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Wind Energy

What is Wind Energy?
Wind energy has been used for thousands of years for milling grain and pumping water but today we can use it to produce electricity. Windmills in the past would have been used for milling grain so we now call modern windmills, wind turbines. The energy in the wind is moving energy (or kinetic energy) so wind turbines move when the wind blows to produce electricity.

Where does the wind get its energy from?
The sun heats some parts of the Earth more than other places. The warmer air rises into the atmosphere and is replaced by cooler air – this gives us the wind.

This picture shows a wind Turbine

How a wind turbine works
Wind turbines have blades, which have a curved surface, like the wings of an aeroplane. The blades are light so that they can turn easily but also strong so that they aren’t affected during storms. The wind flows over the blades causing them to turn and as the blades turn they make a machine inside the turbine turn called a generator. As the generator spins it produces electricity. The amount of electricity generated depends on the size of the blades, the availability of wind and the wind speed.

There are different sizes of wind turbines and they range from small ones for householders right up to big ones like the one at Antrim Area Hospital, which provides lots of electricity for the hospital to use.


Wind Farms
A group of wind turbines together is called a wind farm. They are usually found on the top of hills where there is nothing to get in the way of the wind like trees or buildings. In some countries wind farms have hundreds of turbines but in Northern Ireland they are much smaller, usually about 10.

This picture shows a group of wind turbines together which is called a wind farm

Offshore wind farms are found a few miles away from the coast in the middle of the sea…these wind turbines definitely have no buildings or objects to block the wind on its journey so the wind does not lose strength.

Do you know if there are any wind farms near where you live?

Why is wind energy good?

  • The wind is a free, renewable source of energy that will never run out!
  • Wind energy is safe
  • The UK has some very windy places so we can make lots of electricity

Some possible disadvantages of using wind:

  • The windiest places are often the most beautiful and so some people don’t like the thought of having wind turbines installed as they may spoil the look of the landscape.
  • Some people are worried about the noise produced by wind turbines but new ones that are being used are not as noisy therefore reducing this problem.
  • There is concern that local birds and other wildlife could be affected by wind turbines. The natural habitats may disappear or be no longer suitable to allow wildlife to thrive.

Examples:

Two people that you might recognise who have a wind turbine are Mike Nesbitt and Lynda Bryans from UTV. They live in a windy place just outside Belfast and have a 6kW wind turbine to generate electricity for them to use in their home:  
    This picture shows Mike and Lynda with their turbine and Jenny Boyd from NIE.
 
Some schools taking part in the Switched on Schools programme have a renewable streetlight installed which is powered only by a small wind turbine and solar panel which is called a Green Column:  
    This shows what a Green Column looks like.