Wind farm


Wind farm

A wind farm is a group of wind turbines in the same location used to produce electric power. A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles, but the land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. A wind farm may also be located offshore.

Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA. As of November 2010, the Roscoe Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in the world, producing 781.5 MW of power, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center (735.5 MW). As of November 2010, the Thanet Offshore Wind Project in United Kingdom is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 300 MW, followed by Horns Rev II (209 MW) in Denmark.

There are many large wind farms under construction and these include BARD Offshore 1 (400 MW), Greater Gabbard wind farm (500 MW), Lincs Wind Farm (270 MW), London Array (1000 MW), Lower Snake River Wind Project (343 MW), Shepherds Flat Wind Farm (845 MW), Sheringham Shoal (317 MW), and the Walney Wind Farm (367 MW).

Contents

Design

A large wind farm may consist of several hundred individual wind turbines, and cover an extended area of hundreds of square miles, but the land between the turbines may be used for agricultural or other purposes. A wind farm may be located offshore to take advantage of strong winds blowing over the surface of an ocean or lake.

Map of available wind power over the United States. Color codes indicate wind power density class

As a general rule, economic wind generators require windspeed of 10 mph (16 km/h) or greater. An ideal location would have a near constant flow of non-turbulent wind throughout the year, with a minimum likelihood of sudden powerful bursts of wind. An important factor of turbine siting is also access to local demand or transmission capacity.

Usually sites are screened on the basis of a wind atlas, and validated with wind measurements. Meteorological wind data alone is usually not sufficient for accurate siting of a large wind power project. Collection of site specific data for wind speed and direction is crucial to determining site potential[1][2] in order to finance the project.[3] Local winds are often monitored for a year or more, and detailed wind maps constructed before wind generators are installed.

The wind blows faster at higher altitudes because of the reduced influence of drag. The increase in velocity with altitude is most dramatic near the surface and is affected by topography, surface roughness, and upwind obstacles such as trees or buildings. Typically, the increase of wind speeds with increasing height follows a wind profile power law, which predicts that wind speed rises proportionally to the seventh root of altitude. Doubling the altitude of a turbine, then, increases the expected wind speeds by 10% and the expected power by 34%.

Individual turbines are interconnected with a medium voltage (usually 34.5 kV) power collection system and communications network. At a substation, this medium-voltage electrical current is increased in voltage with a transformer for connection to the high voltage transmission system. Construction of a land-based wind farm requires installation of the collector system and substation, and possibly access roads to each turbine site.

Onshore installations

Part of the Biglow Canyon Wind Farm, with a turbine under construction

The world's first wind farm – consisting of 20 wind turbines rated at 30 kilowatts each – was installed on the shoulder of Crotched Mountain in southern New Hampshire in December, 1980.[4][5]

Many of the largest operational onshore wind farms are located in the USA. As of November 2010, the Roscoe Wind Farm is the largest onshore wind farm in the world at 781.5 MW, followed by the Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center (735.5 MW). The largest wind farms under construction are the 845 MW Shepherds Flat Wind Farm and the 800 MW Alta Wind Energy Center in the USA. The largest proposed project is the 20,000 MW Gansu Wind Farm in China.

World's largest onshore wind farms
Wind farm Current
capacity
(MW)
Country Notes
Altamont Pass Wind Farm 606 USA [6]
Biglow Canyon Wind Farm 450 USA [6]
Buffalo Gap Wind Farm 523.3 USA [7][8]
Capricorn Ridge Wind Farm 662.5 USA [7][8]
Dabancheng Wind Farm 500 China [9]
Fowler Ridge Wind Farm 599.8 USA [10]
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Center 735.5 USA [7][8]
Meadow Lake Wind Farm 500 USA [10]
Panther Creek Wind Farm 458 USA [8]AWEA: U.S. Wind Energy Projects - Texas</ref>
Roscoe Wind Farm 781.5 USA [11]
San Gorgonio Pass Wind Farm 619 USA [12]
Sweetwater Wind Farm 585.3 USA [7]
Tehachapi Pass Wind Farm 690 USA [13]

Onshore turbine installations in hilly or mountainous regions tend to be on ridgelines generally three kilometers or more inland from the nearest shoreline. This is done to exploit the topographic acceleration as the wind accelerates over a ridge. The additional wind speeds gained in this way can increase energy produced because more wind goes through the turbines. The exact position of each turbines matters, because a difference of 30m could potentially double output. This careful placement is referred to as 'micro-siting'.

