"There is an old joke that says Brazil is the country of the future – and always will be. But with rapid economic growth, the government claiming that some 40 million people have been lifted out of poverty in the past decade and the 2014 World Cup and 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro on the horizon, it seems the joke is about to fall flat. Brazil's time has arrived and the country of sun, sea...
Wind Power, Windmills, and Renewable Energy
Some scholars believe that the process of capturing energy from the wind has existed for over 3,000 years, beginning with Babylon under King Hammurabi. Others argue windmills began in India as evidenced by the classic, Sanskrit text, Arthasastra. Either way, the first documented windmill dates back to 200 B.C. in Persia, where it was used for grinding grains. By the 13th century, windmills were popular throughout most of Europe for doing the same. Soon though, the Dutch began to pioneer new advancements in efficiency and design, even using windmills to drain marshy lands in Holland.
Windmills reached America in the mid-1700s, but were used primarily to pump water for agricultural uses. Not until the 1900s would wind begin to be used for generating electricity, although it quickly lost out to cheaper fossil fuels. In the United States, interest in wind energy only began to renew during the oil crisis of 1973, when people feared the depletion of fossil fuels but viewed nuclear power as an unacceptable alternative due to the safety risks.
Both advocates and critics of wind energy have strong platforms upon which they base their arguments.
Advocates for wind energy point to environmental and health benefits from decreased use of fossil fuels and nuclear power. Additionally, the economic benefits, such as green jobs, as well as the means to decentralize energy supply to consumers are touted as positive reasons to pursue wind energy. Finally, many believe that wind energy will help nations such as the United States become energy independent.
However, critics argue that if wind energy and other renewable technologies make so much sense, then why have the markets not invested more in them? Another problem most critics have with wind energy is not directly with the technology or the goals, but rather that it is often implemented through government coercion. It is when technology is forced upon a population through renewable energy mandates that its flaws become all the more glaring. The biggest fault found with wind energy is that it is not a steady, reliable source of energy. Indeed, wind fluctuates and sometimes disappears. Critics contend that coal power plants are often used to offset changes in wind by cycling up and down. Because coal power plants are designed to run most efficiently at a steady rate, not cycling up or down, there is strong evidence that CO2, NOx, and SO2 emissions actually increase as wind-generated electricity penetrates a region. The analogy often used is that of a car in traffic (coal cycling up or down) vs. a car driving steadily at freeway speeds (coal generating power at a constant rate).
Regardless of one's stance on wind energy, two things are certain: innovation and interest in wind energy are growing. There is a resurgence in the discourse about renewable, alternative, or green energies, and wind power is a part of this discussion.
More About This Topic...
Click thumbnails below to view links
- Video: Daily Planet: Winding Change
- Ten Times the Turbine
- Wind Energy Makes Sound Economic Sense
- Wind Blows Most Intensely at Night
- More Pollution from Wind Generated Electricity?
- Historical Turbine Sizes and Amount of Electricity Generated
- New Library Topic: Wind Power
- MasterResource: A Free-Market Energy Blog
- Video: Saul Griffith's Kites Tap Wind Energy
- Wind Power Basics: A Green Energy Guide