What is Wind power?

Wind has been used by the mankind as a source of energy since earlier days. For example, ancient sailors could not even imagine ships that would sail without wind. Moreover, the significance of legendary winds of the Roaring Forties, which were of great help in transporting goods from Europe to Australia along the so-called Clipper Route, cannot be underestimated. Apart from that, sailors discovered different trade winds that enabled them to safely sail though oceans which still were not plotted on the map.

Energy sources have always been of great importance to the mankind, and, as time passed, people began to think how to use this resource in other spheres. Already in the eleventh century windmills were invented in the Middle East, and this invention brought a new start to producing food. It made the process of manufacturing less labor-consuming and more efficient. The merchants that came there and the crusaders thought this idea was good and brought it back home, to Europe. Here the innovation was improved by the Dutch, one of the greatest sailing and merchant nations of that time. They used it for pumping out water from marshy territories along Rhine River.

In the late nineteenth century the settlers who came to the New World to try their luck and explore the new land, began using wind, too. It was very useful, because they needed lots of water for their ranches, farms. Later on a technology was invented that allowed to generate electricity with the help of wind, which was used for providing homes and factories with the necessary energy. It was a challenge for the Americans, because their territory was full of desert areas. But all these events only marked the very beginning of windmill business, as it began to prosper already in the industrialization era.

As the technology developed, windmills intended for producing electricity became larger and larger in size, and were able to generate more and more power. It is known that the first one appeared in Scotland, being constructed by Professor James Blyth. He was the pioneer on the long way to the appearance of housing fully supplied by electricity generated by wind only: his 10 meter high windmill produced enough power to provide his cottage with electricity. This turbine was located in the yard of his cottage and constructed so that it charged the accumulators which, in their turn, were used for lighting the house.

A year later, another machine of this type was invented, this time in America. Charles Brush from Ohio managed to construct a wind turbine that was much larger and more sophisticated. The windmill’s rotor was seventeen meters in diameter, being installed on a tower eighteen meters high. In spite of its size, the power capacity of the machine came up to only 12 kW. The machine had a dynamo connected to it, used for charging batteries or powering about one hundred light bulbs, various lamps, and various appliances in the scientist’s laboratory. But this invention did not last long, as technology in that time was rapidly developing. Already in the beginning of the twentieth century it was no longer used.

The middle of the twentieth century was marked by the construction of the largest wind turbine. It exceeded all the previous similar constructions both in size and power. It was installed on a hill in Vermont called Grandpa’s Knob. At wind speed of 30 m/h this turbine could generate 1 ¼ megawatts of energy, so during the Second World War it was able to supply the local network with the necessary amount of energy for a couple of months.

Since the beginning of the twentieth century such a power source was especially significant in Denmark, partly due to the genius of the scientist Poul la Cour who became famous for constructing wind turbines. The largest of them, more than twenty meters in diameter, was mounted in Gedser in 1956, where it worked for eleven years. It had three blades, with a horizontal axis design, stall-regulated and upwind. Such a construction is very much like those used at present.

Wind can be classified as a solar energy form. Winds emerge due to the fact that the sun heats the atmosphere of our planet unequally. Other aspects that influence wind formation are earth rotation and unevenness of the planet’s surface. The way winds flow is determined by the vegetation, earth’s relief, and water bodies. Modern wind turbines are designed so as to “harvest” as much wind energy as possible and to turn it into electricity. In fact, the term “wind power” refers to the process in which turbines transform kinetic energy of wind into mechanical power. The latter can be used for definite aims, for example, to pump water or to grind grain. Another way to use energy is to convert it to electricity.