Because I live in Nebraska, I receive my electricity from a municipal, publicly owned utility. My state has the distinction of being the only state in the United States “where every single home and business receives electric service from publicly owned utilities such as municipal utilities, electric cooperatives, or public power districts.”
Nebraska Public Power District is a political subdivision of the State of Nebraska and serves all but two of our counties. The other two are served by Omaha Public Power District. This ownership status is a big deal in many ways. There are no standard stockholders, so savings are passed along to consumers. This also means that Nebraska electric consumers have more say-so in policy matters. Needless to say, there is sometimes outside pressure for the State of Nebraska to divest or privatize NPPD. I hope that never happens.
At the risk of sounding like a paid spokesman, I can say that I appreciate the public sector aspect of NPPD. The utility has consistently been among the first in the nation to integrate new technology into the power grid. The area headquarters, here in Norfolk, is marked with a large solar collecting panel and some wind turbines.
This utility was one of the first to officially seek to purchase energy from small-scale renewable energy projects. One of those sources is wind energy. This windy state’s first large scale wind farm was constructed in 1998. Nebraska is currently ranked fourth in wind energy resources in the nation.
Of course, Nebraska isn’t the only place where wind energy is advocated for and encouraged. Much new technology is now in use in many US locations. Because the wind is an unstable and variable force, efficient, cost-effective modes of storage are necessary. The latest versions of lithium-ion batteries are coming on line. The best example is located at the Laurel Mountain wind farm in West Virginia. They have the world’s largest lithium-ion battery. It’s rated at 32-megawatts.
Australia is developing the capability of supplying all of its electrical power via wind technology with a back-up source of solar thermal plants. Major wind energy developments are taking place in parts of Africa, and in Europe, as well. In the European Union, wind power already contributes about 10.2% of the region’s supply.
Wind energy is a maturing technology that has become mainstreamed. It’s one of the fastest growing economic sectors in the global economy with around $100,000,000,000 invested last year.
Most wind energy is harvested by large-blade turbine generators. There has been some controversy about the environmental impact of these large bladed devices upon birds. Some people also allege that wind turbines contribute to nausea, headaches, and insomnia. These problems are being addressed by research into “zero-blade” technology. Some of the new devices utilize a sail shaped body with no hub and gearbox.
While a blade-type turbine can only capture up to 40% of the available energy from wind, the new Saphon turbines are more than twice as efficient. Because there are fewer parts, than conventional turbines, the eventual costs should be about 45% less.
Global Wind Day is celebrated each June 15th. This is the day to encourage development of wind energy and new technology to capture this free resource. Wind is a major player in the renewable resources industry. It is a very effective antidote to global climate change. Where wind is a common feature of the area, wind energy generation is becoming more integrated into the electrical grid with each passing year.