Last modified on 9 April 2014, at 18:39

Lentis/Wind Energy

Offshore wind farm using 5MW turbines in the North Sea, Belgium


Wikipedia Article on the History of Wind Power

Besides transportation, the earliest known use of wind as an energy source was its conversion to mechanical power in Persia sometime between 1000-200BC. The converter was a vertical axis windmill that turned a millstone, which ground grains for flour production. This design was later brought to Europe possibly by the Crusaders and windmill abundance increased dramatically in the 1200s.[1] In 1888 Charles Brush designed and built the first wind turbine to generate electricity, which was stored in batteries for his household use.[2] The system produced about 12KW and lasted about 20 years. In 1892 Danish scientist Dane Poul La Cour came up with the first modern design of the wind turbine based on the aerodynamic principles.[3]

Alternatives to Electricity productionEdit

Badgir in Dolatabad Gardens, highest in the world at 34m, Yazd, Iran[4]

Historically, wind has been used in non-electricity generating technologies such as the windcatcher. Windcatchers have been used for many centuries to create natural ventilation in buildings in central Iran. The structure directs wind down into the building and pulls air out of the building from the opposite side. Inside the building there is usually a pool or a decorating water fountain. The rapid evaporation of this water due to the very low air humidity of the area can significantly cool down the building and act as a natural air conditioning system. Although windcatchers have long been forgotten to the extent that even people in Iran may not have heard of them, a comeback is possible. BBC reported a design of a zero emission home in 2007 claiming that it will set the environmental standards for all new homes in the future. One of the main components was a wind catcher for ventilation.[5]

Benefits of Wind EnergyEdit

While environmental pollution and the emission of carbon dioxide from the use of fossil fueld constitute a threat to health, the environment and sustainable economic growth, wind energy is a source of clean, non-polluting electricity. Wind turbines cause virtually no emissions during their operation and very little during their manufacture, installation, maintenance and removal. According to the United States Department of Energy, in 1990, California's wind power plants offset the emission of more than 2.5 billion pounds of carbon dioxide, and 15 million pounds of other pollutants that would have otherwise been produced.[6] It would take a forest of 90 million to 175 million trees to provide the same air quality. Moreover, wind energy can provide incomes for rural areas.

By 2020, taking European Wind Energy Association projections that 180GW of wind energy would be generating 425 TWh per annum[7], wind power will provide annual savings of:

• 215 million tonnes CO2

• 261,000 tonnes SO2

• 333,000 tonnes NOx.

Political FactorsEdit

United StatesEdit

Wind power is a new industry in the United States, so its public exposure has been limited. With increased interest in renewable energy, news outlets are featuring more stories about wind energy. Despite this increased media attention, a study conducted by researchers Klick and Smith (2010) polled 600 people about wind energy and found that public opinion is weak[8].

Wind power was part of the renewable energy platforms of the two major parties during the U.S. Presidential Elections in 2008 and 2012. The Democrats and the Republicans have recognized the potential of wind power as a form of clean energy, and in their 2008 election platforms, proposed government incentives and funding to increase renewable energies.[9][10] Four years later, in 2012, the Democrats continued to maintain their ambitious agenda on renewable energies, including wind power, while Republicans, no longer incumbents, have reduced their renewable energy statement to a few sentences, which encourages continued renewable energy development, but in the market without taxpayer funding. [11][12] Since renewable energy is a growing political issue, wind power will continue to be featured in national energy debates. [13][14].

Technical and Environmental IssuesEdit

Supply and Storage IssuesEdit

The best option for wind is as distributed power[15]. Electricity generated from wind power can be highly variable at several different timescales: from hour to hour, daily, and seasonally. Wind also tends to be complementary to solar. This means that wind energy is an intermittent technology that can be used only when resources are available. The intermittence of wind hinders the economic competitiveness of the resource, because instantaneous electrical generation and consumption must remain in balance to maintain grid stability.

