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Physics and Astronomy Department Physics and Astronomy Comps Papers Carleton College Year  Harvesting the Wind: The Physics of Wind Turbines Kira Grogg Carleton College, groggk@carleton.edu This paper is posted at Digital Commons@Carleton College. http://digitalcommons.carleton.edu/pacp/7
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1 Kira Grogg Integrative Exercise April 13, 2005 Carleton College Harvesting the Wind: The Physics of Wind Turbines “The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.” --William Arthur Ward Abstract Alternative energy sources have become much more necessary as fossil fuels are depleted and pollute the environment. Wind energy is one of the most cost effective of all types of renewable energy. It does not create pollution or waste and the fuel, wind, is not used faster than it is produced. However, to make wind a viable source of energy—electricity in particular— careful design of wind-capturing machines is necessary. A variety of principles of physics are used to create wind turbines that can efficiently capture energy from the wind. This paper discusses the wind and how the parts of a wind turbine—blades, rotor, gears, generator, and electronics—operate to capture wind energy and turn it into electricity. Focus is given to horizontal axis wind turbines (HAWT), the most common and efficient type of wind energy conversion device. Introduction Recent concerns about the environment and the need for cleaner, renewable energy resources have brought about several innovative exploitations of the earth’s energy supplies. Most of the energy available on earth, with the exception of geothermal, tidal, and nuclear, comes from the sun, some more directly than others. The use of solar paneling for heat is one of
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2 the most direct uses, followed by photovoltaic cells, wind, biomass, and fossil fuels. Currently, wind energy is one of the least expensive of the alternative/renewable energy sources and is becoming more affordable as the technology improves and infrastructure develops. 1 The goal is to “find the right combination of size, shape, materials, and location that will produce the most electricity for the least cost.” 2 The employment of efficient wind turbines, which convert the mechanical energy of the wind into usable electrical energy, requires extensive use of physics. The following will examine physics principles exercised in the creation and use of wind turbines. Figure 1 A typical wind turbine. (Carless, 1993) A wind turbine is essentially a very large, inverse fan: the wind produces electricity instead of electricity producing wind. However, because wind turbines run ‘backwards’ and are several thousand times larger than most fans (~85-400 tons), they are much more complicated, especially since it is necessary to get the greatest efficiency and quality at the least cost. Modern wind turbines range from about 40 – 80m in height, 50 – 85m in span, and 850 kW to 4.5MW in power.
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This note was uploaded on 11/13/2011 for the course AEE 495 taught by Professor O.uzol during the Spring '11 term at Middle East Technical University.

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fulltext - Physics and Astronomy Department Physics and...

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