Wind power is a growing form of renewable energy that’s uniquely suited for the New Zealand climate. Test your wind power knowledge with our list of fascinating facts about wind!
1. An ancient technology
You might think of wind farms as a modern invention, but human being have harnessed the power of wind for thousands of years. Wind has been understood as a means of propulsion for centuries to fill the sails of ships large and small. The famous artist and inventor Leonardo da Vinci experimented with wind power. The first windmills were in use in Persia and China in 2000 BC, and were used to crush grain or pump water.
2. Moving offshore
One of the biggest issues with wind farms is concerns in populated areas about ruining vistas in outstanding natural areas. The US is experimenting with offshore wind farms to power coastal communities. The first offshore wind farm was installed in 2016 and has been operating successfully.
Offshore wind has several advantages – the wind tends to be faster, increasing energy efficiency, they can be situated near the heavily-populated coastal cities, and they aren’t as much of an “eyesore” as on land. Scientists are working to improve the durability of the equipment to last in offshore conditions and reduce costs.
3. Huge potential
It’s estimated that if the uptake of wind energy increases at the current rate worldwide, by 2050 we could save 12.3 gigatonnes of greenhouse gases and 360 million gallons of water.
4. Higher is better
The taller a turbine is, the better access it has to high-powered winds, thus increasing its output. Scientists are constantly experimenting with the technology in an attempt to improve the efficiency of turbines.
5. US leading the way
Interestingly, it’s the United States that is leading the world in wind energy. The US generates more wind energy than any other country – enough to power over 19 million homes. In contrast, New Zealand generates only 5% of its total energy from wind. Let’s catch up, New Zealand!
6. Large and small
Wind farms come in all shapes and sizes – from as few as six to as many as 150 turbines. One of the largest farms in the world is Altamont Pass in California, with over 4,800 wind turbines!
7. Wind vs solar – same thing
Wind energy is actually solar energy. The sun heats the surface of the earth, but this heating is uneven because the earth and the sun are both uneven. Air that’s been heated rises from the earth and cool air rushes in to fill the gaps. This air movement is the wind we harness with turbines.
8. Bold (and untrue) claims
Many people campaign against wind turbines, based on a belief that wind farms produce noise on a frequency that’s harmful to humans and animals. There’s also an rumour that turbines have a detrimental effect on local bird populations. Rigorous scientific studies have proven both these claims false.
Wind is an exciting renewable energy source that’s currently underutilised around the world. Find out more about how you can support the adoption of wind energy in New Zealand with Ecotricity.