Machines driven by wind are nothing new: Windmills date back to as far as 200 B.C where Persian farmers used these mesmerizing contraptions for grinding grains. Windmills are still popular today, especially in Europe where it is impossible not to see a windmill when touring areas like Denmark. Wind energy has been manipulated for centuries and with demand for electricity constantly peaking, it is no wonder that companies are throwing ideas around for more advanced and ecologically friendly ways of generating wind power.
Airtricity develops wind turbines that are dispersed throughout Europe. These wind farms, made up of as many as 100 turbines have been built on hills, coasts and offshore sea beds where the 1MW of power generated by one of these contraptions can supply 700 homes with electricity. The idea of these giant turbines in the way of an otherwise pristine ocean view might be of concern to some, but the location of these turbines is carefully thought out to put minimal stress on the environment while also maintaining the aesthetic appeal of a specific area.
Turbines are typically located in areas with predictable winds powerful enough to turn the massive blades that start the whole process of generating electricity. Generally speaking, wind turbines are best suited in areas with constant winds of 10mph or more. Wind generated power is not consistent in one area, however, and with Airtricity’s plan of arranging wind farms throughout Europe, and not just in one region, energy flow is constant. Airtricity explains that “by connecting and integrating geographically disperse wind farms across Europe, each experiencing a different phase of the region’s weather system, electricity is produced wherever the wind is blowing and transported to regions of demand, ensuring a reliable and predictable source of energy.”
The most impressive aspect of the company is their goal to implement the offshore “Supergrid”. Wind turbines are most efficient offshore, since environmental impact and noise is minimal, and wind speed is typically higher over water than on land.
Airtricity explains that “The first step in the Supergrid programme is the development of a 10GW* Foundation Project to prove both the concept of the Supergrid and the technologies to be employed. Located between the Germany and the Netherlands, the 10GW Foundation Project will consist of around 2,000 wind turbines covering 3,000 km ² with a capacity of 5MW each, delivering output to all three countries…10GW is enough capacity to power over 8 million homes.”
A major benefit of using wind generated power is that the cost is predictable. Frustratring fluctuations in prices, currently seen with fuel costs, do not apply to wind turbines making the clean, reliable and efficient energy generated by these wind farms very cost competitive.
The brochure explaining the details of the power grid-”Building a More Powerful Europe”-can be found here.