The first electricity generating wind turbine was created in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio by Charles F. Brush, though similar structures using wind had been used for centuries to drive the heavy equipment required to mill grain.
The oil crisis of the 1970’s led policymakers to invest in the research and development of wind power for a short while, but once the oil returned, interest dropped off.
A combination of factors including geopolitics, climate concerns and rising energy costs have led to wind power rising in popularity once again, and since the early 2000’s wind power has become a key part of energy policy all around the world. It is now widely accepted by scientists, governments and even energy companies that the finite nature of the fossil fuels we have traditionally relied on requires us to innovate and adapt to keep the global economy ticking over for centuries to come.
Wind farms generate electricity by using the wind to turn the turbine rather than the traditional method of steam from burning fossil fuels. Wind turbines come in may shapes and sizes, with the most impressive standing at almost 100 meters tall and with a single rotation of the blades creating enough electricity to power a home for a whole day.
Jiuquan Wind Power Base, China
Jiuquan, also known as Gansu Wind Farm, is the biggest wind farm in the world. Although the project is not yet complete, the wind farm will be comprised of 7,000 turbines. Construction began in 2008 with the ambition of building a 20,000 megawatt wind system, however as of 2017, only 8000 megawatt has been achieved. Even at 8000 megawatts, it is still the largest in the world by a long stretch!
Historically, the demand for wind power in China has been low, but the government and industry’s recent drive for and investment in cleaner energy systems could see demand for wind pick up.
Due to its location, its current output is under utilised due to the currently ineffective infrastructure that would be required to get the energy into China’s biggest port cities.
Alta Wind Energy Centre, California, USA
Alta is located in Tehachapi, Kern County, California. The project was commissioned in 2011, and has taken the crown as the largest wind farm in the United States, comprised of 600 turbines and an operational capacity of 1548 megawatts.
Muppandal Wind Farm, Tamil Nadu, India
Muppandal Wind Park is the largest operational onshore wind farm in India. Its installed capacity of an estimated 1500 megawatts, making it one of the largest wind farms in the world and the largest of its kind in India.
Hornsea One, Offshore, UK
Due for completion this year, Hornsea One is comprised of 174 offshore turbines with a projected operational capacity of 1218 megawatts. The Danish-British project is expected to power 1 million homes upon completion, in addition to the Britain’s portfolio of other green energy projects. In fact, there are 37 offshore wind farms in UK waters, making Britain the biggest offshore wind market in the world. The turbines being installed have a wingspan bigger than the London eye. With British appetite for greener vehicles and home power growing rapidly, it is crucial that the government continues to incubate investment for the infrastructure required to meet this demand.
Horse Hollow Wind Energy Centre, Texas, USA
Horse Hollow is located in Taylor and Nolan county in Texas, and was commissioned in 2005. This Wind Energy Centre is made up of 421 turbines with an operational capacity of 735.5 megawatts.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for the Horse Hollow developers, FPL Energy. In 2005, the wind energy centre was one of the first to become subject to a nuisance lawsuits. The plaintiffs – local residents and landowners – didn’t like the appearance of the turbines or the ‘sound’ made by them. Extensive testing was undertaken to measure the noise, and eventually in 2008 no award was made to the plaintiffs on the basis that the level of noise could not constitute nuisance.
Main Image: Hepburn Wind Turbines
By Sofi Summers