Offshore installations

Offshore wind turbines near Copenhagen

Europe is the leader in offshore wind energy, with the first offshore wind farm being installed in Denmark in 1991. As of 2010, there are 39 offshore wind farms in waters off Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United Kingdom, with a combined operating capacity of 2,396 MW. More than 100 GW (or 100, 000 MW) of offshore projects are proposed or under development in Europe. The European Wind Energy Association has set of 40 GW installed by 2020 and 150 GW by 2030.[14]

As of November 2010, the Thanet Offshore Wind Project in United Kingdom is the largest offshore wind farm in the world at 300 MW, followed by Horns Rev II (209 MW) in Denmark.

World's largest offshore wind farms
Wind farm Capacity (MW) Country Turbines and model Commissioned References
Thanet 300  United Kingdom 100 × Vestas V90-3MW 2010 [15][16]
Horns Rev II 209  Denmark 91 × Siemens 2.3-93 2009 [17]
Rødsand II 207  Denmark 90 × Siemens 2.3-93 2010 [18]
Lynn and Inner Dowsing 194  United Kingdom 54 × Siemens 3.6-107 2008 [19][20][21][22]
Robin Rigg (Solway Firth) 180  United Kingdom 60 × Vestas V90-3MW 2010 [23][24]
Gunfleet Sands 172  United Kingdom 48 × Siemens 3.6-107 2010 [24][25]
Nysted (Rødsand I) 166  Denmark 72 × Siemens 2.3 2003 [19][26][27]

Offshore wind turbines are less obtrusive than turbines on land, as their apparent size and noise is mitigated by distance. Because water has less surface roughness than land (especially deeper water), the average wind speed is usually considerably higher over open water. Capacity factors (utilisation rates) are considerably higher than for onshore locations.[28]

The province of Ontario in Canada is pursuing several proposed locations in the Great Lakes, including the suspended[29] Trillium Power Wind 1 approximately 20 km from shore and over 400 MW in size.[30] Other Canadian projects include one on the Pacific west coast.[31]

As of 2010, there are no offshore wind farms in the United States. However, projects are under development in wind-rich areas of the East Coast, Great Lakes, and Pacific coast.[14]

By region

Australia

Large operational wind farms in Australia: November 2010[32][33][34]
Wind farm Installed
capacity
(MW)
Developer State
Capital Wind Farm 140.7 Infigen Energy New South Wales
Hallett Group 298 AGL Energy South Australia
Lake Bonney Wind Farm 1, 2 & 3 278 Infigen Energy South Australia
Portland Group 132 Victoria
Waubra Wind Farm 192 Acciona Energy &
ANZ Infrastructure Services
Victoria
Woodlawn Wind Farm 48.3 Infigen Energy New South Wales
Woolnorth Wind Farm 140 Roaring 40s & Hydro Tasmania Tasmania

Canada

Image of Pubnico Wind Farm taken from Beach Point, Lower East Pubnico, Nova Scotia
Large wind farms in Canada[35]
Name Capacity (MW) Location Province
Anse-à-Valleau Wind Farm 100 49°03′36″N 64°33′18″W / 49.06°N 64.555°W / 49.06; -64.555 (Anse-à-Valleau Wind Farm)  Quebec
Caribou Wind Park 99 70 km west of Bathurst  New Brunswick
Bear Mountain Wind Park 120 Dawson Creek  British Columbia
Centennial Wind Power Facility 150 Swift Current  Saskatchewan
Enbridge Ontario Wind Farm 181 Kincardine  Ontario
Erie Shores Wind Farm 99 Port Burwell  Ontario
Jardin d'Eole Wind Farm 127 Saint-Ulric  Quebec
Kent Hills Wind Farm 96 Riverside-Albert  New Brunswick
Melancthon EcoPower Centre 199 Melancthon  Ontario
Port Alma Wind Farm 101 Chatham-Kent  Ontario
Chatham Wind Farm 101 Chatham-Kent  Ontario
Prince Township Wind Farm 189 Sault Ste. Marie  Ontario
St. Joseph Wind Farm 138 Montcalm  Manitoba
St. Leon Wind Farm 99 St. Leon  Manitoba
Wolfe Island Wind Project 197 Frontenac Islands  Ontario

