The wind: A powerful, productive force to serve man
By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover: Visitor Services Manager
I can whistle, or I can howl. You can’t see me, but you can see my effects. You can feel me as I rock you in a swing. I help you play with a kite. I can be an enemy or a friend. Who am I? I am the wind.
Egyptians made the earliest know wind powered boats in approximately 3,500 BC., and by 200 BC, windmills were being used in China to pump water. In 600 AD Persians built windmills to grind grain into flour. During the 1300’s, the fields in the Netherlands were drained with the help of windmills, and France used them to irrigate their farms.
American settlers in the west pumped water using windmills. Six million of the devices were built across America by the late 1800’s. Charles Brush built a large windmill that produced 12 Kilowatts of electricity in Cleveland in 1888. Electric wind turbines eventually began to be used in Europe and America to provide power to rural areas.
Progress continued to be made, and today, 70 percent of the world’s wind energy is produced in Europe. Germany, Denmark, and Spain led the way by passing laws to encourage greater use of wind energy. In 2007, the U.S. wind energy increased by 45 percent and in 2010, the offshore wind farm, Cape Wind, was approved by the federal government.
Wind is really a form of solar energy because it is caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the earth’s surface, and the rotation of the earth. When the wind is put to work, the turbine converts the kinetic energy into mechanical power and finally into electrical power.
As the wind turns the blades, the shaft which is connected to a generator turns producing electricity which is transmitted through lines to a substation. Later it goes to homes and businesses where it is used.
Wind energy is renewable unlike coal, oil, gas, and other fossil fuels which take thousands of years to form. It is also clean and does not contribute to global warming which makes it healthier.
With the concern about energy resources growing worldwide, wind energy has become the fastest growing source of electricity production. Shepherds Flat Wind Farm in Oregon is the largest in the U.S. and produces enough electricity for 235,000 homes.
Wind farms are not without their critics. Some people think the turbines, which can be as high as a 20 story building with 200 foot long blades, numbering in the hundreds are ugly. They consider them a detractor to the beauty of the landscape. Others complain about the noise the machines make. Many people decry the loss of birds and bats that are killed by the blades.
If you would like to learn more about wind energy and its production in our area, attend Port Discover’s Science Café program on Thursday, November 14 at 7p.m. at Montero’s Restaurant. Craig Poff of Iberdola Renewables in Pennsylvania will be the guest speaker.