I was very young the first time I noticed these colossal modern structures atop a green hillside. They rotated gracefully and silently in the night. They were inconspicuous, just calmly doing their job through the wind, rain, sleet, and snow. It would be much later in life that I truly started to understand their importance.
Clean and renewable energy is high up on most government agendas as global warming continues to threaten our way of life. Without being too melodramatic, these structures represent civilisations attempt to rectify our impact on our natural environment and wind turbines serve as a potent reminder of the fact. Like sentinels standing guard over each of us.
Lowe has snapped a wonderfully unassuming shot that could hang on any wall in your house. It is my duty to present you with some facts to accompany it. Here goes.
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The earliest known wind-powered mills and pumps were invented by the Persians and the Chinese between A.D. 500 and 1200. However, the first U.S. windmills were created by Daniel Halladay in 1854.
Wind turbines were designed by Smith-Putnam in 1941 and his version was to become the world's first industrial-size wind turbine, which distributed electricity locally. It functioned for 1100 hours before a blade failed. The reason given was material shortages as a consequence of the second world war. It would be the biggest wind turbine ever built until 1979.
Modern turbines are magnificent feats of engineering. The largest incarnations have a 220-meter rotor and 107-meter-long blades. According to the company, who manufactures them a single turbine can power 18,000 average European households every year.
Wind turbines can be found in some far-flung places such as the scorching Californian desert and the cool green hills of England and almost everywhere in-between. More of them are being erected each year and the Global Wind Energy Council (GWEC), said that there were 341,000 wind turbines globally in 2016.
Wind power is considered a clean energy source. We do not need to dig it out of the ground and burn it like times of old. The wind simply turns the blades attached to a rotor which is attached to a generator. Wind energy prevents millions upon millions of tonnes of CO2 being pumped into the atmosphere each year.
L.M. Wind Power is a Danish company based in Cherbourg, France who used to make small fishing vessels but have since become the market leaders in wind turbine blade production. Their state-of-the-art factory utilises modern robots and a team of highly skilled engineers. Its footprint covers over seven football pitches, a far cry from its humble origins as a wooden furniture factory in the small town Lunderskov, Denmark in the 1940s.
The blades are made from fibreglass, and the process is loosely based on the techniques used in the production of boats. However, the materials and methods involved today are much more advanced. Coincidentally, in the early days of the business workers would fabricate small fishing boats out of the scraps.
Each blade is made of a composite which is a mixture of fibreglass and balsa wood. The composite is injected into moulds which are then shaped and polished to produce the exact aerodynamic shape. The next stage involves layers of foil and injecting resin to fuse everything together to make a stiff and robust shell. In the end, each blade weighs 50 tonnes and costs hundreds of thousands of dollars.
It can take around two months to erect an individual turbine. The part that takes the most extended amount of time is the construction of the foundations. After the concrete is poured, it can take up to 28 days for it to set. Surprisingly, the erection of the physical turbine can be swift, typically 1 to 2 days. Additionally, the turbines take a few additional days to connect to the grid and commission them to make sure they function correctly.
However, it becomes even more complicated and time-consuming for whole wind farms on land, which can take a few years to complete. Construction in the sea is an entirely different story. It is a widely complex process.
Wind-generated electricity is a vast industry employing thousands of people worldwide, and I wanted to give you a little information for you to bear in mind whilst you look at this picture. Wind turbines represent our collective endeavours to rescue ourselves from the trouble we are in. Some complain that they are an eyesore, and I understand entirely, but their importance for our environment and our species far outweighs their aesthetic properties.