Wind

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Kirk wind farm in Derry, Ireland – Coming from the website “ReNews”; http://renews.biz/tag/onshore-wind+northern-ireland/

There are a lot of opposing “facts” published about wind turbines. For example, some people complain about noise from the turbines; others contradict this. Research shows that weather it constitutes nuisance or not is all about perception (REFERENCE). Noise perception is directly linked with the person’s acceptance of the turbines. Those who are against wind development tend to be more annoyed by their presence than those who favour wind energy.  So where does the truth lie?

Let us begin by actually explaining what wind turbines are.

 

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Image found in a image arcade: http://imgarcade.com/1/how-wind-turbines-work/

The wind passing through wind turbines’ blades makes them move in a circle. At the centre of those artificial wings, different devices are using this movement to create electricity.

Energy created from movement is usually called “kinetic energy”; and kinetic energy created specifically by the wind movement is called “Wind Energy”.

The turbines can be alone or grouped in wind farms. They can be installed in the soil or in the sea. They have various sizes and power; small ones can be just enough to power one house and larger ones are used for commercial purposes.  Modern turbines are designed to operate for more than 20 years.

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Much controversy surrounds wind turbines. One of them is about ownership. Wind turbines can be owned by either commercial companies, private citizens or a partnership between them.  The issue of ownership has been one of the major problems in the development of wind energy in Ireland. Most people do not agree with big companies demands (usually at least 8 powerful wind turbines in an area per project without significant benefits for the community).

Citizen can, however, develop wind energy by themselves, either by gathering together in a co-operative for community ownership; or simply by using small capacity wind turbines for a family only.

There is an issue about shadow flicker as well, because the light of the sun can be reflected by the turbine blades. However, turbines can be programmed to stop whenever they might cause such problems.

Other people have expressed concerns about the environmental negative impacts of wind turbines. Although some birds are victims of their blades, there are far more of them killed by our cats our buildings, our cars, or by power lines and pesticides.

What is more, even considering this wildlife impact, wind turbines are far less harmful to the environment than fossil fuels, for example, through oil spills, deforestation and chemical pollution. Locations can be chosen when producing wind energy so that impacts on wildlife or birds and their migratory patterns are lowered.

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Eurasian crane flying close to wind turbine, found on RSPB (the Royal Society for Protection of Birds) website: https://www.rspb.org.uk/our-work/our-positions-and-campaigns/positions/windfarms/

A question remains: “what if wind is not blowing?  Some solutions are available to keep receiving energy even in that case.

Sometimes wind turbines produce so much energy that some of it is not immediately used. In that case, batteries store this energy so that in the absence of wind they can provide energy for a while. But with current technology, batteries do not last for long (things are moving fast in this area). Owners of a wind turbine can feed extra electricity generated during windy days into the electricity grid and then, on days with no wind, they use electricity from the grid.  The downside of this is that the grid supply is generally from power plants using fossil fuels.

A good solution is to have a specific grid that uses the wind energy not immediately consumed to pump water from a lower reservoir to an upper one. When the wind stops blowing – or when more energy is needed – the water moves back from the upper reservoir to the lower one, generating hydro energy.

If you are interested in how energy is produced, you will often meet with the expression “capacity factor”. The capacity factor is the electricity that a system actually produces in a specific amount of time, compared to the electricity that could be produced if it was operated to its full capacity. No system can operate at full capacity all the time.

Wind turbines actually produce electricity between 90% and 95% of the time, but the amount of it depends on wind speed. During a whole year, a wind turbine will produce 30% of what it would produce at full capacity. So, 30% is the wind turbines capacity factor.

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In 2013 wind power supplied 16.4% of the total energy consumption in Ireland. For the period between 2010 and 2014, wind energy allowed our country to save 1 billion euros on energy imports and made a reduction of CO2 emissions of 12 million tonnes.

A survey done in 2013 in the Republic of Ireland by the Irish Wind Energy Association shows that 80% of the residents are in favour of wind development while only 7% are against it. Good Energies Alliance Ireland supports wind energy, but not as it has been implemented in Ireland up to now. We think that the development of wind energy is vital for decarbonising energy production in Ireland but should be developed while giving real benefits to local communities.

For more information, please click on the link directing you to the scientific researches of one of our volunteers, Irina Tiugan that analyses arguments in favour or opposing wind energy, its efficiency, and environmental concerns; while comparing our situation with the Scottish, the French and the German one.

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