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Wind Generation

This GCSE Geography quiz will test you on wind generation. The wind is a free and renewable energy source. Wind generation refers to the generation of electricity using wind turbines. There are many designs of wind turbine, the most common is the propeller style. They began appearing in the landscape in the late twentieth century and have continued to increase in numbers since then. It used to be rare to see them but now, when you travel, they are a common sight. Some European countries have been keen to install wind turbines, for example, Germany, Spain and the UK had the greatest growth rates of wind power during the first decade or so of the twenty-first century. Denmark is the world leader in wind generation technology and supplies about half of the world's wind turbines.

Air moves from high pressure areas to low pressure areas, which creates the wind.

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If the isobars on a weather map are closer together, the wind will be stronger as the air mass moves faster. The differences in pressure are created by the Sun heating different parts of the Earth's surface by different amounts. As it blows, the wind can be used to turn the propellors on wind turbines. These turn generators (through a system of gears) which generate the electricity. The electricity is then fed into the National Grid.

Your GCSE syllabus requires that you know the pros and cons for the different types of renewable energy resource. It is classed as being renewable rather than sustainable because it does not require human management to ensure that the supply will not run out. The advantages of wind generation are that there are no fuel costs, there are no polluting gases given off and it will be available for as long as wind blows on the planet.

The negative points are very much the same as other renewable energy resources - they don't produce electricity continuously and they don't produce very much electricity when compared to conventional power stations. In order to replace a single oil, coal or nuclear powered electricity generation system, hundreds of the largest wind turbines would be needed. This makes wind generation systems (wind farms) costly to develop. The turbines need installing over a large area and so new infrastructure (roads and cables to carry as well as the turbines) has to be built. Since the most suitable sites for wind generation are often remote windy places with harsh climates, these are often places where wildlife is vulnerable. Building the construction and maintenance roads can destroy habitat and disturb the wildlife. It is also reported that birds are killed as they collide with the propellors.

Some people don't like the swooshing noise that wind turbines make and some believe that it frightens wildlife, driving it away from the area. Not everybody likes to see wind turbines and claim that they spoil the view in the countryside. One way of getting round this objection is to site the turbines in shallow water areas. These are called off-shore wind farms. This doesn't please everyone, some still think that they don't look good and others believe that it could be harming the sea bed ecosystems too.

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  1. Which environmental issue(s) would the use of wind generation help to tackle?
    The use of wind turbines means that some electricity can be generated without burning fossil fuels, reducing the amount of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere
  2. Wind generation is renewable. Which of the following statements is NOT false?
    It is called renewable because it does not require any input from humans in order to create the wind
  3. Which of the following is a disadvantage of wind generation?
    It would take about 2,000 wind turbines to replace a small nuclear power station. This would be extremely expensive, take a very large area and impossible to guarantee that there would be a continuous supply of electricity. That is why governments are likely to prefer nuclear power to wind generation
  4. What is the name given to a collection of wind turbines?
    To make the wind generation as efficient as possible, the turbines need to be arranged in a certain pattern at a certain distance apart. These exact patterns and distances depend on where the wind farm is set up
  5. Some resources need to be managed in order to make sure that they remain available for human use. These resources are referred to as being:
    Burning wood for heating is an example of a sustainable energy resource - but only if trees are planted to replace the ones that are cut down for fuel. The wind is a renewable energy resource
  6. What is an 'off-shore' wind farm?
    Off-shore wind farms can overcome several of the disadvantages of land based wind farms
  7. The device used to generate the electricity from the wind is called a:
    It is more than just a turbine, it contains a generator too
  8. The term NIMBY is an acronym for 'Not In My Back Yard' and is applied to people who object to developments near their home for personal reasons. Which of the following objections might people have to the installation of a wind farm local to their homes?
    They could have other concerns too, for example, the extra traffic passing close to their homes while the wind farm was being built
  9. Which of the following locations would be the least suitable for a wind farm?
    Not all places are suitable for siting a wind farm. The social, economic and environmental issues need to be considered as well as the reliability of the wind and ease of installation of the turbines
  10. Which of the following is an advantage of wind generation?
    Construction of a wind turbine damages the environment - access roads need building, cables to get the electricity to the National Grid need laying across countryside and foundations need digging for the towers that support the turbines

Author: Kev Woodward

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