Cost IssuesEdit

Even though the cost of wind power has decreased dramatically in the past 10 years, the technology requires a higher initial investment than fossil-fueled generators. Intermittency and the non-dispatchable nature of wind energy production can raise costs for regulation, incremental operating reserve, and could require an increase in the already existing energy demand management, or storage solutions.[16]

Wind Turbine Technological ChallengesEdit

The engineering challenge for the wind industry is to design an efficient wind turbine to harness wind energy and turn it into electricity. The evolution of modern wind turbines is a story of engineering and scientific skill. In the last 20 years, turbines have increased in size by a factor of 100 (from 25 kW to 2500 kW and beyond), the cost of energy has reduced by a factor of more than five.[17]

It is a big challenge to produce a wind turbine that[18]:

  • Meets specifications (frequency, voltage, harmonic content) for standard electricity generation with each unit operating as an unattended power station;
  • Copes with the variability of the wind;
  • Competes economically with other energy sources.
  • Stands high fatigue.

Environmental ConcernsEdit

Although wind power plants have relatively little impact on the environment compared to fossil fuel power plants, the environmental issues include how the turbines appear in a landscape, the sound they make and their effect on birds and other wildlife.


Like all mechanical systems, wind turbines produce some noise when they operate. In recent years, engineers have made design changes to reduce the noise from wind turbines.

Visual ImpactsEdit

Because they must generally be sited in exposed places, wind turbines are often highly visible. They need to be in order to catch the prevailing wind and work effectively. Being visible is not necessarily the same as being intrusive. However, aesthetic issues are by their nature highly subjective. Proper siting decisions can help to avoid any aesthetic impacts to the landscape.

Avian/Bat MortalityEdit

Bird and bat deaths are one of the most controversial biological issues related to wind turbines. The deaths of birds and bats at wind farm sites have raised concerns by fish and wildlife agencies and conservation groups.

  • Measuring the Problem
The Wildlife Society Bulletin conducted a study in March of 2013 that "estimated 888,000 bat and 573,000 bird fatalities/year"[19] occur as a result of wind turbines in the United States alone. To put this death toll in prospective, 970 million crash into buildings, 175 million crash into power lines, 72 million die from pesticides, and 1 million die from oil and gas spills[20].
  • Legislation
In November of 2013 the United States government ruled that Duke Energy Corp. would pay a one million dollar fine after pleading guilty to killing 14 eagles and 149 other birds. This marked the first time in US history that government enforced environmental laws protecting birds from wind turbine farms[21]. This ruling may remain the only of its kind as the Obama administration announced just a few weeks later on the 6th of December that "it will allow some companies to kill or injure bald and golden eagles for up to 30 years without penalty, an effort to spur development and investment in green energy while balancing its environmental consequences"[22]. This decision did not come without opposition as environmental groups worry that the free pass will spark an increase in the number of bird deaths rather than encourage efforts to develop a safer wind energy farms.
  • State of the Art
A number of prevention methods have been suggested to lessen the impact of wind turbines on avian and bat populations. Some of the techniques include painting turbine blades with black or UV paint, tracking flocks with radar, manually shutting down turbines when flocks approach, and building turbines around common flight paths. Research into these prevention techniques is in its early stages as researchers attempt to identify both why birds are colliding with the turbines, and how to reduce the rate of occurrence.

