Alternative energy has been generating a lot of interest these days, especially since the price of oil is prone to fluctuation, causing instability in many economies. In addition, many governments are now pressured to reduce green house gas emissions from international conventions…
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Wind energy has been used to power machines in earlier history. For instance, windmills helped people some 4000 years ago in grinding grain and pumping water. Around 1800s, Europe and China reportedly had a combined number of 500,000 windmills for their energy requirements. (Colorado State University) If one examines the various periods in the past, on will find that inventors have developed different versions of wind-powered energy generators across countries. Such history underscores how the potential of wind energy has been recognized early on.
The fact is that the heat produced by the sun creates wind movements through differential heating, driving continuous wind speed. At a certain altitude, the wind can have as much as160 km/h speed continuously. This speed can generate considerable amount energy once the wind is converted into diffused heat through friction. Recently, a study found that the earth’s potential wind energy could reach up to 72 TW annually. (Archer and Jacobson 2005) This figure is roughly the same as 54,000 million tons of oil, making wind power five times as much as the current world energy consumption from all energy sources combined. In Australia, the air movement and speed is depicted in Fig. 1. Fig. 1: Wind Speed in Australia (Outhred 2006) How it Works The wind’s kinetic energy is converted into usable mechanical or electrical power through a wind turbine. The wind energy fact sheet released by the New South Wales government explained the composition of a wind turbine and how it works (see Figure 2). Here, a rotating generator is required in order to convert wind energy into electricity. This generator is enclosed in a nacelle and powers the rotor, the propeller-like part found on top of the wind turbine tower. Once the wind moves the rotor, the generator converts the rotational energy into electrical energy. The power generated is further increased by an installed transformer, then, a substation, which finally allows the energy to be flow to the energy grid. Fig. 2: Wind Turbine and the Wind Energy Transfer (NSW…) Currently, there are at least sixteen countries that are capable of generating 1000 megawatts of wind energy and the combined capacity represents almost 2 percent of the world’s electricity generation. (NSW…) The significance of wind energy is especially highlighted in the cases of Denmark, Spain and Portugal – countries that boast of significant wind energy contribution to their energy generation mix. Wind Energy in Australia Recognizing the threat of unstable oil prices and environmental concerns and commitments, Australia has begun to establish a policy for renewable energy. The main objective of the government is to generate at least 20 percent or
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