Use of wind energy is on the rise – something evidenced by an increase in construction of wind farms across the United States. So much so that in 23 U.S. states, crews are currently carrying out wind farm construction projects, according to a report from the American Wind Energy Association in April. These new turbines are expected to account for over 13 thousand megawatts of generating capacity – accelerating an already booming alternative energy sector that also thrives on other forms of energy including solar, geothermal, biofuel, and more.
How Wind Turbines Work
The concept for wind power is easy: Propeller blades attached to a rotor have been installed on the top of a tower. These blades turn thanks to the natural force of the wind, in effect powering a generator located within the wind turbine. This helps create electricity in a very effective way.
As it currently stands, the world’s largest wind turbine is the Vestas V164. Unveiled just last year, it stands at 722 feet – at one point producing an impressive 192 MWh within just a day’s time during strong winds. But while the V164 is pretty considerable in size, on average, most wind turbines stand at about 100 feet, still tall and utilizing their height in the sky to reach the fastest winds possible for max efficiency.
Building a wind turbine can be an arduous task – requiring innovation on the part of construction crews. Large cranes are tasked with building the towers piece by piece. Once the tower is done, the generator is lifted up and added next, finally followed by the assembly and installation of the rotator featuring the turbine blades.
Similar to oil pipeline construction, wind turbines are often installed in isolated areas of nature – remote fields not typically accessible to heavy construction vehicles. As with oil pipeline construction, the use of timber mats can be a valuable asset during the construction process. Timber mats allow crews to access sites and utilize them to provide stabilization to the cranes that have the heavy lifting job of putting the turbines together.
In 1975, just one wind farm was up and running, according to the U.S. Energy Department. By 1995 that number had increased to 54 and in 2013 there were 833 wind farms – showing astronomical growth in the industry. With America increasingly looking for alternative forms of energy, it’s pretty obvious that number will only increase as we head into the future.