Professor educates on importance of wind energy
In an environmentally-conscious age driven by what will be the next and best source of energy, Cristina L. Archer shows wind energy has the potential to replace dirty and dangerous fossil fuels.
Archer, an associate professor at the University of Delaware, addressed the benefits and potential of wind energy at the Environmental and Natural Resource Sciences building on Cook Campus last Friday for the “Why Wind Energy?” seminar.
She discussed the negative affects the carbon cycle and other methods of fossil fuel burning have on the environment each year.
Shoveling coal from the ground releases carbon dioxide, and is a major reason why fossil fuels are emitted into the atmosphere, she said.
Eight billion tons of carbon are sent into the atmosphere each year, she said. The ocean absorbs three gigatons of carbon per year and carbon dioxide fertilization takes away one gigaton of carbon, leaving four gigatons of carbon remaining to damage the Earth.
Oceans also cannot uptake all of the carbon dioxide from fossil fuels. Carbon dioxide is predicted to remain in the oceans for at least 1,155 years, she said.
Archer said people consume the most commonly used fossil fuel energy sources, such as coal, petroleum and natural gas at a rapid rate.
She said taking into account the amount of fossil fuel in reserves and the consumption rate per year, scientists have approximated that petroleum will run out in 42 years and natural gas in 50 to 60 years.
“Our economy is based on something that will run out,” Archer said.
But wind energy is a renewable resource, she said. Wind is a constant flow, and does not need to be contained in reserves.
Traditional wind energy turbines are ground-based, 100-meter tall structures with very large blades, Archer said.
The momentum and kinetic energy from the wind is transferred to the blade, which spins and causes the combination of magnets and gears inside a generator to wheel into one another, creating a rotation in the generator that results in the production of electricity, she said.
Archer said the electricity eventually goes into the grid, which can be used by the public. The energy and electricity is then dissipated into heat.
“It’s important to not just make that energy disappear into the atmosphere because of global warming,” Archer said.
Professor Marc Jacobson from Stanford University researched how wind turbines can possibly diminish the intensity of hurricanes by harnessing energy from outer parts of the hurricane while producing terawatts of power, she said.
Keith Arnesen, a University meteorologist, said he is impressed by how wind turbines can level the amount of damage caused by natural disasters.
“It was interesting to see the possible reduction in force a hurricane bring just from wind turbines,” he said. “Of course this is all theoretical building. It would be a very robust, very strong wind turbine, but it was interesting.”
In an image model of Hurricane Katrina showed that having offshore farms of wind turbines would have potentially reduced the hurricane winds from 20 to 25 meters per second to five to ten meters per second, Archer said.
Adding turbines even have the potential to slightly change the path of a hurricane, she said.
Scientists also created airborne wind energy turbines which can reach higher altitudes that have higher wides, she said.
These turbines are launched into the wind and make a figure 8 shape. As the turbine descends, it can absorb wind speeds that are eight times higher than ground wind turbines, resulting in the potential for very high power, she said.
The airborne wind turbine connects to either a conductive or non-conductive tether that transfers the energy from the high speed winds to generators that create electricity, she said.
While this newer turbine design is far along in its development, safety and legal regulations and processes still need to be worked through before they can be used regularly, she said.
Kelly Francisco, a part-time lecturer at the University, said she found the seminar to have some interesting points that may need to be looked into more before she could form her own opinions on wind energy.
“She had some compelling arguments, but I think there are still some things that I would want to do my own research on and find more out about first,” Francisco said.