Yesterday, my day both began and ended with the California sun moving through a horizon speckled with wind turbines. As humans we have only to thank Sol for our existence. We’ve come a long way in terms of mechanized energy efficiency. Seeing these two great power sources together lead me to wonder: How much power do we get from wind farms? How much power does one wind turbine produce?
To understand the energy intake of wind turbines we should take a closer look as to what is actually happening inside to harness this electricity. An anemometer gauges the speed and the direction of the wind. The wind speed information is then passed through to a controller. This device turns the turbines on, points the turbine’s blades in the most fortuitous direction, and when the wind speed is too high (over 55 mph) or too low (under 8-16 depending) it adjusts accordingly.
The turbine blades are directly connected to an electrical generator which creates electricity. A simple generator does this by spinning a magnet inside of copper wiring. The generators used in wind turbines are obviously more sophisticated though they have the same effect.
So how much electricity can one wind turbine create? Wind Energy America states that
Typically modern turbines range in size from 660 kilowatts to over 3 megawatts of capacity. They are placed in fairly windy locations with minimum wind speeds in the range of six meters per second (around 13 miles per hour). Wind turbines generally run at 30 to 40 percent capacity, so a 1 MW turbine could produce around 3 million KWh of electricity in a year.
The amount of wind in an area plays a huge role in how much energy is produced. So if you’re in a windy part of the country it is time to ask yourself: Is this a viable option for me?