Many people today think of a wind turbine to generate electricity as cutting edge technology. Wind represents one of the best options for a new age of energy that will ever replace oil and coal generated power – and so it is.
But what's interesting is that using wind to drive energy is actually one of man's oldest ways to generate power. Wind drve the first sail ships, of course, but windmills were also used to pump irrigation systems many centuries ago. And did you know that windmills were used to generate electricity in the 1880s? They were.
Farmers living in remote regions of the American Midwest actually hooked up simple generators to windmills to power a light bulb or two, and even radios in the 1920s. Indeed, windmill-generated electricity might have become the norm if it had not been for the REA, or Rural Electrification Act, which wired all areas of the country, bringing cheap power.
Interestingly, the situation is increasingly coming full-circle as more and more people opt to “get off the grid” to generate their own clean energy using wind, both in urban and rural settings.
Windmills today are more commonly called “wind turbines” within the alternative energy industry. New advances and more efficient ways to squeeze energy from the wind are being developed every year.
Today there are two basic models for wind turbines: Vertical shaft (Vertical Axis Wind Turbine or VAWT) and horizontal shaft (Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine or HAWT).
Wind turbines have three basic elements: blades, generators and a support structure, or tower. The blades are connected to a shaft which turns the generator to produce power. Note that the shaft itself turns too slowly to rotate a generator fast enough, and so the shaft drives a series of gears which significantly increase generator speed.
It should also be noted that vertical shaft wind turbines are becoming increasingly popular with homeowners because the “up-and-down” blades do not spread out over a wide area, making them easier to position on a roof. They take up less space and they are less conspicuous.
Most of today's wind turbines comprise a variety of advances to make them more flexible and efficient. For example, larger wind turbines feature blades with adjustable pitch so that can match wind speed to turn at optimum rate based on wind speed. In most cases, the higher the tower the better able to turbine is to capture wind.
What's really exciting about wind energy today is that just about anyone can get in the game, even if you just have a few hundred dollars to get started. For example, there are dozens of models of small wind turbines in the $ 300 to $ 800 range that can put out 450 watts of power at 12 volts. They can power lights and small appliances while spinning, and also store energy by charging 12V or 24V batteries. Such set-ups are idea for cabins, but can also supplement your energy use at home.
Many other models, sizes, models and configurations are available, of course. A device that can generate, say, 2000 Watts, might cost in the $ 2,000 to less than $ 3,000 – and you can go up from there.
The price for traditional energy will, without a doubt, go nowhere but up in coming years. That means a wind turbine to generate clean, green energy for your home or business in an idea which time has come, both in terms of price and technology.