China

Wind farm in Xinjiang, China

At the end of 2009, wind power in China accounted for 25.1 gigawatts (GW) of electricity generating capacity,[36] and China has identified wind power as a key growth component of the country's economy.[37] With its large land mass and long coastline, China has exceptional wind resources.[38] Researchers from Harvard and Tsinghua University have found that China could meet all of their electricity demands from wind power through 2030.[39]

By the end of 2008, at least 15 Chinese companies were commercially producing wind turbines and several dozen more were producing components.[40] Turbine sizes of 1.5 MW to 3 MW became common. Leading wind power companies in China were Goldwind, Dongfang Electric, and Sinovel[41] along with most major foreign wind turbine manufacturers.[42] China also increased production of small-scale wind turbines to about 80,000 turbines (80 MW) in 2008. Through all these developments, the Chinese wind industry appeared unaffected by the global financial crisis, according to industry observers.[41]

In 2009, China became the third largest wind energy provider worldwide (behind USA and Germany), with the installed wind power capacity reaching 20 GW at the end of 2009. According to the Global Wind Energy Council, the development of wind energy in China, in terms of scale and rhythm, is absolutely unparalleled in the world. The National People's Congress permanent committee passed a law that requires the Chinese energy companies to purchase all the electricity produced by the renewable energy sector.[43]

European Union

A wind farm in a mountainous area in Galicia, Spain
Wind farm in Lower Saxony, Germany

The European Union has a total installed wind capacity of 74,767MW. Germany has the second largest number of wind farms in the world after the United States. Its installed capacity was 25,777 MW at the End of 2009. The fourth country in capacity was Spain with 19,149 MW. Italy was in the sixth position, with 4,850 MW.[44]

Whitelee Wind Farm near Glasgow, Scotland is Europe's largest windfarm with a total capacity of 322 MW. In 2012 Europe's largest windfarm will be Fântânele-Cogealac_Wind_Farm near Tulcea, Romania with 600 MW (300 MW already operational) [45] ).

In 2006, the British government gave planning consent for the world's largest offshore wind farm, the 'London Array'. It is to be built 12 miles off of the Kent coast and will include 341 turbines.

An important limiting factor of wind power is variable power generated by wind farms. In most locations the wind blows only part of the time, which means that there has to be back-up capacity of conventional generating capacity to cover periods that the wind is not blowing. To address this issue it has been proposed to create a "supergrid" to connect national grids together[46] across western Europe, ranging from Denmark across the southern North Sea to England and the Celtic Sea to Ireland, and further south to France and Spain especially in Higueruela which was considered for some time the biggest wind farm in the world.[47] The idea is that by the time a low pressure area has moved away from Denmark to the Baltic Sea the next low appears off the coast of Ireland. Therefore, while it is true that the wind is not blowing everywhere all of the time, it will always be blowing somewhere.

South Africa

Turbines at the Darling Wind Farm, South Africa.

There are currently no large scale wind farms operational in South Africa, though a number are in the initial planning stages. Most of these are earmarked for locations along the Eastern Cape coastline.[48][49][50] Eskom has constructed one small scale prototype windfarm at Klipheuwel in the Western Cape and another demonstrator site is near Darling with phase 1 completed.

