Discovery Guides Areas


Capturing the Wind: Power for the 21st Century
(Released June 2008)

  by Ethan Goffman  


Key Citations

Visual Resources

News & Scholars

Resources Journals
Historical Newspapers


  1. The Power of Wind: It'll Blow You Away

    Camenson, Marcee; Finchum, Michelle
    Green Teacher 04-01-2004

    CAPTURING THE WIND'S ENERGY to do work is a practice as old as recorded history. The wind was harnessed more than 4,000 years ago to power the sailing vessels of early explorers and traders; and the first windmills were being used to grind grain and pump water in Persia in the 10th century. By the 14th century, windmills were draining fields in the Netherlands and moving water for irrigation in France. In North America during the 1800s, millions of windmills were built to pump water for fields and livestock, making it possible for settlers to move onto the semi-arid lands of the west. Windmills designed to produce electricity - a Danish innovation in 1891 - enabled people in rural areas to make their own electricity for powering lights, tools and, later, radios. Despite its long service to society, however, wind power's days seemed to be drawing to a close in the 1930s. As demand for energy grew and electrical grids were extended to rural areas, millions of small-scale windmills fell into disuse, replaced by large-scale generating plants burning cheap and abundant fossil fuels.

    Few could have predicted the renaissance of wind power that is underway today. Due to technological improvements and declining costs, wind power is the world's fastest growing energy source. Worldwide, wind power capacity quadrupled between 1997 and 2002, an average increase of 32 percent per year.1 Utility-scale wind turbines are now supplying electricity to homes and industries in 32 American states and 7 Canadian provinces and territories. About 80 percent of the world's present wind power capacity is in Europe, however. In Denmark, one-fifth of all electricity comes from wind power, and Germany alone has twice as much wind-generated electricity as all of North America.

    Wind power is an important renewable alternative to the burning of fossil fuels to generate electricity for our homes, businesses, and schools. Unlike conventional coal-, oil - or gas-fired power plants, wind turbines emit no air pollutants or greenhouse gases. Apart from the materials needed to build them, they require no drilling, mining, transportation or importing of resources. In addition, unlike nuclear power plants, wind turbines do not leave behind dangerous by-products. Gas, coal and nuclear plants use a tremendous of amount of water, a particularly significant factor in regions where water is scare.

    So why hasn't everyone switched over to wind power? One reason is that wind turbines produce an intermittent rather than a steady supply of electricity because the wind doesn't blow everywhere all the time. However, wind power is easily supplemented with energy from other sources; and as more wind turbines are built and wind power capacity expands, wind turbines can be networked so that energy produced on a slow day in one region can be supplemented with energy from other regions where the wind is blowing. Another limitation has been the high initial cost of wind power. Wind farms are generally located in rural areas, and transmission lines and substations must be installed to send the energy to the utility's customers. Despite the initial investment required, the cost of wind power has declined by 80 percent over the past 20 years as more wind turbines have been built and the technology has improved.2 Proponents of wind power also point out that comparisons of the costs of wind power and non-renewable energy sources fail to take into account government subsidies for oil and gas development, as well as future increases in the cost of these fossil fuels.

    As concerns about climate change and air pollution cause us to rethink our energy options, wind power offers a source of clean, non-polluting electricity that can contribute to the health of our planet. Exploring the topic with students is a fantastic way to get them interested in renewable energy and to introduce them to a not-so-new but increasingly important technology for the future. . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary Science

  2. Winds of Change

    Jozefowicz, Chris
    Current Science 09-21-2007

    Virginia residents are fighting the construction of a wind farm.

    An ill wind is blowing through Virginia. At least that's what some residents are saying as developers move closer to erecting 19 windmills on the green hills in the western part of the state. The giant fans would be the state's first wind farm, a cluster of windmills that generates electricity.

    The farm, called the Highland New Wind Development, is planned for a ridge of hills in Highland County near the town of Monterey. Backers of the farm say wind power is a critical source of environmentally friendly energy. It doesn't pollute the air, and wind is a renewable resource, one that doesn't run out.

    Some residents fear, however, that the giant windmills will annoy people and harm the environment in other ways. "I think that wind energy is very clean," admits Larry Held, a local resident, "but this is not the right place for a wind farm."


    Wind power is increasingly popular around the world. In this country, 36 states now have farms that turn the wind's kinetic energy, or energy of motion, into electricity. "Wind energy wasn't even on the horizon as recently as the 1980s," says Mary English, an authority on wind power at the University of Tennessee. "Now it has become prominent." . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary Science

  3. Wind Energy: Power from the Prairie

    Rebenitsch, Ron
    The Futurist 01-01-2007

    Serious investment in wind production could yield cheap energy.

