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Home > Student Gazette > Sustainable Development

Windmills, as Part of a Sustainable Energy Program

Gabrielle H. , Katie K. , Katie R. , Sam T.

20 May 2010





Sustainability is to keep something in existence that is needed or vital to society windmills are a good example of this. Part of sustaining the earth’s resources comes from discovering alternative fuels that will keep our machines running when the world’s oil supply dissipates. Windmills are one relatively new method for using an alternative fuel source (wind) to power America’s homes and factories. Many people including us believe that windmills are a positive influence on the community and are a helpful invention. Windmills operate by collecting the kinetic energy from wind. When the wind blows the blades lift from the air comparable to the reaction wind has on airplane wings.

The first recorded history of windmills was 5,000 years ago (as early as 2,000 B.C.) in Afghanistan, eastern Iran (Persia), Egypt, and ancient Babylon. These machines looked like a wheel with paddles, but later innovations were made by Holland to improve the aerodynamic shape of the propellers. Windmills were introduced to the English and the British by the 13th century. The mills were small and used for such things as pumping water, grinding wheat, corn, and milling other grains.

As for local examples of wind being used to generate electricity, there is a plan here in Cortland County, which is under development. This power plant will be called the Crown City Wind Farm and is to be located thirty miles south of Syracuse (center of Cortland County.) This plant will eventually consist of 45 wind turbines with blades up to 164 feet long and as tall as 492 feet high. To avoid the issue of crude metal poles spoiling scenic views, Cortland’s plan includes underground cabling to minimize visual impact. The plan estimates that the Crown City Wind Farm will produce enough renewable energy to power all of Cortland’s 18,210 homes and more!

Before being used to generate electricity water raising mills were used to drain ponds or transport water in sections of England such as Suffolk and Norfolk and were usually made of wood. Later in the United States history windmills helped to expand the locomotive industry by wheeling water out of wells to be used as steam energy for the trains. This process is still used today in locations where power lines are not possible.

As with every invention windmills are used to help people to modernize and adapt to the changing times. By the 1920’s windmills were being used in new and different ways including harnessing the wind to be later converted to electrical energy. A wind turbine is comprised of the tower, base, rotary blades, batteries, and a motor. There were several positive reasons the United States and several other countries turned to windmills to power homes and factories.

For an averaged sized home windmills can save a family up to $1,500 a year. These new turbines require low maintenance because their generators are close to the ground. These modern machines are quiet; produce no pollution (good for the environment), and are safe in environmental situations such as winds reaching high speeds.

However, with a good thing, drawbacks can always be found. In residential setting trees may restrict the rotation or the height of the windmills. Turbines existing today can be as tall as 50 feet and have a diameter of 6 feet. Unfortunately the metal look of windmills can spoil the view of oceans and city skylines. Many people fear that wild birds will fly into the windmill’s blades, endangering their population.

One debate about windmills centers on the question of how many blades a turbine should have in order to use the wind as effectively as possible. Studies have shown that turbines with more blades are more efficient, but can be more costly. Old fashioned windmills had as many as 18 blades. The most common type of turbine is named after a French engineer named Georges and Darieus who received a patent for his two bladed design in 1931. They compromised by manufacturing a design consisting of 3 blades.

Today the worlds largest wind farm is located in Texas known as the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center. It encompasses 421 turbines that gather enough wind energy to power an average 220,000 homes each year. Statistics in the United States from 2008 illustrate that our country generated 52 billion kilowatt-hours, which was about 1.3% of the total electricity generated in the U.S. that year.

On the topic of sustainability windmills can be used to conserve earth’s resources such as oil and other fossil fuels. They replace power lines, reduce air pollution, and make our world a better place. In today’s poor economy we cannot afford to be wasteful and structures such as wind turbines generate electricity using nature’s renewable resources.

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