Environmental Engineering Reference
In-Depth Information
energy problems could be solved with a large number of wind generators
supplying high voltage power for hydrogen production.
During World War II, Vannovar Bush was the Director of the U.S.
Wartime Office of Scientific Research and Development. He was con-
cerned about American fuel reserves and thought that wind generators
could be a solution. Percy Thomas was a wind power advocate on the Fed-
eral Power Commission, who convinced the Department of the Interior to
construct a large prototype wind generator. In 1951, the House Committee
on Interior and Insular Affairs killed this plan. Wind-generated electric-
ity could not compete with coal that was selling for $2.50 per ton or diesel
fuel at $0.10 per gallon. The promise of even less expensive electricity that
was too cheap to meter from nuclear power plants resulted in the loss of
almost all Federal programs to develop wind-powered energy systems.
Today's wind machines are known as wind turbines and can have
rotors that cut through the air at heights of up to 100 meters. More and
more of these giant machines are being installed around the world. Wind
power only provides 0.15% of the world's total electricity, but it has be-
come the fastest growing form of energy production.
For the past few decades, manufacturers have been streamlining
components and installing onboard computers to tilt the propeller blades
for maximum efficiency for the wind conditions. In the 1980s, the average
turbine was 20 meters high with a 26-kilowatt (kW) generator and a ro-
tor diameter of 10.5 meters. A typical turbine today can be 55 meters high,
with a rotor diameter of 50 meters and a capacity of 1.6-MW. The power it
produces may supply 500 homes.
Since 1992, more commercial wind farms have been installed than
ever before with 40,000 turbines in 40 countries. Wind energy capacity
is growing at almost 30% annually. By 1998, it reached 10,000 megawatts
(MW), which can supply a country the size of Denmark and the wind
power industry had sales of $2 billion with 35,000 jobs worldwide. The
prime movers were an increasing environmental awareness and commit-
ments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions made under the Kyoto Protocol
of 1997.
But wind and solar are expected to provide only 1% of the world's
energy by 2030 while the International Energy Agency estimates that the
world will need to invest $16 trillion over the next 30 years to maintain
and expand the energy supply.
The European Union supplies tax breaks and investment plans for
renewable sources such as wind power. There are plans to install 40,000
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