The sky has been sending rain (water), which has been running Pelton Wheels and Francis Turbines in hydroelectric power plants. Oil and gas below the earth (and water in the oceans) has been powering oil-fired and gas-fired boilers in thermal power plants, while sub-terrestrial peat, lignite, anthracite and bituminous coal burn on the hearths of solid-fuel based boilers which power steam turbines. The sun (in the sky) has also been identified as a non-conventional energy resource and even as solar cell panels are being mounted on the roofs of buildings in many countries, to convert the solar energy into electrical energy.
Winds of Change
While efforts are being made to find new reserves of oil and gas, and several oil majors are investing in such prospecting ventures, and new coal mines are being sought, even as the existing ones are expanded, it is pretty much imperative that efforts be made to prospect for high wind power density sites in India.
Wind Power - the What and the How
To put it straight, wind energy is the kinetic energy that is trapped in fast-moving outburst of wind by good quality of the mass of the wind (which once again depends upon the wind density), and the velocities at which it blows. Just as high-energy steam produced in a boiler moves the blades in a steam turbine and rotates the generator shaft to produce electricity in a thermal power plant, in a wind farm, instead of steam, the motive force is provided by high velocity wind.
A wind turbine uses rotor blades to convert the energy locked up in the wind to rotate a shaft, and in turn convert this rotational motion to induce a flow of current in a generator, which receives its drive from the rotor shaft, through a gear pair. However, there is a range of wind velocities within which the turbine will function effectively and safely. Now, an organisation like C-WET while carrying out wind monitoring studies, looks for areas in which winds blow at speeds within this range for as long a period as possible during the year. This is to ensure that as-steady-an-output-as-possible with tolerable fluctuations can be obtained from the wind mills.
As it is the total energy over a period of time, that is important, one would ideally look for moderate and consistent wind speeds that would sustain generation for longer periods everyday, rather than bursts of high speeds which would definitely generate a lot of power, but cannot be relied upon as continuous generators. This is not to say that areas with periodically high wind velocities are to be discarded as inapt sites. Rather, such areas will serve to supplement the energy generated by the conventional sources.
As one of the national Wind Energy Associations in Europe states on its
Website, wind energy and the other non-conventional energy resources is (are) there to do away with the total reliance, which the world seems to have had on fossil fuels. It is, at the present moment, one of the weapons that man can arm himself with, to defy a few curses that have set in, to prevent a few threats that stare him in the face. Whatever little energy one is able to extract out of wind, will go a long way in fulfilling the ever-increasing energy demand in part, while also prolonging the life of the oil/gas/coal reserves that exist beneath the earth. The capital costs are quite high, though the cost of power in the long run, is expected to drop down, as the demand shoots up.
The Indian Governments ambitious plans to electrify Indias villages by 2007 would call for all possible measures to exploit all the available resources. Hybrid wind farms have been conceptualized in many States, while captive wind power plants are also on the anvil.
The Kerala Government, which actually welcomes the South West Monsoon winds in the month of June every year, has decided to set up a wind farm to generate about 100 mW of electrical energy in 2004-05. Tamil Nadu exploited both the South West Monsoon winds and the North East Monsoon winds effectively to score the first place in the list of wind energy producing States in the country. While Rajasthan, Maharashtra, Andhra Pradesh and Karnataka chip in with some useful megawatts. Gujarat, courtesy Suzion Energy, will also figure prominently on the Indian wind energy map by 2006, with a 500 mW wind energy project likely to be completed in two years time.
Scotlands WindSave has designed and installed the first wind generator for domestic use. This contraption produces 750 W, even at wind speeds as low as 3 miles per hour, and produces enough energy to light the bulbs in the household. Reportedly, about 18000 villages in the country cannot be connected to the Power Grid, owing to their remoteness and can be electrified only by resorting to alternate sources of energy. If such villages could be identified, and if C-WET could find potential wind-swept sites nearby, one wind power plant per village would be able to light up the homes in these villages, even if that be for a short period daily. This newly launched Plug&Save Micro-Wind Generation System Windsave can make your electric bill look lighter by 15%.