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Where the Wind Comes Sweeping Down the Plain


Where The Wind Comes Sweeping Down The Plain…

Normally, that song comes in the middle of the musical, “Oklahoma,” but for today, the winds are blowing around Kansas. But do we know how to use that wind? In wind farms around Kansas and Missouri, we can harness the power of the wind to supply energy for our homes and cities. Most of our energy, however, still comes from coal power plants, wasting our world’s precious resources. If we had more wind farms in and around Kansas City, then we would be able to help create a cleaner environment for our Earth.

Just to clarify, a wind turbine is like a giant mechanical wind mill, normally 1.5 megawatts (MW) to 2.5MW in size. The type of turbine that’s most common is a tower with three long, rotating blades sticking out in a circle at the top. When the wind blows, the blades spin and generate energy, which is then stored to use as electricity in houses and cities. A wind farm is a group of wind turbines, normally placed in a field or along the road. The best places for a wind farm are on coasts, plains, and high mountains, the latter of which are too remote in most cases to be any use. The turbines, which come in various sizes, usually have a rotator blade diameter of 50-90 meters. Individually, the tower alone would be about the same height. A 90 meter tower and blades together make a structure of about 135 meters high from the very bottom to very tip of the blade.

Luckily, there are a few large wind farms in Kansas and Missouri, although there are none close to the Kansas City area. One of the largest farms in Kansas is just west of Salina. In eastern/central Kansas there are wind farms east of El Dorado and near Concordia. In Missouri, a few are up in the northwest part of the state, near Maryville. Building the wind farms are developers like Trade Wind Energy, who can sometimes spend millions of dollars developing wind projects in areas around Missouri and Kansas. Just in these areas they have about six projects that total over 20,000MWs. In this region, for each one MW in size, the turbines generate enough electricity for 300 average households. In fact, so many companies have planned and are building wind farms in Kansas, Texas, Oklahoma, and Missouri that the Great Plains have been called the Saudi Arabia of wind.

People differ in opinions, however, whether wind energy is the solution to a healthy environment. Often placed in the countryside, certain individuals believe that wind farms spoil the beauty of the natural landscape. There are also some who think that the wind turbines, high up in the sky, will harm migrating birds as they fly across the farms. The number of birds killed out of the millions that travel past the turbines is normally six or fewer birds per MW. In fact, out of every 10,000 bird deaths caused by man-made objects (cars, power lines, radio towers, tall buildings, etc.) less than one is caused by wind farms.

On the positive side, wind energy is one of the cleanest ways to power our homes and cities. The farms in areas like Kansas produce power that is competitive with and less expensive than energy produced with coal, natural gas, and nuclear power plants. When the first turbines were installed during the 1980’s, the electricity generated from them cost about 30 cents per kilowatt-hour. Now, wind power plants can generate electricity for less than five cents per KWh. Wind turbines also have no fuel cost, and don’t emit toxic elements into the environment such as lead, uranium, arsenic, and mercury. The energy they produce is clean and healthy for humans, animals, and the environment.

We do have several wind farms in the Great Plains, but that alone is not enough to generate enough clean energy for the majority of the U.S. People need to find more ways of producing clean energy, so as to preserve our natural resources. Eventually, as we use more and more coal, we deplete our main way to create energy. There is no way the world can continue to mine coal and survive if we don’t find other energy sources. No one can last forever on a nonrenewable resource. But as long as it blows, and we’re smart enough to use it, people should be able to live on wind.




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This article has 2 comments. Post your own!

Jesse H. said...
Sept. 6, 2010 at 6:08 pm:

Me being a physics student have to correct and possibly add something on the explanation on the wind turbine(sorry XD)

First of all, wind turbine doesn't always work. Especially when there's an extremem wind or too small a wind, it has to be shut down for safety measures

 

Second of all, electricity can't actually be "stored". It can only be used instantaniously right afterwards (What you can see stored in newspapers are heat produced by other types of electricity ge... (more »)

 
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sknopik said...
Feb. 27, 2010 at 8:06 pm:
Great insight into an important energy source. Love your opening!
 
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