Health ConcernsEdit

Wind Turbine Syndrome

It has been argued that wind turbines can have an impact on human health and quality of life. "Wind Turbine Syndrome" was first brought up as an issue by Dr. Nina Pierpont, an anti-wind energy activist. In her book self-published in 2009, she attributes symptoms including sleep deprivation, headaches, dizziness, anxiety, and vertigo to the infrasound and low-frequency noise generated by wind turbines[23]. Since Dr. Pierpont published her research farmers and townspeople from across the world have come forward claiming that do indeed suffer from these symptoms. [24][25]


Proponents of wind energy such as the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) and the US Department of Energy have countered these claims by citing studies that correlate these symptoms to annoyance and stress rather than physical health impacts. Critics also note that Pierpont did not use a valid sample size, she did not see her subjects in person, her work was not properly peer reviewed, and there were no recorded complaints prior to her study[26]. This implies that until further research is done into the phenomenon, "Wind Turbine Syndrome" cannot be used as the sole reason to impede wind farm construction. [27]

Other Causes

Shadow flickering has also been identified as a potential problem for those living close to wind turbines. [28] However, minimum setback distances can be implemented to prevent this.

Public AttitudesEdit

National opinion towards wind energy have been positive as the United States attempts to reduce carbon emissions through the increasing use of alternative, cleaner sources. A survey conducted by the American Wind Energy Association in March 2010 noted that 89% of American voters believed the nation should increase usage of wind energy. Additionally, 77% supported the implementation of a national Renewal Energy Standard (RES) that would mandate the amount of energy obtained through renewable sources.[29]


Wikipedia Article on NIMBYism

Despite overwhelming support for the United States to switch to more renewable energy, the installment of wind energy technology across the nation continues to face strong opposition by people living near proposed sites. Local opposition towards wind energy can be described by an attitude known as NIMBY (not in my backyard). Nimbies are people who oppose an issue due the proximity of this issue to them, or who support a cause (e.g. wind energy), but do not want it to require any sacrifices on their part, much like a free rider.

For wind energy, these sacrifices may include the aforementioned issues in addition to other ones pertaining only to citizens living in the near vicinity to proposed wind turbines. Consistent with risk perception, studies have supported that persons living close to the site of a proposed wind farm particularly oppose wind farms due to a linear relationship between distance and risk perception. Similarly, people further away from an existing wind farm oppose further wind development due a lack of local experience to alleviate risk as seen in the below figure. [30]

Adapted from Figure 1 in van der Horst. 2007: NIMBY or not? Exploring the relevance of location and the politics of voiced opinions in renewable energy siting controversies. based on data from Warren et al. 2005: Green on green: public perceptions of wind power in Scotland and Ireland

Due to the disputed medical legitimacy of Wind Turbine Syndrome, it has been suggested that WTS was conceived by Nimbies to support their opposition to wind power development near their homes.


Cape WindEdit

Cape Wind, an approved offshore wind project located near Cape Cod, was initially proposed in 2001 by Jim Gordon and his company Cape Wind Associates, the project would entail the installation of 130 wind turbines in a shallow, high-wind region of the Nantucket Sound known as Horseshoe Shoal. The company claims that the wind farm would be capable of supplying 75% of the electricity necessary for the Cape and the Islands.

Following its proposal, the Alliance to Protect the Nantucket Sound was founded. As classic Nimbies, this group believes that the Cape Wind project has the right idea, but the wrong location. They believe that Cape Wind would be detrimental to wildlife, the economy, public safety and the scenery. Two computer generated simulations of what the proposed wind farm would look like from shore show how opposing groups can use images to affect human perceptions.[31][32] Although the two images are from locations the same distance away from where Cape Wind would be, it is obvious that the subtle differences are meant to persuade the viewer one way or the other. In addition to images, both groups support their arguments with what they claim are facts. These facts are then labeled as myths by the opposing side. Some of the most heavily debated issues are the price of the electricity, the effect on marine life and the visibility of the turbines on the horizon.

Coverage of Cape Wind has not only been limited to local news and blogs, but has also been in the form of popular media. Cape Wind: Money, Celebrity, Energy, Class, Politics, and the Battle for Our Energy Future was written by Robert Whitcomb and Wendy Williams in 2008. An unreleased documentary named Cape Spin has also been produced.

