The United Kingdom wind power production has been enjoying an upward trajectory, and on Tuesday wind power achieved a significant energy production milestone, reported Brooks Hays for UPI. High winds from Hurricane Gonzalo were the force behind wind turbines outproducing nuclear power plants on Tuesday—supplying 14.2 percent of all electricity, compared with nuclear’s 13.2 percent. For a 24-hour period, said the BBC, “spinning blades produced more energy than splitting atoms.” Gonzalo brought gusts of up to 70 mph to the northern parts of the UK, according to National Grid.
Earlier this week, James Murray for BusinessGreen said that “figures from National Grid also show that wind power outperformed nuclear power throughout the whole weekend and into Monday morning, and allowed a number of coal power plants to be taken offline.” “Wind power set a new peak record of generating 7,998 megawatts (MW) over a half-hour period at midday on Saturday once local turbines are factored in,” said a press release from trade association RenewableUK.
Nonetheless, the wind power victory needs to be put in perspective considering other factors that were at play. Windy conditions raised turbine output at a time when a number of the UK’s nuclear reactors were offline for repairs, said reports. This can be regarded as “an unlikely turning of the tables with more electricity in the country generated by wind turbines than nuclear power for a day,” as the nuclear power portal, NuclearStreet put it. Similarly, the BBC remarked that “wind power’s ascendancy over nuclear is expected to be temporary.” NuclearStreet identified the reactors that were down: Sizewell B, down due to a “statutory outage,” Hunterston B Reactor 4 shut down for maintenance, two units at Dungeness B off, one for refueling and the other to repair a boiler pump. Back in August, four reactors were taken offline after a crack was found on a boiler spine, said the BBC.
“Wind power is often used as a convenient whipping boy by political opponents and vested interests; all the while, it’s been quietly powering millions of homes across the UK and providing a robust response to its vocal detractors,” said RenewableUK’s Director of External Affairs, Jennifer Webber.
The government, meanwhile, continues to speak about a “diverse energy mix” as the way to go to satisfy UK’s needs and for UK’s energy security. The BBC quoted a government spokesperson who said that “we need a diverse energy mix that includes renewable sources like wind and solar alongside nuclear and technologies like carbon capture and storage so we can continue to use fossil fuels in a cleaner way.”
So How do Wind Turbines actually work?
So how do wind turbines make electricity? Simply stated, a wind turbine works the opposite of a fan. Instead of using electricity to make wind, like a fan, wind turbines use wind to make electricity. The wind turns the blades, which spin a shaft, which connects to a generator and makes electricity. View the wind turbine animation to see how a wind turbine works or take a look inside.
Wind is a form of solar energy and is a result of the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth’s surface, and the rotation of the earth. Wind flow patterns and speeds vary greatly across the United States and are modified by bodies of water, vegetation, and differences in terrain. Humans use this wind flow, or motion energy, for many purposes: sailing, flying a kite, and even generating electricity.
The terms wind energy or wind power describe the process by which the wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity. Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water) or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity.
Types of Wind Turbines
Modern wind turbines fall into two basic groups: the horizontal-axis variety, as shown in the photo to the far right, and the vertical-axis design, like the eggbeater-style Darrieus model pictured to the immediate right, named after its French inventor. Horizontal-axis wind turbines typically either have two or three blades. These three-bladed wind turbines are operated “upwind,” with the blades facing into the wind.
Wind turbines can be built on land or offshore in large bodies of water like oceans and lakes. Though the United States does not currently have any offshore wind turbines, the Department of Energy is funding efforts that will make this technology available in U.S. waters.
Sizes of Wind Turbines
Utility-scale turbines range in size from 100 kilowatts to as large as several megawatts. Larger wind turbines are more cost effective and are grouped together into wind farms, which provide bulk power to the electrical grid. In recent years, there has been an increase in large offshore wind installations in order to harness the huge potential that wind energy offers off the coasts of the U.S.
Single small turbines, below 100 kilowatts, are used for homes, telecommunications dishes, or water pumping. Small turbines are sometimes used in connection with diesel generators, batteries, and photovoltaic systems. These systems are called hybrid wind systems and are typically used in remote, off-grid locations, where a connection to the utility grid is not available.
For more information and an awesome interactive video about how Wind Turbines work, check out this site.