Wind power

Blown away: The largest wind turbine in the world stands 246 metres tall and has blades the length of a football field.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson is hoping to use the pandemic as a chance to make the country greener. His plan is to power all UK homes with wind by 2030. How does a wind turbine work?

  • How long have we used wind power?

    Humans have been using the wind to make life easier for thousands of years. People originally used windmills in China and Persia, as early as 2,000 BC.

    Windmills were first used to pump water or to grind flour. The Netherlands is famous for windmills because farmers in the Middle Ages used them to pump the water away from marshes so they could grow crops.

  • What is a wind turbine?

    A wind turbine is a kind of windmill that uses the power from wind to turn a generator. Just like a traditional windmill, it has sails called blades. Instead of moving a grinding machine, they set the generator in motion. When it moves, it creates electricity.

    Wind turbines are really big structures. The average tower is about 80m tall — nearly as tall as the Statue of Liberty — and most blades are more than 35m long.

  • Why is wind power good for the planet?

    Because it does not cause pollution, unlike power plants that burn fossil fuels. They contribute to global warming by producing greenhouse gases.

    Wind is also a renewable source of energy, which means that it will not run out. Other popular ways to make power are non-renewable. This means they rely on sources that will eventually run out — like coal. But, as long as we have wind, the wind turbines will be able to make electricity.

  • What happens if there isn’t any wind?

    Wind is great because it is a natural form of power that will never run out for good. But the downside is that we cannot control it. When there is no wind, the blades do not turn and generate electricity.

    Engineers who plan wind farms make measurements and calculations to work out the best areas to place the turbines. One popular place is in the sea, where they are known as offshore wind farms.

  • Why do some people dislike wind power?

    One major problem some people have is that wind turbines mess up our view of the landscape. Another argument against them is that they are loud, and that their large blades can kill birds.

    Most people agree that the positives outweigh the negatives, though. Many people even argue that wind turbines are beautiful.

  • Are there other types of green power?

    Yes! Wind power is just one of many renewable energy sources that nature will replace. One of these is solar power, which uses light from the sun to make electricity. We also use water — controlling the power of big mountain rivers and waterfalls. Some countries also use the power of tides to generate power.

    In the past, renewable energy was less popular than coal or oil because it was more expensive to make electricity. But now, more people are recognising that clean energy is possible and makes a difference.

You Decide

  1. Do you think wind turbines are ugly or beautiful?

Activities

  1. Draw a picture of a wind turbine and label its blades, tower and generator. Add any other facts you have learnt about wind power in a list underneath.

Word Watch

Persia
An ancient empire in southwestern Asia, in what is now Iran.
The Netherlands
A country in northern Europe on the North Sea. “Netherlands” means “low countries”. The Netherlands is famous for being very flat and close to sea level.
Generator
A machine that produces electricity. The word comes from “generate”, which means to make or produce something.
Pollution
Pollution is when gases, smoke and chemicals are introduced into the environment in large doses that make it harmful for humans, animals and plants. Some forms of pollution can be seen, some are invisible.
Fossil fuels
Fuel such as coal and oil. They are made up of the remains — or fossils — of prehistoric plants and animals.
Greenhouse gases
A gas that absorbs energy from the sun. They create a barrier so that heat cannot escape the atmosphere, warming up the world like the inside of a greenhouse. The main gas to contribute to the greenhouse effect is carbon dioxide.
Renewable
Something that can be renewed or restored. In other words, it does not run out.
Rely on
To trust or depend on something.
Engineers
Somebody who is trained to use or build machines or engines.
Solar
This adjective describes anything that has to do with the sun.

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