Wind Energy for Kids

DeWind 2MW wind turbine in Veladero mine, Argentina. Image by Fedealvarado.

DeWind 2MW wind turbine in Veladero mine, Argentina. Image by Fedealvarado. License: GNU FDL

Clean, alternative energy sources are our only hope for a future on this planet. The old ways of depending on oil and coal are doing major damage to our environment. It is this damage that is causing global warming and the destruction of species and habitats. Many scientists predict that if we don’t make some serious changes in the next ten years that it may be too late to turn things around. Luckily, many people are working hard to make clean energy sources available for everyone on Earth. One of these alternative energies is that of wind energy.

How Wind Energy Works

The sun heats the earth unevenly, causing some places to get much warmer than others and causing the air in different places to be different temperatures. This uneven heating happens in cycles every 24 hours around the planet. Since warm air rises and cool air falls, the uneven heating causes the air on Earth to be in constant motion. That is all wind is…moving air. The energy from that moving air has been used in a variety of ways throughout our history.

Since almost the beginning of time, people have looked for ways to use wind to do work. Sailors used wind power to move their ships. Many ancient civilizations used windmills to grind grain and to pump water for irrigation systems. Now, in the modern age, we are still working on ways to get our energy from the wind. One way to do this is by using wind turbines to generate electricity. When wind blows on a turbine, it creates mechanical energy by causing the blades to turn (think of how a pinwheel turns when you blow on it.) The blades then spin a generator and the mechanical energy is changed into electricity. This electricity can then be transported through power lines for use in homes and businesses.

Why Should We Use Wind Energy?

Wind energy is a great choice as an energy source because it is clean and renewable. As long as the Earth exists, there will be wind and wind energy does not create any pollution so it is safe for our environment. Wind is also free. Even though the turbines cost money, the wind itself is free for everyone. In some areas, the wind is fairly constant and can be used to provide all, or at least most, of the electricity that is needed. In other places, wind energy is better used together with another clean energy source, such as solar power.

Wind energy is also a good choice because turbines come in a wide variety of sizes. Turbines might be small enough to fit on the rooftop of a house or they may be as tall as a 20-story building with blades longer than a football field! This means there is a turbine to fit every need, no matter how large or small. Across the planet you can see a variety of turbines in use, from small, single turbines used to operate a farm irrigation system to giant wind farms, or fields of many large turbines working together.

Many people like the idea of using wind energy because it doesn’t take up much space compared to other energy sources. While it might take a bunch of turbines in one area to make enough electricity, the ground underneath them is still open and safe to use for other things like farming. This makes wind energy one of the most space-efficient kinds of alternative energy available.

Finally, the wind blows everywhere. This means that people in very remote areas where electricity is not available can use wind turbines to make their own electricity. If the area is very windy, turbines could create enough electricity to power small villages or towns, helping people in these areas enjoy the things we often take for granted like lights and refrigerators.

What’s Bad About Wind Energy?

Decomissioned wind farm turbines with blades feathered showing blade pitch. Image by Christian Razukas.

Decomissioned wind farm turbines with blades feathered showing blade pitch. Image by Christian Razukas. License: CC BY-SA 2.0

Almost everything in the world has both good points and bad points and wind energy is no different. Even though wind energy is clean, cheap, and easy to use, there are some things about it that many people don’t like. It can be a source of great noise pollution. Just one wind turbine can make as much noise as a car traveling at 70 miles per hour so imagine how noisy a wind farm with hundreds of turbines would be.

Wind energy is not as trouble-free as solar energy, either. Many people live in areas where there is not enough constant wind to use only wind energy so they either have to rely on fossil fuels or another clean energy source for the rest of their electricity. Also, because wind turbines have moving parts, there is a chance of parts breaking or other mechanical failures. Depending on what goes wrong, it can be very expensive to repair a wind turbine.

Other people don’t like wind energy because they say it is not always great for our environment. This is because the spinning blades on wind turbines can hurt or kill flying animals such as birds and bats. Many also think that wind turbines, especially large numbers of them together, ruin the natural landscape and destroy the beauty of our planet. Also, even though generating electricity from wind does not cause pollution, there is some pollution caused when the turbines are made. Some people feel like this makes wind energy less clean than some other alternative energy sources.

Although wind energy is not perfect, it is a cheap, clean energy source that is providing electricity for many people who want to stop using fossil fuels. It is also a great source of energy to use together with solar energy. Over time scientists and engineers will keep working on building newer and better wind turbines that will overcome many of the problems we currently have with wind energy. Until that time, it is important that we keep looking at wind and other clean energy sources so we can stop using the fossil fuels that are destroying out planet.



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