In ancient Greece, the god of wind Aeolus is depicted in Greek mythology and more particularly in The Odyssey, as giving an ox-skin bag containing the found winds to help Ulysses reach his home Ithaca. Ulysses’ men curious to see what their lord was carrying in the sack and thinking it might be gold opened the sack right before reaching the island of Ithaca. Once the winds were unleashed, they took Ulysses and his boat back to the island of Aeolia, the island of Aeolus. But depictions of the deities of wind are not unique to ancient Greece: they can be found in the Roman, Norse and Celtic mythologies as well as many other cultures. Even today, wind energy can still surprise us.
10 surprising facts about wind energy that will change the way you look at it
Wind energy has provided for job growth and unexpected sources of income
According to the Wind Energy Foundation, wind turbine technicians are now the fastest-growing profession in the U.S. This should not perhaps come as a surprise if one considers that since becoming the number-one source of new U.S. electricity-generating capacity in 2012 providing some 42% of all new generating capacity, wind energy has continued to grow. We hope that wind energy technicians can become a growing profession in the 80 or so countries that use wind power to generate electricity. In some countries, such as Denmark and Portugal, wind power contributes around 20% of the total electricity production. But wind energy is not just good for the environment and generating green jobs, it can also help poorer families supplement their income: wind projects deliver $222 million in annual land lease payments to farmers and local landowners, in particular for low-income counties¹.
Wind turbines can be taller than the Statue of Liberty!
Wind turbines certainly look big from afar! Some wind turbines are as high as 20 story buildings and have three blades which are 60 meter long². In fact, the largest wind turbine in the world is located in United States in Hawaii and not only is it 20 stories tall but its blades are the length of a football field². The tips of large wind turbines can reach heights up to 200 meters³ when spinning and can reach speeds at the tip of over 320 kph².
Harnessing wind energy is an old trick
Harnessing wind power can be done in a number of different ways and it is a form of energy people have been using since antiquity. Windmills have been in use since 2000 B.C. and were first developed in Persia and China. For example, ancient mariners sailed to distant lands by making use of winds. Farmers used wind power to pump water and for grinding grains. Needless to say, today’s wind turbines are much more complicated machines than the traditional prairie windmill: a wind turbine has as many as 8,000 different components⁴.
Wind turbine’s blades are similar to the propeller blades on an airplane
A wind turbine is designed in such a way so that the blades generate lift from the passing wind. This rotating action then turns a generator, which creates electricity. When the wind blows a pocket of low-pressure air forms on the downwind side of the blade. The low-pressure air pocket then pulls the blade toward it, causing the rotor to turn. The force of the lift is much stronger than the wind’s force against the front side of the blade⁵.
Just like solar panels, wind turbines have become more efficient
The first automatic wind turbine or also air generator was built to generate power in 1888; it was called the Brush turbine. It was 17 metres in diameter and it consisted of 144 blades made of cedar wood. In spite of its size, it was just a 12kW generator. It worked for 20 years powered by battery⁶.
Wind energy saves water
While a lot of non-renewable sources of energy consume a lot of water, a scarce global resource, for cooling power plants, this is not the case with wind power. Wind power does not use any water and in fact it is estimated that by 2030, wind power will save around 30 trillion bottles of water in the U.S².
Air-born wind turbines will soon be available
Scientists have been looking at ways to utilise the stronger and steadier air streams which are usually found above skyscrapers and buildings. To do so, they have developed a wind turbine which has a hollow cylinder, is inflated with helium and has a whirlwind propeller inside which makes the best use of wind strength. These types of wind turbines can float on top of buildings and generate clean energy⁶.
Wind turbines make little noise
This might be surprising given their size, but wind turbines are silent. You can have a talk next to them without trouble! In fact even when the wind and the noise intensify, which also increases the environmental noise, this noise corresponds roughly to the noise which can be heard from a fridge at a 50-metre distance⁶.
Companies are investing directly in wind energy
Some corporations are investing directly in wind energy. This has provided a very welcome boost to wind energy technology and helps benefit the environment! Examples of these companies include Google which has a 37.5% stake in an offshore Atlantic Ocean wind farm and Wal-Mart which uses wind power to meet, at least in part, the energy needs of 350 Texas stores⁷.
The first commercial offshore wind farm was in the Baltic Sea
The first commercial offshore wind farm was set up in 1991 in the Baltic Sea along the coastline of Vindeby in Denmark. The 11-turbine wind farm spanning over 2 kilometers has been in operation for more than 20 years setting the expectations for many offshore projects⁸.