Windmills have been used around the world for hundreds of years. The first recorded examples of wind energy being harnessed to make electricity include James Blyth’s 1887 invention to light his Scottish holiday home, and Charles F. Brush’s automatically operated wind turbine built in 1888 in Cleveland, Ohio. Brush’s turbine, with its 17-metre rotor, provided his home with power for twenty years. Wind power has since emerged as one of the fastest growing renewable energy sources in the world.
Many places around the world experience windy weather regularly.
Electricity is generated when the wind spins the blades of a wind turbine, which in turn spins a magnet inside a coil of conductor (called a generator). A collection of wind turbines is known as a wind farm. The wind turbines are connected by underground cables to a power substation, where the low-voltage electricity produced by the turbines is converted to high-voltage electricity for distribution into the electricity grid.
The European Wind Energy Association has a good interactive tool for learning more about how a wind turbine works.
Today, many highly successful on-shore and off-shore wind energy projects exist around the globe.
Countries around the world that are currently considered leaders in wind include the UK, China, Denmark, Spain and Portugal.
When talking about being a “leader in wind”, there are a number of different statistics that are important, such as total installed capacity or percentage of growth, and penetration as proportion of the country’s energy supply. Due to these different measures, it is difficult to say that any one country or state leads the world in wind power.
For example, over the course of just one day, Denmark’s wind power produced 116% of its national electricity demands, with excess electricity exported to neighbouring countries.
Additionally, according to figures published by WWF Scotland, wind turbines in Scotland generated enough electricity in October 2014 to give 3,045,000 homes in the UK all the power they needed – and much more than Scottish homes would have required.
In rural areas Australia-wide, windmills have been used for many decades to pump bore water or even river water for various uses on farms, so harnessing the power of wind is not new.
Many parts of Australia, particularly southern regions, are quite windy, making them suitable for hosting wind turbines. Momentum Energy is proudly owned by the largest Australian energy generator of renewable energy, Hydro Tasmania. Hydro Tasmania’s operational wind farms are built in the prevailing westerly winds, the roaring 40s, which are a world class wind asset. Read more about Momentum Energy’s renewable energy.
The Clean Energy Council reports that wind power is currently the cheapest source of large-scale renewable energy. Wind power currently accounts for almost 4% of the total Australian primary energy consumption, but contributes more than 30% of Australia’s total renewable energy production.
More than 70 on-shore wind farms are operating in Australia and more are planned or under construction.
As of September 2015, the wind turbine with the largest capacity in the world is the offshore Vestas V164 8MW turbine installed at the National Test Centre for Large Wind Turbines in Østerild, Denmark. This video (courtesy of Bloomberg TV) gives an idea of the view from the turbine and stunning behind-the-scenes footage.
While some wind turbines can indeed get very large, the wind farms in Australia have wind turbines with an average 2MW capacity.