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Wind Power and Electrical Generation
Wind has been a source of power that has marked many landscapes and persisted for many centuries. Wind power is a supply of mechanical energy that dates back more than 5000 years because of its ability to move sailboats. The use of wind powered machines or wind turbines that would resemble what we would use today was first recorded in the 7th century CE in Persia, and these turbines were used for grinding grain (Windmill 1). From that point on, wind turbines would prove an invaluable resource for both developed and developing countries. In our text we will focus on wind turbines which are attached to an electric generator for electric power generation.

Types of Wind Turbines

Horizontal Axis wind turbines (HAWTs) are the most abundant and popular configuration for wind turbines. The most widely recognizable emblem for wind power, the Dutch windmill, is a horizontal axis design. These wind turbines have high efficiencies and are also self-starting. Unfortunately, these turbines usually require tall towers (30+ meters); they need a yaw control to continuously point the turbine into the wind; and the taller towers make the HAWTs difficult to transport, install, and to some people they are eyesores.

Vertical Axis wind turbines, or VAWTs, have existed nearly as long as their horizontal relatives but up until the recent century remained obscure and unpopular. These turbines are typically used on rooftops and are easy to service because the generator is located at the base and not the head. VAWTs also receive wind from any direction without the need for yaw control, may be quieter than HAWTs in many applications, and they typically have a lower speed at which they begin to generate electricity. Most vertical axis turbines resemble a large eggbeater. Their major downfalls are: most are not self-starting and require electrical power or blade-pitch adjustments to start up, VAT blades break more frequently due to turbulence, and they also have issues with bearing-wear (a great deal of stress and weight is exerted on the lower bearings).


"Wind Turbines: Horizontal or Vertical Axis Machines?" Danish Wind Industry Association. 2003. Danish Wind Industry Association. 27 Feb. 2009 <http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/design/horver.htm>.

"Windmill." Encyclopędia Britannica. 2009. Encyclopędia Britannica Online. 27 Feb. 2009 <http://www.search.eb.com/eb/article-9077175> .

Image Sources:

"Traditional Windmill" Author: Almog. Date: October 22, 2005. Location: Mishenot Shaananim Jerusalem. Copyright(s): Public Domain. Retrieved from: Wikipedia on March 1, 2009.

"Horizontal Axis Wind Turbine" Author: JMT. Date: March 11, 2007. Location: Sweden. Copyright(s): Public Domain. Retrieved from: Wikipedia on March 1, 2009.

"Vertical Axis Wind Turbine" Author: Spiritrock4u. Date: June 29, 2008. Location: Cap-Chat, Quebec. Copyright(s): CC-BY-SA-3.0; Released under the GNU Free Documentation License. Retrieved from: Wikipedia on March 1, 2009.

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