Wind Power: Introduction

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In December 2006, a group of students and I took a trip to a coal-fired power plant in Denver, Colorado. After trudging through the hot, noisy, and dangerous facility, listening to the spiel on the benefits of coal, we hopped in our vans and drove north to Wyoming to visit a wind farm.

These contented bison graze around the base of the gigantic wind machines at the Ponnequin Wind Farm in southern Wyoming, demonstrating that wind energy can be coupled with other commercial activities, notably farming and ranching, providing dual income for landowners.

The wind farm was perched on a plateau visible from the interstate, As we drove onto the property, the giant white wind machines came into full view. Buffalo grazed around the base of their massive towers, munching on the dried grasses. We were awestruck when we got out of the vans and stood at the base of these massive, quiet machines towering 260 feet above our heads.

As I looked around, I could see smiles on my students’ faces. The contrast between the noisy, dirty coal-fired power plant fed by huge piles of coal shipped in from hundreds of miles away, and the hushed efficiency of the wind farm fed by an abundant, clean, and free renewable resource was just too much for them “Wow,” was about all they could say “This is amazing!”

I was pretty amazed, too. It was my first up-close encounter with gargantuan wind generators. Watching the shadows of the turning blades was indescribable — “way cool” as one of my young students remarked, I don’t know how I could improve on his assessment.

This section is not about large commercial wind systems, but rather about smaller systems, those that generate electricity for individual homes, businesses, farms, and ranches, This section should help you decide whether wind is for you and if you have sufficient resources to make it work.

Next: Is Wind Power in Your Future?

Prev: Photovoltaic (PV)

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