What Are the Uses for Wind Turbines?
- Stand-alone wind turbines are used by homeowners, farms and small businesses to meet their entire electrical needs, or to supplement other sources of energy such as power from the traditional electric grid. These turbines are capable of producing less than 100 kilowatts of electricity and are designed specifically for small-scale usage. In some cases, wind turbine owners can enter into a net metering agreement with their local electric utility. Net metering allows the owner to send excess power generated by their turbine to the utility company. In return, the turbine owner can draw electricity from the utility grid during times when the wind turbine is not producing sufficient energy to meet their needs. Other uses of small-scale wind turbines include powering diesel generators, batteries, and supplementing solar power systems.
- Large-scale wind turbines produce more than 100 kilowatts of power and, in the case of utility-size applications, can generate several megawatts of electricity. Companies specializing in the production of electricity may use single large wind turbines to create energy and sell it to customers. Some utility companies construct multiple wind turbines, creating what is known as a wind farm. These systems, often built in remote areas where windy conditions are common, generate electricity that is routed into the normal electrical grid. Large-scale wind turbines can stand as high as 240 feet with blades that are 120 feet in length.
- The use of wind turbines to generate electricity takes advantage of the wind, which is abundant. Because wind occurs naturally, wind power provides an indefinite source of energy and thus is renewable. In addition, wind turbines do not pollute the air like the burning of fossil fuels, such as coal and natural gas. Using wind to generate electricity is less costly than other renewable energy sources, costing four to six cents per kilowatt-hour. Wind turbine farms are often built on rural land owned by ranchers and farmers. When a turbine is constructed, rent payments are made to the landowner, which benefits local economies. Additionally, tax breaks and other incentives are often available from federal agencies and state governments for installing wind turbines.
- Wind turbines, especially large-scale industrial types, are considered unappealing to the eye by some people. In some cases, property values can suffer when wind turbines are constructed near homes. Optimal locations for building wind turbines are often in remote locations, meaning transmission lines must be built over great distances in order to deliver electricity to cities. The rotating blades of a wind turbine produce some noise, which some people consider unpleasant. There are instances when birds mistakenly fly into the rotating blades and are injured or killed, although design improvements have helped to lessen this problem.