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What is the Process of Energy Transfer in Wind Turbines?

We owe it to our present and future generations a better world than it was left to us by our forefathers. In this pursuit, governments all over the world have and are slowly shifting their focus to clean sources of energy.

These include wind, solar and hydro sources of energy. To most people, these forms of energy and the way they operate remains a mystery. In a bid to demystify sources of clean energy, this article sheds more light on the process of energy transfer in wind turbines.

The Blades

clean energy with clear sky
The blades are the most notable piece of a windmill. They are the rotating long paddle-like items found on a windmill. Wind blowing towards the windmill contains kinetic energy. Upon blowing against the blades, the kinetic energy in the wind is transformed into mechanical energy that trickles down to the shaft, then to the turbine. The amount of wind energy derived from the windmill is usually proportional to the cube of the speed of the wind. It, therefore, means that if the speed of the wind is 10 times, then the amount of power harvested from the windmill is 1000 times. The size, shape, weight, and length of the blades determine the amount of power harvested from the windmill. Wider and longer blades have more surface area than shorter thinner ones. This means that they will collect more wind and the shaft in the turbine will rotate faster hence dissipating more electrical power. Shorter and heavier blades will trap less amount of wind and rotate less and consequently less power is produced from the windmill.

The Turbine

After kinetic energy in the wind is converted into mechanical energy by the blades, it then moves to the shaft where it makes the turbine rotate, depending on the speed of the wind. When the shaft in the turbine rotates, the mechanical energy is then converted into electrical energy that is stored before being distributed to the consumer. The amount of power produced by a windmill is also dependent on the horsepower of the turbine. This is because the blades may trap so much wind and rotate so fast but if the turbine has a very low horsepower, the amount of power will not be equally proportional.

Energy Storage

At times, especially during low winds season, very little or no wind power is produced. The little power produced is stored in different modes as it awaits more power being distributed to the consumer. At the same time during periods of very strong winds, so much power is produced and the excess power needs to be stored for future use. Amongst the modes of storing very little or excess energy in wind turbines include the battery, hydrogen fuel cells, compressed air, and pumped storage. Battery storage relies on lead-acid cells to store energy while in compressed storage, compressed is heated to provide mechanical energy to run the turbines.

Energy Conversion

However, during the conversion of wind energy into electrical energy, not all wind energy is utilized. Some of the kinetic energy from the wind is lost and blown away. In the course of the turbine rotating, some of the mechanical energy is converted into heat energy, which is responsible for the heating of the coil in the turbine. Some of the energy is converted into sound energy hence the screeching sound produced by the turbine when it is running. In the turbine, magnets pass by a stationary set of coils known as the stator. When this happens, electricity in alternating current, AC form is produced, and then converted into direct current, DC, before being fed into the national grid for distribution to the consumer.

Despite all these, it is not always sunshine with wind power energy; just like any other energy source, it also comes with its fair share of hiccups. For example, it is hard to get land to build a wind power farm especially if people are living nearby. The project will be met with endless court injunctions. This is because the windmills produce a lot of noise while blocking people’s view. For this reason, they have to be built away from the vicinity of people’s properties. The shorelines, therefore, remain the most preferred location for having a wind power farm. On the other side, here, the windmills are exposed to corrosion from the salty sea or ocean water. The main drawback of this form of clean energy also comes during the low wind season.

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