Everything you’ve ever wanted to know about wind energy
Did you know that according to Origin Energy, wind energy is the second biggest contributor to Australia’s renewable energy supply? Or that it supplied 5.7% of Australia’s overall electricity in 2017?
Pretty impressive stuff.
But what exactly is wind energy and how does it all work? To help get you up to speed, we’ve answered some of the commonly asked questions about wind energy with the help of our in-house energy expert, Nathan Warne.
What is wind energy and how does it work?
You might already know that electricity can be supplied through the sun or water, but it can also be created through wind.
Wind energy or wind power refers to the process in which wind is transformed into electricity or power through wind turbines. Wind turbines use wind to generate the electricity - the wind spins the blades, which are connected to an electric generator, creating an electric current.
There are two types of wind turbines used in Australia - horizontal-axis and vertical-axis wind turbines.
Horizontal-axis turbines have a horizontally positioned motor shaft at the top. They also possess a higher wind to power conversion ratio and the higher mounting provides access to larger wind speeds.
Vertical-axis turbines have their electrical generator positioned at the base. These turbines capture common wind types without putting too much pressure on the generator and are easy to repair because of the lower mounting.
What are the advantages of using wind energy for electricity?
One of the biggest advantages of using wind energy as a source for electricity is that it’s a clean, non-polluting source.
Unlike power plants that release harmful chemicals by burning fossil fuels, wind turbines don’t pollute the air or cause any damage to the environment.
“Wind farms require land and energy to construct but it runs on mature technology, so there’s still a low impact on the environment,” said Mozo energy expert, Nathan Warne.
"Although wind turbines can cost a bundle to install, over time, they have the potential to be a cost-effective solution to rising energy prices."
According to the Australian Market Energy Commission the construction of new wind and solar generators entering the market is expected to decrease the wholesale cost component by 10% over the next 2 years, which could see overall prices down by around 2%.
What are the disadvantages of using wind energy for electricity?
Granted that wind power is a cleaner energy source than other electricity sources producing it is entirely weather dependant - too little wind and there’s an insufficient amount, too much wind and the generator can malfunction.
“Australia is lucky in the sense that we generally have good weather conditions for producing wind energy,” he said.
“But the other thing to keep in mind is that to build a wind farm, it needs to be done on a specific type of land.”
“Wind turbines need to be installed on a flat surface, which is why you see wind farms being built in southern states, like South Australia or Victoria.”
Can wind energy be stored and is it reliable?
Unless there is an accompanying battery, wind energy cannot be stored.
In fact, according to Warne, wind energy is best used with other electricity sources.
“Wind energy works well if it’s used in conjunction with other productions, like a battery or solar panels. Otherwise, it’s difficult to only rely on wind power as an electricity source.”
What does the future look like for wind energy?
In 2018 alone, eight wind projects were completed across Australia, worth $2b. And while wind energy might not be ready to stand on its own just yet, there’s plenty in the works for the future.
At the moment, there are 23 wind projects in construction or due to commence in Australia worth 48.59b - Victoria accounts for 9 of these projects, which is worth $3.7b.
“There’s a lot proposed to be built and I think it will steadily have a positive impact nationwide on not only the environment, but energy bills too,” said Warne.
“Data from the Clean Energy Council shows that states that had the largest increases in solar and wind generation between 2006 and 2016 also saw the smallest percentage increases in consumer electricity bills for the same period.”
What can Aussies do to help support the growth of renewable energy?
Apart from New South Wales, each state has its own renewable energy target. And according to the 2018 Clean Energy Council Australia Report, Tasmania is well ahead of the game with more than 90% of the state’s energy needs being supplied by hydro power networks.
And while other states are well on their way to hitting their targets, Aussies can do their own bit for renewable energy and minimise their impact on the environment by installing solar panels on their roofs. However, not all homes are suitable for solar panels, as they will need to have proper access to sunlight, with no trees blocking the way.
Another option might be to consider a GreenPower plan as a part of your power bill. With a GreenPower plan, you can choose to purchase a percentage of renewable energy from anywhere between 10% to 100%. Not all retailers offer this, but if yours does, it could be well worth considering.
So if you’d like to be a part of the renewable energy team, head over to our energy comparison tool to check out some of the GreenPower plans available.