Power plant Province Date
commissioned
Installed Capacity
(Megawatt)
Status Coordinates Notes
Coega Wind Farm Eastern Cape 2010 1.8 (45) Under construction 33°45′16″S 25°40′30″E / 33.75444°S 25.675°E / -33.75444; 25.675 (Coega Wind Farm) [51][52]
Darling Wind Farm Western Cape 2008 5.2 (13.2) Under construction 33°19′55″S 18°14′38″E / 33.33195°S 18.24378°E / -33.33195; 18.24378 (Darling Wind Farm) [53][54]
Klipheuwel Wind Farm Western Cape 2002 3.16 Operational (Prototype/Research) 33°41′43″S 18°43′30″E / 33.69539°S 18.72512°E / -33.69539; 18.72512 (Klipheuwel Wind Farm) [53][55][56]
Sere Wind Farm Western Cape 2012 (100) Funding phase 31°32′S 18°17′E / 31.53°S 18.29°E / -31.53; 18.29 (Koekenaap facility) [57]

United States

Brazos Wind Farm in the plains of West Texas

U.S. wind power installed capacity now exceeds 43,460 MW and supplies 3% of the nation's electricity.[58]

New installations place the U.S. on a trajectory to generate 20% of the nation’s electricity by 2030 from wind energy.[59] Growth in 2008 channeled some $17 billion into the economy, positioning wind power as one of the leading sources of new power generation in the country, along with natural gas. New wind projects completed in 2008 account for about 42% of the entire new power-producing capacity added in the U.S. during the year.[60]

At the end of 2008, about 85,000 people were employed in the U.S. wind industry,[61] and GE Energy was the largest domestic wind turbine manufacturer.[62] Wind projects boosted local tax bases, and revitalized the economy of rural communities by providing a steady income stream to farmers with wind turbines on their land.[62] Wind power in the U.S. provides enough electricity to power the equivalent of nearly 9 million homes, avoiding the emissions of 57 million tons of carbon each year and reducing expected carbon emissions from the electricity sector by 2.5%.[60]

Texas, with 9,728 MW of capacity, has the most installed wind power capacity of any U.S. state, followed by Iowa with 3,670 MW.[59] The Roscoe Wind Farm (780 MW) in Texas is the world's largest wind farm in terms of capacity.[63] Altamont Pass Wind Farm is the largest wind farm in the U.S. in terms of quantity.

Impact

Environmental and aesthetic impact

Livestock grazing near wind turbines[64]

Compared to the environmental effects of traditional energy sources, the environmental effects of wind power upon greenhouse gases are minor; however, there are other adverse impacts of wind power including bird mortality.[65] Wind power consumes no water,[66] no fuel, and emits no air pollution, unlike fossil fuel power sources. The energy consumed to manufacture and transport the materials used to build a wind power plant is equal to the new energy produced by the plant within a few months of operation.[67] While a wind farm may cover a large area of land, many land uses such as agriculture are compatible.

Danger to birds and bats has been a concern in many locations. Some[who?] dismiss the number of birds killed by wind turbines as negligible when compared to the number that die as a result of other human activities, and especially when considering the adverse environmental impacts of using non-clean power sources. Others strongly disagree about the placement of wind farms. New evidence suggests that the critically endangered California Condor is being killed at the Tehachapi Pass wind farm in Southern California.[68][69] Bat species appear to be at risk during key movement periods. Almost nothing is known about current populations of these species and the impact on bat numbers as a result of mortality at windpower locations. Offshore wind sites 10 km or more from shore do not interact with bat populations, but researchers are concerned if there are nearby bird colonies.[citation needed]

impact lowering and yield enhancing choice: 11x slow rotating 7,5MW instead of 23x 2MW-class faster rotating windturbines on the same area using grid stabilising power electronics, Estinnes Belgium Oktober 2010

Aesthetics have also been an issue in some areas. In the USA, the Massachusetts Cape Wind project was delayed for years chiefly because of nearby residents' aesthetic concerns. In the UK, repeated opinion surveys have shown that more than 70% of people either like, or do not mind, the visual impact. According to a town councillor in Ardrossan, Scotland, the overwhelming majority of locals believe that the Ardrossan Wind Farm has enhanced the area. They say the turbines are impressive looking and bring a calming effect to the town.[70]


Effect on power grid

Utility-scale wind farms must have access to transmission lines to transport energy. The wind farm developer may be obligated to install extra equipment or control systems in the wind farm to meet the technical standards set by the operator of a transmission line. The company or person that develops the wind farm can then sell the power on the grid through the transmission lines and ultimately chooses whether to hold on to the rights or sell the farm or parts of it to big business like GE, for example.

