology improves and the components can be made more economically. The productivity of these newer designs is also better, so more electricity is produced from more cost-effective turbines. There is also a trend towards larger machines. This reduces infrastructure costs, as fewer turbines are needed for the same output.

The cost of financing is also falling as lenders gain confidence in the technology. Wind power should become even more competitive as the cost of using conventional energy technologies rises.

How do prices compare with other technologies:
It is difficult to compare the cost of making electricity from different energy sources because many of the benefits of renewable energy (e.g. no pollution and never-ending supply) do not have a universally accepted price. However, it is important to try and compare 'like with like' when contrasting wind generation costs with those of the fossil fuel sources and so prices bid into the Non-Fossil Fuel Obligation, which offered 15-year contracts, are a good guide. In the last round of all, the third Scottish order, around 1000 MW of wind was bid at 2.8 pence per kilowatt hour (p/kWh) or less - 3.2 p/kWh at 2004 prices while the minimum bid was around 2.2 p/kWh at 2004 prices. Nevertheless, even if some of these crucial benefits are ignored, the figure below shows that onshore wind energy is competitive with new coal fired plant, and cheaper than new nuclear power.

The prices for fossil-fuelled generation used in the figure below have been drawn from recent government White Papers - except in the case of gas. In this instance, the recent price movements have been taking into account and, as a result, generation costs from new plant are likely to be close to 3p/kWh. In early autumn 2004, gas prices in the futures market were moving upwards, which could result in higher generation costs.


Offshore, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has suggested that present-day generating costs are around 5.1 p/kWh. Although some early wind farms have reported higher capital costs than this, experience in Denmark suggests that the lower costs are also achievable and so a range of plus or minus 10% around the central value has been used.

What about the cost of pollution?
To determine the true cost of generating electricity, the cost of pollution and other 'external costs' should be included in the calculations. External costs are the costs to human health and the environment which are not reflected in the price of the electricity.

Society bears the cost of pollution in terms of poorer health (leading to higher health service costs funded by the taxpayer) and a degraded environment (which increases the cost of food and farm products).

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