Sunday, 18 March 2012

Why All the Hot Air About Wind Turbines?


A wind turbine is a device that creates electricity from the forces of nature. The wind rotates the blades that in turn through a gearbox spins a shaft in a generator to produce electricity. They are usually built in arrays containing numerous turbines called wind farms. Take a drive around the countryside or coastline of Scotland today and you are bound to see one or more in action.

Green energy, or renewable energy, are the words usually associated with electricity generated from wind, and increasingly more so also, from the actions of the sea using tidal generators for the purpose of electricity. The blowing of the wind and the sweep of the tides, are a force of nature, so will always be there. Wind turbines seem to cause the most controversy though, for as beautiful and aesthetically pleasing to view to some, they are a blight on the landscape to others. There is debate about rich landowners creaming the public purse for rent to site them on their land, there are some complaints about noise, and hazards to wildlife such as bats and birds. The criticisms may or may not be valid, and if proven so once sufficient research has been conducted, there may become new ways to site wind turbines that may improve on their deficiencies. Complaints should be listened to, and compromises and actions to lessen them are feasible, but complaints should not deter the advancement of a whole new sector of industry, especially when the complaints, though seemingly cried with the loudest of voices, are trivial compared to what other methods of generating electricity may provoke.

The fact is we cannot go on creating gas and coal fired power stations, fossil fuels are diminishing and becoming more expensive, they are dirty and carbon heavy methods of creating electricity; fear of global warming, ozone layer depletion, and pollution means we can no longer entertain these methods of energy production in the future. An independent Scotland will not be building nuclear power stations, and anyone up to date on the recent news from Fukushima in Japan knows an accident, either due to a natural disaster, or action of man, on such a scale on a small country like Scotland, would be beyond comprehension. That is a road we definitely cannot afford to go down, ever.

At the moment, wind turbines are the most popular method of producing clean green energy. They may not be perfect, and despite the fact that wind turbines have been in use since the end of the 19th century, the invention of a Scot, Professor James Blyth (his holiday home in Marykirk, was the world's first-known structure by which electricity was generated from wind power), in recent years they have come to prominence as an important means of supplying energy for the needs of the population in the 21st century. Like all technology in use today though, wind turbines are forever being tweaked and developed to generate the maximum power from the best and most innovative designs. The efficiency of the wind turbine is forever improving, and with every improvement they are becoming more and more attractive and marketable. Already, from land wind farms, we are seeing coastal arrays of turbines. We see experiments in deep water floating turbines, these can be situated out at sea, over the horizon, where not only is the wind more constant, but they will no longer be visible, whether appealing to view or not, from land. There are also experiments being done with air-borne floating rigs, stationed high in the sky, tethered to cables that hold them secure and transmit the generated electricity to the ground for use.

Whatever design will eventually become a standard, it will be a far more economical and efficient model than those in use today. The point is though, that we need the wind turbines we have in use today to be able to improve and innovate for the better machines of tomorrow. You can only improve what already exists, therefore although I have a bit of sympathy for anyone who complains and stamps their feet about wind turbines, it is only a very tiny bit of sympathy, for I'm sure their grand-children tomorrow, would thank them today, for the little hardship they've had to endure, to secure an important source of clean and green renewable energy to power us along the new age.

Some useful links for more information:
Renewable Energy in Scotland


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