Friday, July 27, 2012

Wind Power as an Alternative Energy Source

I've been seeing quite a few of the wind turbines in recent years. This seems to becoming a valuable alternative energy source.

The first time I saw a wind farm was in 2009 when I traveled to Pella, Iowa, with Sophia, Olivia, and my parents. There were many wind turbines in northern Iowa; and we were equally fascinated by this "new" type of farm.

Wind Turbines in Iowa
Wind turbines in northern Iowa. 
(Photo taken on April 29, 2009)

More recently, Sophia, Olivia, and I traveled to southwestern Minnesota, and saw quite a few farms with wind turbines near Pipestone. It seems like there are more states using wind power to their benefit and for the benefit of the earth.

According to Wikipedia, "Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using: wind turbines to make electricity, windmills for mechanical power, windpumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships.

"A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines which are connected to the electric power transmission network .... Wind power, as an alternative to fossil fuels, is plentiful, renewable, widely distributed, clean, produces no greenhouse gas emissions during operation and uses little land.

"Any effects on the environment are generally less problematic than those from other power sources. As of 2011, 83 countries around the world are using wind power on a commercial basis. As of 2010 wind energy production was over 2.5% of worldwide power, growing at more than 25% per annum."

The only "down side" to the wind farms is usually due to aesthetics. Also, some neighbors near the wind farms note that noise is an issue. I guess I've never been that close to one to hear the noise they make.

Start of Wind Turbines
Wind turbines in southwestern Minnesota.
(Photo taken on June 9, 2012.)

Before wind turbines, there were windmills. Windmills were first used in Iran as early as the seventh century. Their use spread across the Middle East and Central Asia. By 1000 AD windmills were pumping seawater for salt-making in China.

In northwestern Europe, windmills were used to grind flour. Early immigrants to the New World brought the technology with them from Europe. When we were in Pella, we took a tour of the windmill there which, to this date, still is used to grind flour.

Windmill with 2 Blades Covered
Windmill in Pella, Iowa.
(Photo taken on April 29, 2009.)

The windmill in Pella was completed in 1992. The parts were built in Holland and assembled in Pella by skilled Dutch craftsmen. The Vermeer Mill grinds wheat into flour using only wind power and is the tallest working windmill in the United States.

In the photo above, the wind picked up during the day and two of the blades were covered with canvas. I didn't see the person climb up each blade to fasten the canvas to the wood, but it was done sometime that morning.

Here's a link with some more facts about the mill:

Girls by Windmill Blade
Sophia and Olivia by one of the 
blades of the windmill in Pella, Iowa.
(Photo taken on April 29, 2009.)

One of the common things on farms used to be a windpump. Wikipedia describes a windpump as "a windmill used for pumping water, either as a source of fresh water from wells, or for draining low-lying areas of land. Once a common fixture on farms, windpumps are still used today where electric power is not available or too expensive."

I remember my dad talking about the windmill that was at his aunt and uncle's farm. As a child, we visited that farm and it was still operational. If we needed to wash our hands while we were outside, we could use the pump at the base of the windmill.

Windmill at Gammelgarden
This windmill/windpump is at Gammelgarden,
in Scandia, Minnesota.
(Photo taken on February 21, 2012.)

I've been interested in wind power and windmills for a long time. Seeing the different forms - from antique to modern - shows the value of further exploring this alternative energy source.


kt moxie said...

I really hope that Michigan adopts more wind power, but there seems to be a lot of NIMBY (or maybe NIML -- Not In My Lake!) going around.

Unknown said...

I too remember going to my great grandmother's house and seeing her old windmill. So cool to see how things have progressed!

Anna Murphy said...

Thank you the historical look at harnessing the wind. Too bad it is not more reliable.