To establish which energy source is best, we use six key metrics. Specifically, these are energy price, life span, energy generated […]
Onshore turbines are large land based structures that harness the energy contained within the wind to generate electrical energy.3 This is most commonly done using a propeller that consists of three long slender blades.4 As the wind blows on the blades their carefully crafted form causes them to rotate at a rate of about 10 to 30 revolutions per minute.5 The rotating blades are then connected to a generator that’s used to create electricity.6 The largest onshore turbines stand 200 metres tall and have a diameter of more than 125 metres.7 This is around the same height as the ‘Gherkin’ in London.8 To create a meaningful amount of energy, onshore turbines are usually grouped together to form wind farms.9 These usually consist of several hundred onshore turbines and can take up significant amounts of land. In fact, the largest wind farm to date covers over one thousand square kilometres.10 While this may seem a lot, the land between the turbines can still be used for a variety of other purposes such as crop growth and pastures. Currently, wind energy produces just 0.5% of the world’s energy demand, with onshore turbines making up 98% of that total.11 Overall, onshore turbines have the potential to generate an estimated 105 PWh of energy – that’s enough energy to meet the entire planet’s energy demand.12
Approximately 12% of the United States would have to be covered with onshore turbines to meet the country’s energy demand.19 This assumes that there is an average wind speed of six metres per second.
Due to their height, onshore turbines often become very prominent features within the landscape. In fact, they can be noticeable from as far as 8 kilometres away.20 As a result, if we opt to use onshore turbines for much of our energy demand, our countryside will be dramatically altered.
Onshore turbines are best placed where the average wind speeds are six metres per second or higher.21 They also need to be located in areas that have not undergone urban development, nor areas that are covered with trees, mountains or significant quantities of ice. As a result, they offer good potential in the UK, Central USA, Australia, New Zealand, North Africa and Western China. However, they offer less potential in South America, Central Africa, most of Europe, Russia and the majority of Asia.
|Value for Money|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Reliability|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Eco-friendliness|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Global Potential|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
|Overall|||||★ ★ ★ ★ ★ ★|
So, to summarise, onshore turbines provide very affordable energy, don’t take up very much space and have the potential to meet the majority of the world’s current energy demand. What’s more, other activities such as farming can take place between them. Despite this, many people have reservations about onshore turbines. This is due to the noise they make and their prominence within the landscape. However, this seems a small price to pay when you consider the devastation climate change is likely to bring.
Title image taken by Eimantas Buzas and reproduced under license from Shutterstock.
United States map created by SUPER RADICAL.
Image of onshore wind turbines taken by Richard Whitcombe and reproduced under license from Shutterstock.
World map created by SUPER RADICAL. World map based on all onshore areas with wind speeds greater than six metres per second except for any areas that have undergone urban development, or that are covered with forests, mountains or significant quantities of ice. Wind speeds sourced from Vaisala – ‘5km Wind Map’ – Map. Areas covered by urban development based on satellite images sourced from Mayhew, Craig and Simmon, Robert – ‘Earth’s City Lights’ – visibleearth.nasa.gov. Areas of forest cover sourced Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations – ‘Global Forest Resources Assessment 2005, Progress Towards Sustainable Forest Management’ – Page 15. Areas of mountain and ice cover sourced from Koistinen, Ville – ‘The Main Biomes in the World’ – commons.wikimedia.org.
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