By Devin Hodge, Sustainability Program Manager, Argonne National Laboratory
Argonne has installed a 100-foot tall, 10 kW wind turbine. It’s used by Argonne scientists and engineers to study the interaction of wind energy, electric vehicle charging and grid technology and it’s also estimated to save more than 10 metric tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually.
At 112 feet tall, Argonne’s wind turbine is considered small to medium height. To put this in perspective, the monster turbines we can see off the highway are about 300 feet tall.
Wind turbines capture the kinetic energy of the wind and their rotary motion turns a magnetic alternator, or gears in a gearbox, that convert the kinetic energy to direct current electric energy. Turbines produce power most efficiently when wind speeds are at optimum levels. That’s why wind farms are located in specific areas, so they can harness wind energy efficiently and cost-effectively.
When I’m teaching kids about optimum wind speeds and variability, and how it is necessary for efficient and cost-effective energy generation, I like to use an app on my smart tablet that kids can interact with directly. Kids are able to spin virtual wind turbine blades on the smart tablet with the touch of a finger, and as they do this, they can see what the mile-per-hour wind speed is, where the speed sits on the scale of optimum wind speed, and how much power is being generated in kilowatt hours. Too much or too little wind, and the turbine can’t produce power efficiently, but if the wind spins the turbine just right…
Parents may find apps like the one I use to be a useful tool when teaching their children about wind power at home. When conducting tours with older students, it’s easy to demonstrate the variability of wind energy while standing under our wind turbine on a windy day. Interesting discussions about wind energy, grid stability and the need for energy storage take place as a result of this sensory observation.
To learn more about Argonne’s Sustainable energy research and the laboratory’s on-site sustainability efforts, visit Argonne’s GreenLab Initiative website at blogs.anl.gov/greenlab.