harnessing the wind

Harnessing the wind

How wind turbines work

Wind turbine blades are modelled on aeroplane wings.

Wind turbine blades are modelled on aeroplane wings. They rotate because of a difference in pressure, caused by air moving over the surface of the blade. The blades cause a rotor to turn, which then drives an electrical generator.

Modern wind turbines have an internal computer system to monitor the direction and speed of the wind, with electricity production starting automatically at wind speeds above 14km/h. The blades rotate slowly at around 15–19 revolutions per minute (RPM).

The amount of electricity produced continues to increase with the wind speed until the wind generators reach their maximum or ‘rated’ capacity at winds of around 55km/h.

Only in the very uncommon event that wind speed reach 90km/h do the turbines automatically shut down to avoid damage.

Turbine heights and spacing

Turbine technology has come a long way since Crookwell wind farm began generating power in 1998. Today larger machines producing more energy per turbine the new standard for are the wind industry. The higher and larger blades produce much more energy which reduces the costs of the electricity produced. The land is also less affectede to greater spacing between turbines, and the slower rotation of the rotor is seen by many as being more graceful.

Load factor/Capacity factor

A modern wind turbine produces electricity 70–85% of the time, but it generates different outputs dependent on wind speed. Over the course of a year, it will typically generate from about 30% to more than 40% of its theoretical maximum output, depending on location. This is known as its load factor or capacity factor. The load factor of conventional power stations throughout the electricity system is on average about 50%. At a windy enough location, a modern wind turbine will generate enough to meet the electricity demands of about 2,000 homes a year.

Turbine Detail (click to enlarge)


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