    It is one of those rare times when the North Dakota prairie is silent. All is quiet, except for the call of a bird and the yip of a coyote in the distance. In this part of the country, such stillness does not last long and soon the air begins to stir. A breeze begins to flow across the land, reaching the blades of the giant wind turbines-alert sentinels on the prairie quietly waiting for the wind to bring them to life.

    The breeze reaches a gentle 3 mph and slowly begins rotating the wind turbine's three giant white fiberglass blades, each 120 feet long and weighing 16,000 pounds. The breeze must then increase to 8 mph before the turbines can begin to produce electricity. At that point, the wind turbine only generates 25 kilowatts of electricity-just enough for a few homes. However, as the wind picks up more speed, the amount of power generated by the turbine increases rapidly. It is going to be another windy day on the Dakota prairie, and electricity generated from the wind begins to flow to the cities and towns of the region.

    Wind energy from the Great Plains has the potential to develop into a significant energy source for the United States, and wind energy projects are beginning to appear in areas that have seen little economic activity since the Depression of the 1930s.

    North Dakota has often been called the "Saudi Arabia of Wind" because of the steady and consistent winds sweeping across the prairie. A study sponsored by the Department of Energy ranked North Dakota as the top U.S. state for its potential to produce wind energy. Until recently, California generated the most wind energy of any state due to its early and widespread development of wind projects; however, California's total potential is far behind most of the Plains states, which contain good to excellent wind resources and promise to be a growing source of energy in years to come. Just recently, Texas surpassed California in wind generation and is continuing to add wind projects at a hurricane pace. . . .

    For full-text documents see ProQuest's eLibrary Science

News Articles taken from ProQuest's eLibrary.

Historical Newspapers

  1. The Best and Cheapest Power
    Chicago Press and Tribune (1858-1860) Chicago, Ill.: Sep 23, 1859 1 pgs

    he wind-mill has been known and recognized for centuries as useful, but was long and seemingly hopelessly a fickle and inconstant power. To harness the winds to the shaft, and belt down the currents of air to their work, was reserved for the inventor of the Haliaday Mill, the pioneer in self-regulating wind machinery. Imitation is sincere flattery, and the number. . . .

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

    N.S. Shaler
    Los Angeles Times. Los Angeles, Calif.: Sep 10, 1901. pg. 7

    TIS an interesting fact that all the forms of energy which have been and which, so far ax we can see, can possibly be turned to use in the service of man, do not come from or reside in the earth, but are transitory visitants from. . . .

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

  3. Re-Inventing the Windmill--And Selling It
    New York Times. New York, N.Y.: Mar 16, 1975. pg. F15

    What's the latest in energy for the home--nuclear, solar, atomic, gasified coal?.

    Original Newspaper Image (PDF)

Taken from ProQuest's Historical Newspapers.
  1. Rebecca Jane Barthelmie
    Associate Scientist, Department of Geography, Indiana University Bloomington
    Exploitation of offshore areas for wind power has two main advantages-higher wind speeds than. . . . For wind energy purposes it is therefore necessary to use a predictive method. Most techniques use. . ., the particular problems which wind energy production presents in the coastal zone are considered.

  2. Rajesh Karki
    Assistant Professor, Department of Electrical & Computer Engineering, University of Saskatchewan
    appropriate wind power penetration in an existing power system from both the reliability and economic. . . sources have resulted in rapid growth of wind energy applications in power generating systems. It is important to assess the actual cost and benefit of utilizing wind energy in a power system

  3. David Toke
    Senior Lecturer, Department of Sociology, University of Birmingham
    wind power and other energy issues; green political theory; epistemological and ontological issues. . . . Prior to 1997 he wrote numerous articles and two books on energy and environmental themes. Since then he has focused solely on academic research. He has written two books and numerous articles

  4. Charles R. Warren
    Senior Lecturer, School of Geography & Geosciences, University of St Andrews
    The wind energy debate represents a new kind of environmental controversy which divides. . . are supported by this study. Large majorities favour wind power development in principle and in (local. . . institutional factors driving wind energy development with those during earlier eras of hydro-power

  5. Joe M. Szewczak
    Assistant Professor, Department of Biological Sciences, Humboldt State University
    Acoustic Monitoring of Bats, in Methods and Metrics for Studying Impacts of Wind Energy Development on Nocturnal Species (Birds and Bats), T.H. Kunz, ed. National Wind Coordinating Committee (NWCC. . . to bats: a preliminary investigation. An investigative report submitted to the Bats and Wind Energy

Scholars taken from ProQuest's Community of Scholars