Can renewable energy sources power the world?
Can renewable energy sources power the world?

Start this free course now. Just create an account and sign in. Enrol and complete the course for a free statement of participation or digital badge if available.

Free course

Can renewable energy sources power the world?

Week 6: Wind energy

Introduction

Wind energy has been used for thousands of years for milling grain, pumping water and other mechanical power applications. But it is the use of wind energy as a pollution-free means of generating electricity on a significant scale that is attracting most current interest in the subject.

This week you will look at modern wind energy technology, at the atmospheric processes that power it, and ways of calculating wind power and energy. You will also look at the environmental impact of turbines, at offshore wind power, and at the economics and future potential of wind technology.

Download this video clip.Video player: intro_week6_wind_640.mp4
Skip transcript

Transcript

The Earth’s winds are caused when different regions of the atmosphere are heated by the Sun to different temperatures causing pressure differences that result in the movement of air. Wind energy has been used for thousands of years, in sailing ships and in windmills for pumping water or grinding corn.

This week we look at modern wind turbines at the atmospheric and aerodynamic processes that power them and at ways of calculating the power and energy they produce. We also look at their environmental impact, the economics and the future prospects of wind technology.

Attempts to generate electricity from wind have been made since the late 19th century but it was only around the 1980’s that the technology began to mature.

Between the early 1980’s and the late 2000’s the costs of wind turbines fell steadily and the power of typical machines increased significantly. Now on reasonably windy and accessible sites wind turbines are one of the most cost effective methods of electricity generation.

Wind turbines are increasingly being deployed offshore where wind speeds are generally higher and planning constraints less demanding. Here the technically accessible wind resources are massively increased. Of course offshore wind involves significant additional technical challenges and the cost of generation is higher.

The reason developments in wind energy technology have made it one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources worldwide, a total of 318 gigawatts of wind power had been installed by the end of 2013. An increase of 10% on the previous year.

We conclude this week with a look at recent developments in wind technology and a discussion of the contribution that wind might make to the needs of the EU and globally by 2050.

End transcript
 
Interactive feature not available in single page view (see it in standard view).

By the end of this week, you will be able to:

  • describe at an introductory level the main aspects of wind energy including the relationship between wind speed frequency distribution and electricity production
  • define the terms cut-in wind speed, rated wind speed, shut-down wind speed and rated power
  • describe at an introductory level the main current types of wind turbines and how they operate
  • understand at an introductory level the environmental and social effects, beneficial and deleterious, of wind energy development.
RENBOC_1

Take your learning further

Making the decision to study can be a big step, which is why you'll want a trusted University. The Open University has 50 years’ experience delivering flexible learning and 170,000 students are studying with us right now. Take a look at all Open University courses.

If you are new to University-level study, we offer two introductory routes to our qualifications. You could either choose to start with an Access module, or a module which allows you to count your previous learning towards an Open University qualification. Read our guide on Where to take your learning next for more information.

Not ready for formal University study? Then browse over 1000 free courses on OpenLearn and sign up to our newsletter to hear about new free courses as they are released.

Every year, thousands of students decide to study with The Open University. With over 120 qualifications, we’ve got the right course for you.

Request an Open University prospectus371