Now is the time for alternative forms of energy. Relying on fossil fuels has brought us to the brink of ecological disaster (some would say we’re past the brink) and it has led to shortages in natural resources. Many are hesitant to say goodbye to the fossil fuel industries, as this could potential result in huge job losses and economic problems. But this may be short sighted. In areas like California, we have seen the green energy business create large numbers of jobs and actually improve the economy as a whole. Wind farms and the wind turbine global market offer one potential alternative to gas and could be the answer that the planet needs. So how is the market shaping up in the next years?
Why We Need Alternative Energy Sources
For many years now, our energy industry has revolved almost solely around fossil fuels. This means that it has operated by burning things like coal and oil which are made from carbon that has been compacted over thousands or even millions of years.
For a while this was understandable - after all it was all we knew and it was the simplest way for us to get the energy we needed to power our vehicles and machinery. However, while it may have helped move the industrial revolution forward and lead to the many conveniences we now take for granted, it's now more than time that we let go of old ways and look to the new ways we can harvest energy that are cleaner and more abundant.
Burning carbon fuels is not an efficient way to get energy. While we might be able to convert the power to energy that can power our vehicles, we also at the same time lose a lot of that carbon as CO2 (carbon monoxide that gets released into the atmosphere). This is then causing a lot of damage - which we know all too well, while at the same time rapidly running out. If we don't soon move to renewable energy sources we will in all likelihood make our planet uninhabitable - but when we run out we won't get the choice anyway.
There are plenty of other more efficient and less finite sources of power all around us though, and the first step in making the transition is understand these options and how they work. Here we will look at some of these alternative energy sources.
Solar Power: It seems incredibly primitive to be burning lumps of coal still for energy when we have a huge fusion reactor burning directly over our heads and basking our planet in sun and warmth. Taking advantage of this endless energy source is incredibly simple too - we can do it using either 'solar thermal energy' which simply uses tiny tubes of water which get heated by the sun, or using 'solar photovoltaic energy' which works by arranging electrons in such a way that they get excited by light to create a current.
Geothermal Energy: The sun has been gradually roasting our planet for millions of year and as you can imagine then the core has become somewhat hot as a result. While we can't reach the core though, it is certainly possible to harness some of this energy by using pipes deep under the ground filled with water to create a 'geothermal heatpump' which can heat swimming pools and homes with no need for an energy bill.
Wind Energy: Wind energy works again indirectly through heat generated by the sun. This time the system works by harnessing the power of the wind using the blades of a windmill which then drive a turbine that creates electromagnetic induction through the rotation to create current. Again, this comes from the sun as it's the sun's heat that causes the air pressure leading to wind. As air particles are excited, they will move upward, thereby creating pockets of low pressure that more air particles rush into. This creates kinetic energy and that kinetic energy will then drive a generator. These generators in turn rely on electromagnetic induction and by rotating a magnetic field are able to create currents.
Wind energy is one of the most interesting options for a number of reasons, both from a commercial standpoint and an industrial standpoint. This is partly because wind turbines offer a way to generate a lot of power with very little relative impact on the environment. The only geological impact is the reduction of wind elsewhere.
Offshore wind turbines are used in a number of locations in order to reliably generate wind out at sea where there is very little to block the wind. Some turbines also have the ability to collect wind regardless of which direction it comes from. Huge wind farms are capable of generating enough energy to power whole towns and cities and any energy that isn’t used can be stored for later by capacitors.
Growth of Wind Energy
While some politicians and businessmen might try to slow down the tide, the reality is that fossil fuels have their days numbered. The move to renewable energy is inevitable. And we’re starting to see this with the growth of the market.
There are several locations around the world where we are already seeing a move to entirely renewable energy. And it should come as no surprise that wind turbines – which have a low geological impact and are highly efficient – are largely responsible for many of these transformations. Countries like Costa Rica for instance have been running on 100% renewable energy for nearly 3 years and a large amount of that power comes from wind turbines.
Find more statistics at Statista
How to Use Wind Energy Around the Home
Rather than waiting for the energy industry to catch up with the 21st century then, why not consider using your own renewable energy and taking matter into your hands? And with wind power all around you, completely renewable and 100% free - what better place to start?
To harness wind energy you of course need to install a windmill in your garden. This works by harnessing the kinetic energy of the wind and then using that energy to turn a turbine that converts it into electricity via magnetic induction. This is a little bit of hassle and does mean getting planning permission in most areas, as well as paying for the cost of installation. The energy is of course stored once it's generated, so you don't lose power when the wind stops.
Is it worth it though? Well that really depends on the type of windmill you go for as well as your own definition of 'worth it'...
Types of Windmills
There are two types of windmill that can be installed into your home - vertical and horizontal. Vertical windmills have their blades facing upwards, while horizontal ones have them facing outward. The most efficient type for use in the home? Vertical by a longshot (50% to be precise) because they are able to generate the same amount of energy regardless of the direction the wind is blowing.
So, what will your energy savings look like if you do decide to go with windmills? Well this varies dependent on many factors of course, but don't expect to power your whole home from a windmill unless you live in a wind tunnel and have very modest expenses. However, what you could conceivably do is to run all your lights from it, or to power your heating.
That said, all is not perfect in the world of wind turbines and if it was, we would likely all be on purely wind power by now. While home wind energy may offer only moderate benefits with some drawbacks, wind farms also have their issues. Not only do these take up a large amount of physical space, but they are also highly complex with many parts that can easily become damaged or deteriorate over time.
The increasing age of current wind turbines has led to the deterioration of components such as blades and gearboxes, which has increased the size of the turbine O&M market. Offshore wind accounted for roughly 8.2% of the total wind O&M market in 2016 at around $1.12 billion. At the end of 2016, global capacity was at 486,790MW.
The growth actually slowed down in 2016 though speculators describe this as ‘consolidation’. In the coming years, it is expected that the market will pick up. The offshore industry expects prices to gradually decrease over the coming year but corporate buyers are likely to be active and play a big role in the market. 2017 is expected to be likely a year of growth. There may be a slight downturn after this in 2018, but it’s expected that moderate growth will continue overall from then on.
Wind Turbines for the Home
The wind turbine market then is in part sustained by governments and energy companies investing in these wind farms in order to generate clean and sustainable power. However, wind turbines can also be purchased for the commercial market where they can be used to help save energy and reduce carbon footprints.
In this capacity, wind turbines will compete with the option of using solar voltaic panel arrays. So which generates the most power and which is the best option for a household looking to reduce their carbon footprint and energy bill?
The efficiency of both solar panels and turbines varies drastically and depends on the set-up and geographical factors. Most systems come with a rating however. A solar panel may be rated at 80watts or 100watts, which tells you how much power it can put out when in direct sunlight. Note that in most areas, a fixed panel array will enjoy around 12 hours of light, 4 of which will be direct. Active solar panels which follow the angle of the sun can improve this somewhat.
Meanwhile, wind turbines have higher power outputs and will typically be rated at about 2kWh or 6kWh. Again, this is how much energy the turbines can put out when they are being blown at full speed by the wind. Usually, the minimum speed of the wind to reach this maximum output is around 25mPh and this must be sustained for a while.
The design of the turbines also plays a big role, with elements like friction and even the angles of the blades having a large impact. Blades that point upwards are capable of generating 50% more power as they don’t rely on the wind coming from a particular direction.