Wind energy is sweeping the nation. As a leader in renewable energy, Colorado has embraced this energy resource over the last decade. Today, nearly 80 percent of the state's renewable energy is generated by wind, according to the Energy Information Administration.
Familiarize yourself with this abundant energy source by reading these wind energy basics.
How Wind Energy Works
Simply put, wind turbines convert the kinetic energy formed by the wind into mechanical energy which then generates electricity. These "wind turbines" refer to tubular structures that have three blades and typically stand around 80 meters tall. As the blades rotate due to the force of the wind, the turbine powers an electric generator that produces an electric current. Most modern turbines begin generating electricity at wind speeds of six to nine miles per hour.
Types of Wind Energy Systems
The three main types of wind energy systems include:
- Offshore Wind Systems: Turbines up to 8 megawatts in size that are built in large bodies of water such as the ocean or on the continental shelf. Due to their size, they are able to generate more power than land-based turbines.
- Utility-Scale Wind Systems: Turbines that exceed 100 kilowatts in size and are usually installed in sizable wind farms. They distribute electricity by electric utilities or power system operators.
- Distributed Wind Systems: Single small-wind turbines below 100 kilowatts in size. Typically installed on residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, and community sites.
Benefits of Wind Energy
As a renewable resource, wind energy cannot be used up, regardless of how much is used. It is also considered a clean form of electricity that does not emit any pollutants such as air toxins or greenhouse gases. Along with solar energy, wind is one of the cheapest forms of electricity generation in the world. In addition, wind energy had a large impact on the U.S. economy. As the wind power industry grows, it has created over 100,000 jobs in over 40 states around the country.