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Friday, 14 November 2008
 
 
Introduction to Wind Power
Wind energy
Wind into Watts
The wind generator
Turbine siting
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Wind Energy

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The wind systems that exist over the earth's surface are a result of variations in air pressure. These are in turn due to the variations in solar heating. Warm air rises and cooler air rushes in to take its place. Wind is merely the movement of air from one place to another. There are global wind patterns related to large scale solar heating of different regions of the earth's surface and seasonal variations in solar incidence. There are also localised wind patterns due the effects of temperature differences between land and seas, or mountains and valleys. Wind speed generally increases with height above ground. This is because the roughness of ground features such as vegetation and houses cause the wind to be slowed.

Windspeed data can be obtained from wind maps or from the meteorology office. Unfortunately the general availability and reliability of windspeed data is extremely poor in many regions of the world. However, significant areas of the world have mean annual windspeeds of above 4-5 m/s (metres per second) which makes small-scale wind powered electricity generation an attractive option. It is important to obtain accurate windspeed data for the site in mind before any decision can be made as to its suitability. Methods for assessing the mean windspeed are found in the relevant texts (see the 'References and resources' section at the end of this fact sheet).

The power in the wind can be extracted by allowing it to blow past moving wings that exert torque on a rotor. The amount of power transferred is directly proportional to the density of the air, the area swept out by the rotor, and the cube of the wind speed.

The Energy E available in the wind is given by:

E = \begin{matrix}\frac{1}{2}\end{matrix}\rho\pi R^2 v^3

The mass flow of air that travels through the swept area of a wind turbine varies with the wind speed and air density. As an example, on a cool 15C (59F) day at sea level, air density is 1.225 kilograms per cubic metre. An 8 m/s breeze blowing through a 100 meter diameter rotor would move almost 77,000 kilograms of air per second through the swept area.

The kinetic energy of a given mass varies with the square of its velocity. Because the mass flow increases linearly with the wind speed, the wind energy available to a wind turbine increases as the cube of the wind speed. The power of the example breeze above through the example rotor would be about 2.5 megawatts.

As the wind turbine extracts energy from the air flow, the air is slowed down, which causes it to spread out and diverts it around the wind turbine to some extent. Albert Betz, a German physicist, determined in 1919 (see Betz' law) that a wind turbine can extract at most 59% of the energy that would otherwise flow through the turbine's cross section. The Betz limit applies regardless of the design of the turbine.

Distribution of wind speed (red) and energy (blue) for all of 2002 at the Lee Ranch facility in Colorado. The histogram shows measured data, while the curve is the Rayleigh model distribution for the same average wind speed. Energy is the Betz limit through a 100 meter diameter circle facing directly into the wind. Total energy for the year through that circle was 15.4 gigawatt-hours.
Distribution of wind speed (red) and energy (blue) for all of 2002 at the Lee Ranch facility in Colorado. The histogram shows measured data, while the curve is the Rayleigh model distribution for the same average wind speed. Energy is the Betz limit through a 100 meter diameter circle facing directly into the wind. Total energy for the year through that circle was 15.4 gigawatt-hours.

Windiness varies, and an average value for a given location does not alone indicate the amount of energy a wind turbine could produce there. To assess the climatology of wind speeds at a particular location, a probability distribution function is often fit to the observed data. Different locations will have different wind speed distributions. The distribution model most frequently used to model wind speed climatology is a two-parameter Weibull distribution because it is able to conform to a wide variety of distribution shapes, from Gaussian to exponential. The Rayleigh model, an example of which is shown plotted against an actual measured dataset, is a specific form of the Weibull function in which the shape parameter equals 2, and very closely mirrors the actual distribution of hourly wind speeds at many locations.

Because so much power is generated by higher windspeed, much of the average power available to a windmill comes in short bursts. The 2002 Lee Ranch sample is telling; half of the energy available arrived in just 15% of the operating time. The consequence of this burstiness is that wind energy is not dispatchable as for fuel-fired power plants; additional output cannot be supplied in response to load demand. Since wind speed is not constant, a wind generator's annual energy production is never as much as its nameplate rating multiplied by the total hours in a year. The ratio of actual productivity in a year to this theoretical maximum is called the capacity factor. A well-sited wind generator will have a capacity factor of about 35%. This compares to typical capacity factors of 90% for nuclear plants, 70% for coal plants, and 30% for oil plants.[6] When comparing the size of wind turbine plants to fueled power plants, it is important to note that 1000 kW of wind-turbine potential power would be expected to produce as much energy in a year as approximately 500 kW of coal-fired generation. Though the short-term (hours or days) output of a wind-plant is not completely predictable, the annual output of energy tends to vary only a few percent points between years. When storage, such as with pumped hydroelectric storage, or other forms of generation are used to "shape" wind power (by assuring constant delivery reliability), commercial delivery represents a cost increase of about 25%, yielding viable commercial performance.[7] Electricity consumption can be adapted to production variability to some extent with Energy Demand Management and smart meters that offer variable market pricing over the course of the day. For example, municipal water pumps that feed a water tower do not need to operate continuously and can be restricted to times when electricity is plentiful and cheap. Consumers could choose when to run the dishwasher or charge an electric vehicle, making it very convenient.

The fact that the power is proportional to the cube of the windspeed is very significant. This can be demonstrated by pointing out that if the wind speed doubles then the power in the wind increases by a factor of eight. It is therefore worthwhile finding a site which has a relatively high mean windspeed.