Ground radar interference

Wind farm interference (in yellow circle) on radar map

Wind farms can interfere with ground radar systems used for defense, weather and air traffic control. The large, rapidly moving blades of the turbines can return signals to the radar that can be mistaken as an aircraft or weather pattern.[71] Actual aircraft and weather patterns around wind farms can be accurately detected, as there is no fundamental physical constraint preventing that. But aging radar infrastructure is significantly challenged with the task.[72][73] The US military is using wind turbines on some bases, including Barstow near the radar test facility.[74][75]

Effects

The level of interference is a function of the signal processors used within the radar, the speed of the aircraft and the relative orientation of wind turbines/aircraft with respect to the radar. An aircraft flying above the wind farm's turning blades could become impossible to detect because the blade tips can be moving at nearly aircraft velocity. Studies are currently being performed to determine the level of this interference and will be used in future site planning.[76] Issues include masking (shadowing), clutter (noise), and signal alteration.[77] Radar issues have stalled as much as 10,000 MW of projects in USA.[78]

Some very long range radars are not affected by wind farms.[79]

Mitigation

Permanent problem solving include Non-Initiation Window to hide the turbines while still tracking aircraft over the wind farm, and a similar method mitigates the false returns.[80] England's Newcastle Airport is using a short-term mitigation; to "blank" the turbines on the radar map with a software patch.[81] Wind turbine blades using stealth technology are being developed to mitigate radar reflection problems for aviation.[82][83][84][85] As well as stealth windfarms, the future development of infill radar systems could filter out the turbine interference.

In early 2011, the U.S. government awarded a program to build a radar/wind turbine analysis tool. This tool will allow developers to predict the impact of a wind farm on a radar system before construction, thus allowing rearrangement of the turbines or even the entire wind farm to avoid negative impacts on the radar system.[76][86]

A mobile radar system, the Lockheed Martin TPS-77, has shown in recent tests that it can distinguish between aircraft and wind turbines, and more than 170 TPS-77 radars are in use around the world. In Britain, the Lockheed Martin TPS-77 will be delivered and installed in November 2011 at Trimingham in Norfolk, removing military objections to a series of offshore wind farms in the North Sea. A second TPS-77 is to be installed in the Scottish Borders, overcoming objections to a 48-turbine wind farm at Fallago.[87]

Agriculture

The professor of atmospheric science Somnath Baidya Roy of the University of Illinois, in a study published in October 2010 in the scientific journal PNAS[88] shows that in the immediate vicinity of wind farms, the climate is cooler during the day and slightly warmer during the night than the surrounding areas. According to Roy, the effect is due to the turbulence generated by the blades.

In another study conducted by Gene Takle and Julie Lundquist University of Colorado, presented at San Francisco conference of the American Geophysical Union Fall Meeting (December 13–18, 2010), the analysis carried out on corn and soybean crops in the central areas of the United States has noted that the microclimate generated by wind turbines improves crops as it prevents the spring and autumn frosts, and it reduces the action of pathogenic fungi that grow on the leaves. Even at the height of summer heat, the lowering of 2.5-3 degrees above the crops due to turbulence caused by the blades, can make a difference for the cultivation of maize.[89]

See also

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Further reading

  • Righter, Robert W. Windfall: Wind Energy in America Today (University of Oklahoma Press; 2011) 219 pages; looks at the land-use decisions involved in setting up a wind farm; considers the arguments of opponents who question the reliability of the energy source and worry about its aesthetics, noise, and dangers to birds.

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