For thousands of years the wind has been used as a source of energy for grinding grain and pumping water.
For thousands of years the wind has been used as a source of energy for grinding grain and pumping water. Since the turn of the century it has also been used for generating electricity, usually in isolated areas. It played an important part for instance in the development of the Western United States, where the prevailing winds over the plains gave the agricultural communities really reliable supplies of electricity.
Now, with fuel of all kinds at a premium, researchers are seriously investigating the possibility of using windmills as a substantial source of energy for generating electricity. At the Lewis Research Centre at Cleveland, Ohio, scientists and engineers have developed a 100 kilowatt wind-driven turbine that can generate enough electricity to power thirty average sized homes. It is believed to be the largest generator of its type in the world.
The research is part of a five-year national wind energy programme which is being directed by the Energy Research and Development Administration. The aim of the Cleveland project is to produce electricity using the wind at the lowest possible cost per kilowatt hour. Eventually, the electricity produced by the turbine will be fed directly into the Ohio Edison grid system, in order to learn the problems of supplying a large grid operation.
A recently completed study has shown that wind turbines in the 500 to 1500 kilowatt range are probably the most practical size to use in areas where winds vary from between twelve and eighteen miles an hour. This would produce electricity at a cost of about two cents (one penny sterling) per kilowatt hour.
The head of the Research Centre's Wind Power Office, Mr. Ron Thomas, foresees a time when thousand of machines, developed from their wind turbine, will be built to provide cheap electricity in many part of the world. He believes that by the year 2,000, wind turbines could be producing between five and ten per cent of the United States total electricity requirements.