Wind Energy is as old as the wind. Ok, jokes aside, it can be used in its pure form to turn a windmill for power or to sail boats on the ocean. Pennsylvania can be quite windy in some locations, so it is a viable option for some alternative energy. Learn more about Wind Energy here at Penn Alternative Fuels. Wind power is quickly becoming the preferred alternative energy and renewable energy source for creating electricity growing at a rate of 30% per year. There is currently over 198,000 megawatts (MW) of wind power being produced throughout the world, though most wind energy is being produced in the United States of America, Europe, and Asia.
Old Fashioned Windmills
In Pennsylvania, especially towards Lancaster County, windmills are basically a staple for any old farm. The Amish have used windmills to power their farms for over a century. The old fashioned windmill acts similar to a propeller on an airplane or boat, but in the reverse fashion. Instead of the engine powering the propeller, the propeller is used to drive a turbine which is used to generate power. An old fashioned windmill needs to be facing the direction of the wind to gain it's full power, as it is mounted in a horizontal position. In some cases you lose out on some of the energy that you can harness from these types of windmills, as they do not always turn the correct direction on their own. Advancements in technology have brought about a new era in wind energy as it is much easier to track the direction of the wind and maneuver the windmill in the correct direction. Another advancement has brought about a whole new type of windmill all together.
Vertical windmills are a newer type of windmill that enables the windmill to be powered by wind from any direction. This is a huge advancement in wind energy technology as it can harness 100% of the wind's energy and turn it into electricity. Because these windmills are mounted in a vertical position, their fins can catch the wind from any direction to power the turbine.
Vertical Axis Wind Turbines
This particular type of wind turbine was developed by a company called WePower. WePower's vision according to their website is, "About enabling communities, businesses and individuals to harness the power of wind as a source of natural, free, clean and renewable energy.", which is a great motto.
Wind farms are large groups of wind turbines in the same location used to create larger amounts of wind power. Many people may only know of the big wind turbines on the sides of mountains, but there are actually 2 types of wind farms; onshore and offshore. An onshore wind farm is located on dry land, while offsore wind farms are built in the ocean or on large bodies of water. The United States of America leads the way in terms of operational onshore wind farm capacity with 781.5 MW of power at the Roscoe Wind Farm, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center at 735.5 MW. The UK currently holds the largest offshore wind farm at Thanet Offshore Wind Project with a capacity of 300MW, followed by Horns Rev II in Denmark at 209 MW.
Onshore Wind Farms
The world's first onshore wind farm was constructed in 1980 and consisted of 20 individual wind turbines rated at 30 KW each. The total capacity at the time was only around 600 KW. While that may not be much, there is currently a wind farm larger than the Roscoe Wind Farm's 781.5 MW under construction. The Alta Wind Energy Center is also in the USA and is rated for 800 MW. China currently has proposed construction for the largest wind farm on the planet, the Gansu Wind Farm, with a 20,000 MW capacity. The United States of America may be the current leader, but other nations are realizing that alternative energy works and may be the world leaders in wind power soon enough.
Here are some of the largest onshore wind farms on the planet currently.
- Roscoe Wind Farm, USA - 781.5 MW Capacity
- Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center, USA - 735.5 MW Capacity
- Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm, USA - 662.5 MW Capacity
- Fowler Ridge Wind Farm, USA - 599.8 MW Capacity
- Sweetwater Wind Farm, USA - 585.3 MW Capacity
- Buffalo Gap Wind Farm, USA - 523.3 MW Capacity
- Dabancheng Wind Farm, China - 500 MW Capacity
- Panther Creek Wind Farm, USA - 458 MW Capacity
Biglow Canyon Wind Farm, USA - 450 MW Capacity
Offshore Wind Farms
While the USA is the leader in onshore wind farming, Europe leads the way in offshore wind farming. The first offshore wind farm was built in Denmark in 1991. There are currently over 39 wind farms operating in Europe with locations in Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom. The United Kingdom and Denmark seem to be leading the way in offshore wind farm technology, as they hold all the spots for the largest offshore wind farms. The combined operating capacity of all offshore wind farms in Europe is 2,396 MW. Europe has also set goals for itself for sustaining wind energy growth by setting goals for 40 GW to be installed by 2020 and 150 GW by 2030. This has led to more than 100 GW worth of offshore wind farms being proposed or under current development. There are currently no offshore wind farms in the United States, but some projects are under construction on the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Pacific Coast regions of the country.
Here are some of the largest offshore wind farms on the planet currently.
- Thanet, United Kingdom - 300 MW
- Horns Rev II, Denmark - 209 MW
- Rødsand II, Denmark - 207 MW
- Lynn and Inner Dowsing, United Kingdom - 194 MW
- Robin Rigg (Solway Firth), United Kingdom - 180 MW
- Gunfleet Sands, United Kingdom - 172 MW
- Nysted (Rødsand I), Denmark - 166 MW
Windfarms in Pennsylvania
Pennsylvania has some great locations for wind farms. There are currently several wind farms operating in Pennsylvania. While none of them are the largest by far, it is great to see Pennsylvania doing their part in creating renweable energy alternatives to fossil fuels.
For more information about what is happening with wind farms in Pennsylvania, check out the following resources:
For more information on wind farms in the USA, check out the American Wind Energy Association's website.