Wind Energy

Standard Page - 2006-01-17
China is now at the forefront of wind technology, and its capacity continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In fact wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source and is a deceptively simple technology. Behind the tall, slender towers and steadily turning blades lies a complex interplay of lightweight materials, aerodynamic design and computer-controlled electronics.

China is now at the forefront of wind technology, and its capacity continues to grow by leaps and bounds. In fact wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source and is a deceptively simple technology. Behind the tall, slender towers and steadily turning blades lies a complex interplay of lightweight materials, aerodynamic design and computer-controlled electronics.

2010.8.10 Saihanba wind farm in Chifeng, Inner Mongolia with a total installed capacity of 120,700 kW and annual power generation capacity of 2.7514 billion kWh. ©Greenpeace/Simon Lim

Power is transferred from the rotor through a gearbox, sometimes operating at variable speed, and then to a generator (although some turbines avoid a gearbox by use of direct drive).

Two decades of technological progress have resulted in state-of-the-art wind turbines that are modular and rapid to install. At optimum sites, wind can be competitive with new coal-fired plants and, in some locations, can challenge gas.

Currently wind power still accounts for only a tiny fraction of China's entire energy structure. The country must translate its massive installations to massive utilization, which requires the implementation of effective incentive policies and a thorough overhaul of the national grid.

 

Advantages of wind

  • Environmentally friendly: A reduction in the levels of carbon dioxide emissions is the most important environmental benefit from wind power generation. It is also free of the other of other pollutants associated with fossil fuel and nuclear plants.
  • Extremely good energy balance: The carbon dioxide emissions related to the manufacture, installation and servicing over the average 20 year lifecycle of a wind turbine are "paid back" after the first three to six months of operation – which means more than 19 years of energy production at virtually no climate or energy cost.
  • Quick to deploy: Construction of a wind farm can be completed within a matter of weeks, with large cranes installing the turbine towers, nacelles (housing) and blades on top of reinforced concrete foundations.
  • Reliable and renewable resource: Wind to drive the turbines will always be free of charge, and unaffected by swings in the price of fossil fuels. It also doesn't need to be to be mined, drilled for or transported to the generating station. As world fossil fuel prices rise, so does the value of wind power, and its generating costs will only drop.

Variability of wind

The variability of wind has produced far fewer problems for electricity grid management than skeptics had anticipated. Swings in energy demand and the need to protect against failures of conventional plants actually require more flexibility of the grid system than wind power, and real world experience has shown that national power systems are up to the task.

The creation of super-grids also reduces the problem of wind variability by allowing changes in wind speed in different areas to be balanced against each other.

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