We hear and read so many conversations about what we can do to save the environment and stop climate change. One point that keeps coming up is our dependence on non-renewable energy like fossil fuels. We currently depend on fuel sources like coal and natural gas to power our lives – our homes, stoves, cars, everything is powered through these non-renewable sources of energy. But, as we all know, these sources have been used up so much that there is very little of it left for us to use.
For this reason, we turned to renewable energy sources like the sun, water, and the wind to generate the energy we need using solar panels and wind turbines. It’s more efficient, it doesn’t add to our carbon footprint, it’s cheaper and the best part? It never runs out.
So then, why aren’t we just filling the world with windmills and generating all the power we need using the wind?
To answer this question, we have to first understand how wind energy is generated and stored. Large, open fields in different parts of the world are covered with machines called wind turbines that look like modern windmills. Whenever there is a strong wind, it turns the blades of the turbine and moves it like a fan. These blades are attached to a spinning shaft, which is in turn connected to a generator. Whenever the blades move they create energy, which is then stored in the form of electricity in the generator.
For these wind turbines or wind farms to work efficiently, they need to be placed in a location with a lot of strong winds blowing. But wind is such an unpredictable element of nature. When an area of high air pressure is created due to excess heat from the sun, the surrounding areas have low air pressure. When the air flows from the high-pressure area to the low-pressure area, wind is created. While there are many weather patterns that guarantee periods of strong winds, any given region will not receive a consistent amount of wind. Additionally, climate change has thrown a spanner in the well-established weather patterns, thus making it harder to predict wind patterns. Due to all this unpredictability, it becomes difficult to harness the energy we need from wind turbines.
Another practical problem with wind energy is the wind turbine itself. The technology used for creating and storing energy from wind may be simple but it is very expensive. A single wind turbine may cost anywhere between two to four million dollars, in addition to the another couple of million dollars needed to maintain and work the wind turbines. A wind farm can have five or 150 wind turbines. Can you even imagine how much that would cost?
To use wind energy effectively, we would also have to completely change the way we harness and use energy. Today, there are millions of people working in companies and factories and mining sites, where sources of energy are gathered and processed. These millions of companies will have to either shut down or switch to making non-renewable energy, which is almost impossible. We would also have to change our supply networks, the electricity grids, and even how much energy we use and at what time of the day we use it.
Still, wind energy has gained traction in India despite a dip in wind speeds over the last few years. As of this year, the total installed wind power capacity is around 40.53 GW (Gigawatt)*, making India the fourth largest installed wind power capacity in the world. Unfortunately, India uses 1,383.5 TWh* of energy in a year alone. This shows that wind energy is only able to provide for a fraction of our energy needs.
As you can see, we are nowhere near a simple solution to the problem of energy. However, what we can do is encourage newer technologies and innovations in the field of wind energy. And one day, soon, we may be able to enjoy the breeze in more than one way.
*Note: Energy is measured in units called ‘watts’. One Gigawatt has 1 billion watts, while 1 TW or Terawatt has 1,000 GWs. A TWh (Terawatt hour) is the amount of energy equal to outputting one trillion watts for one hour.
Do you think we’ll ever be fully reliant on renewable energy? Let us know in the comments.
Find out more about renewable and non renewable energy here:
1. Can the world run on wind power?
In theory, yes it can. But expensive technology and changing wind patterns make it difficult to do in reality. However, there are some studies that estimate half the world will be powered by wind and solar energy in the next 50 years.
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