Wind Turbine

By: Susan Bahorich
By: Susan Bahorich

Nestled in the hills of West Virginia there's a sight that has some folks with their eyes to the skies.

"This particular wind generator system you can hook up to a water pump or battery system. It's easier for us to use our power as a battery pack," explains Traci Hickson.

Hickson works for a group called Future Generations. The organization has been helping communities around the world change and work for a better life for decades- so it was no surprise when they wanted to make a difference in their own backyard.

"We consume 2,100 kilowatt hours. We produced a total of 2,500 kilowatt hours," says Hickson.

This wind turbine generates enough energy for "Future Generations" to power its office here in Franklin. And when winds are calm like this a back-up option's available.

The towers stand anywhere from 60 to 120 feet-like this one here, and cost about $40,000. Officials in Rockingham County hope Valley farmers will join on and take advantage of the program.

Matt Heckman of the JMU Wind Energy Project explains, "If you get high enough off the ground you'll be able to tap into that wind resource of the Shenandoah Valley, the majority of the Valley will work."

Now, it's just a matter of getting other people on board.

Heckk says already several farmers throughout the state are looking into the program.

If you'd like more information you can call 568-9560. Quick Facts About Wind Energy

What is wind energy?

The terms "wind energy" or "wind power" describe the process by which the wind is used to generate mechanical power or electricity.

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy in the wind into mechanical power. This mechanical power can be used for specific tasks (such as grinding grain or pumping water) or a generator can convert this mechanical power into electricity to power homes, businesses, schools, and the like.

What causes the wind to blow?

Wind is a form of solar energy. Winds are caused by the uneven heating of the atmosphere by the sun, the irregularities of the earth's surface, and rotation of the earth.

Wind flow patterns are modified by the earth's terrain, bodies of water, and vegetative cover. This wind flow, or motion energy, when "harvested" by modern wind turbines can be used to generate electricity.

When was wind energy first used?

Since earliest recorded history, wind power has been used to move ships, grind grain and pump water. There is evidence that wind energy was used to propel boats along the Nile River as early as 5000 B.C. Within several centuries before Christ, simple windmills were used in China to pump water.

In the United States, millions of windmills were erected as the American West was developed during the late 19th century.

Most of them were used to pump water for farms and ranches. By 1900, small electric wind systems were developed to generate direct current, but most of these units fell into disuse as inexpensive grid power was extended to rural areas during the 1930s.

By 1910, wind turbine generators were producing electricity in many European countries.

How is the energy in the wind captured?

Wind turbines, like aircraft propeller blades, turn in the moving air and power an electric generator which supplies an electric current. Modern wind turbines fall into two basic groups; the horizontal-axis variety, like the traditional farm windmills used for pumping water; and the vertical-axis design, like the eggbeater-style Darrieus model, named after its French inventor.

Modern wind technology takes advantage of advances in materials, engineering, electronics, and aerodynamics. Wind turbines are often grouped together into a single wind power plant, also known as a wind farm, and generate bulk electrical power.

Electricity from these turbines is fed into the local utility grid and distribute to customers just as it is with conventional power plants.

Source: (U.S. Department of Energy).

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