Wind Energy is a viable industry that has become a valuable energy source. The energy generated from wind is clean and efficient. The wind energy industry helps to ensure that electric demands are met, wildlife impact is minimal, the environment is not devastated, as well as creates new jobs during the construction of wind farms, daily operations, manufacturing components, and exporting components to foreign countries.
Development and Costs
In 1986, the National Renewable Energy Laboratories developed a wind resource assessment for the U.S. Department of Energy. The assessment consisted of surface wind data and upper-air data. The results of this project help today’s developers determine the best location for a wind farm, as shown in the map below.
Determining where to build a wind farm is based on location. The most favorable locations are those that have a steady annual wind speed of 15.7-meter seconds or more.
It isn’t enough to have a windy location; the wind farm needs access to existing transmission lines or the transmission line infrastructure has to be built to get the electricity to the regional grid. The grid is made up of a network of independently owned and operated power plants and transmission lines.
President Obama stated in his 2011 State of the Union address that he envision in 2035, 80% of the nation’s energy will be met by clean energy sources. Without increased transmission capacity his vision will not be achieved. The function of the transmission line is to get the electricity produced from any source to the grid. Transmission construction is expensive. Prairie Wind Transmission has been approved to build 110 miles of transmission lines in Kansas at an estimated project cost of $2 million per mile, according to the company’s website. In June 2011, Prairie wind issued a press release that stated, “Kansas electric customers are expected to incur an initial cost increase of about 25 cents per month for an average residential customer using 1,000 kilowatt-hours per month. The amount will decrease over time.” The cost of 25 cents a month isn’t much and the transmission line can be used by other renewable sources of energy, such as solar.
Another necessity to building a wind farm is large areas of land. Wind turbines need a circumference around the turbine of 150 feet to 250 feet. Access roads are needed to each turbine for routine maintenance as well as a building for the site personnel. The amount of land needed can range from 3,000 to 35,000 acres with related equipment, roads and a buffer zone. In Colorado, reported by North American Wind Power, NextEra Energy Resources is developing a wind site that will include 125 turbines on 35,000 acres of land and 40 miles of transmission line that will connect to the electrical grid. The majority of the land is leased or right of way is purchased.
The type of turbine purchased depends on the wind speeds, the electricity the grid can absorb and the cost...