Donald TrumpEdit

Golf Course DevelopmentEdit

In early 2006, Donald Trump purchased the private Menie Estate, Balmedie, Aberdeenshire, Scotland with the hopes of establishing a premier flasgship links-style golf course as a part of a larger 1.6 billion dollar "resort featuring a second golf course, a hotel, luxury holiday homes and a residential village." [33]

From the onset, construction of the new course and planned development has received both awe in the natural beauty and design of the course from golf enthusiasts around the world and vile from nearby residents over environmental concerns. In May 2011, British filmmaker Anthony Baxter released a documentary You've Been Trumped negatively against several controversial actions Trump took in establishing the golf course, including obtaining a Site of Special Scientific Interest to expand the golf course. Since then, it has won 10 awards from film festivals and environmental documentary organizations, four-star movie reviews, critical acclaim by Michael Moore, Alec Baldwin and Scottish filmmaker Bill Forsyth, whose movie Local Hero was cited in the film. While Trump tried unsuccessfully to stop its broadcast on BBC, the documentary received over 1.1 million viewers with high praise across the UK, leading to a second showing on BBC2. [34]

Scotland Against SpinEdit
European Offshore Wind Development CentreEdit

Established in 2011, The 2020 Routemap for Renewable Energy in Scotland set a renewable energy target of 30% of all energy needs by 2020. Leveraging Scotland's offshore wind reserves, the Routemap details "large scale development of offshore wind represents the biggest opportunity for sustainable economic growth in Scotland for a generation, potentially supporting up to 28,000 directly related jobs and a further 20,000 indirect jobs and generating up to £7 billion for the Scottish economy by 2020." [35] In March 2013, Scotland approved a development test area 2 kilometers off the coast of Balmede in Aberdeen Bay to test the performance of new wind turbine designs to be used in future wind projects in Scotland. Scotland approved the new center for offshore wind developers and logistics-specialized companies to develop and test cutting edge technology in Aberdeen, bringing in high paying jobs to stimulate the local economy and support the creation of jobs in wind energy across Scotland. In addition to serving as a test development area, the European Offshore Wind Development Centre (EOWDC) is capable of generating power for nearly half of all homes in Aberdeen.

Wing WhackersEdit

In October 2012[36], Tech Studios created an app called Wing Whackers to "provide a fun and interactive way for children and adults of all ages to learn about birds, energy, and the environment while being able to actually support and save the lives of some of the world’s most amazing avian heroes." The side scrolling video game features multiple characters "heroes" (an eagle, an owl, a bat, a pelican, a hawk) that a user has to guide through a series of obstacles (power lines and wind turbines) without falling into the clutches of animals "nemeses" on the ground (a snake, a shark, and a boar).[37] Immediately following its debut, Donald Trump tweeted about the game as an attempt to spread awareness of potential negative effects of wind turbines to dissuade the EOWDC.


Several lessens can be learned from the social interface of the wind technology.

  • Technological path dependence. Technologies can progress and develop in one direction and that direction or path becomes the focus of future development, and alternatives struggle for relevance.
  • Feasibility of different technologies in different parts of the world. Not all technologies are suitable everywhere. Economic, cultural and geographical factors affect the implementation of technology. For example, wind turbines are economically feasible in windy places while windcatchers are only feasible in extremely low humidity climates.
  • NIMBY. People may support an idea in general, but when its drawbacks directly affect them they oppose it. Most people make decisions based on incentives, prioritizing personal benefits over public benefits. Technologies that offer personal incentives thrive, even if they are detrimental to the environment. We see this all around the world as people or businesses make decision based on maximizing profits and ignoring the environmental effects. To be successful in saving the environment we must develop technologies that provide personal incentives as well as environmental benefits.


  8. Holly Klick, Eric R.A.N. Smith, Public understanding of and support for wind power in the United States, Renewable Energy, Volume 35, Issue 7, July 2010, Pages 1585-1591, ISSN 0960-1481.
  16. ^ "". Retrieved 2011-12-02