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Generating power from wind was originally developed in the United Kingdom and United States during 1887 and 1888. Turbines first emerged following the invention of the electric generator in the 1830’s. It was Denmark, following the manufacturing of a 22.8 meter wind turbine in 1897, that gets much of the credit for beginning the modern era of harnessing power from wind. Wind turbines are very different from windmills, which were used throughout history for grinding grain and pumping water.
Wind turbines work by using mechanical, rotational power to spin generators and create energy. Globally, wind is both an abundant and inexhaustible resource, making it one of the best sustainable sources of energy. Wind power provides electricity without the need for burning fuel or polluting the air and helps to reduce our reliance on fossil fuels. Modern wind turbines can be as tall as 240 meters with rotor diameters as wide as 162 meters.
The growth of the wind power industry worldwide has been dramatic. Global installed wind-generation capacity onshore and offshore has increased by a factor of almost 75 in the past two decades. The overall capacity of all wind turbines worldwide in 2021 exceeded 840 Gigawatts, enough to provide more than 7% of the global power demand. By 2016 wind was contributing approximately 4 percent of the world’s total electricity. The wind power industry estimates that the world could feasibly generate nearly 20 percent of its total electricity from wind power by 2030.
Despite the many advantages wind power presents, and the obvious benefits to the health of our planet that wind power provides, there are challenges that hinder the growth of the wind industry. Ideal wind sites are often in remote locations, making it more costly to deliver wind-generated energy to far-off locations. Wind plants can also negatively affect local wildlife and ecosystems. In more urban settings, wind turbine farms are criticized as noisy and visually unattractive.
The wind power industry will continue addressing these obstacles, knowing that land-based, utility-scale wind turbines provide one of the lowest-priced energy sources available today. Furthermore, wind energy’s cost competitiveness continues to improve with advances in the science and technology of wind energy. These cost-savings will also reduce the carbon footprint from manufacturing wind turbines – a typical wind turbine will repay its carbon footprint in less than six months, and it will generate emission-free electricity for the remainder of its 20 to 30-year lifespan.
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Selin, Noelle Eckley. “wind power”. Encyclopedia Britannica, 31 May. 2021 –