It takes a huge amount of research for wind turbine engineers to determine the optimum placement for their wind turbines should be.
In fact, it isn’t uncommon for a site to be researched for at least a year before a decision has been made.
But wind turbines work wherever there is wind, right? Do you really need to put this much effort into determining their location?
Let’s take a look.
Can wind turbines be built anywhere?
In theory, wind turbines can potentially be built anywhere that you want.
After all, everywhere on this planet will receive some wind.
This doesn’t necessarily mean that you would want to place a wind turbine in a random location.
The following would need to be considered:
- How much wind the area gets
- How close the area is to where the power needs to be
- Energy costs in the area.
- The amount of space available
Let’s break this down a little bit.
This one should be fairly obvious.
Since wind turbines are only going to function when the wind is blowing, you need an area that deals with high amounts of wind.
As a result, you will often find that wind turbine are built off-shore or in mountain passes.
There is somewhat of a balancing act here, though.
Wind turbine companies do not want to have their wind turbines placed in extremely windy locations.
This is for a couple of reasons:
- Too much wind will cause the wind turbine to shut down to protect it. This means the wind turbine will not be generating power.
- The heavier the winds, the tougher the wind turbine needs to be. This is expensive.
The area that requires power
It costs a lot of money to transport power from Point A to Point B.
This means that wind turbines tend to need to be built close to areas that require power.
The further the wind turbine is built away from these points, the costlier it becomes to run the wind farm. This can reduce profits.
Energy costs in the area
This is going to be more of a commercial consideration as opposed to one that is going to be impacting the average person.
Wind farms, of course, exist to make a profit.
This means that the companies behind them often want to place the wind farms in the places with the highest energy costs.
While the wind farm will reduce energy costs slightly, they will still be able to make a decent amount of cash.
Surprisingly, wind farms do not take up a huge amount of space for the amount of power they can generate.
However, they do still need an amount of unhindered space.
You can’t put a wind farm in the center of a city, for instance.
The buildings would block the airflow into the wind turbine which will drastically reduce its power generation.
Where are the best places to build wind turbines?
The best place to put a wind turbine will always be out to sea.
As long as it is close enough to the shore that the power can be routed to where it needs to be.
Some of the best places to put the wind turbines will actually be close to mountain passes on land.
This is because mountain passes are able to route the wind in such a way that it only hits the wind turbine from a single direction.
The winds also tend to be pretty calm too, which is ideal for wind turbines as you do not want to be putting them through a lot of turbulence.
In fact, many of the earliest wind farms in the United States were built close to these mountain passes for that reason.
Contrary to popular belief, you would not want to put the wind turbine up as high as possible, though.
The higher the wind turbine gets, the thinner the air becomes.
Thin air is not going to be able to move the wind turbine blades quite as effectively.
This is why we are not placing wind turbines at the top of mountains, even if there would be a huge amount of wind there.
Ideally, wind turbines would be placed on flat pieces of land with no buildings, large trees, or anything similar in the close vicinity.
This will prevent obstacles from slowing down the wind which, of course, means that they gain the full force of the wind.
Before any wind turbine is placed, wind surveys will take place over the course of a year to determine whether it is a viable place to put them.
How much space do wind turbines take up?
Not as much as you would think.
The average wind turbine is capable of meeting the power needs of over 3,000 homes.
So, obviously, you need a fair number of them to power an entire town or city.
The thing with wind turbines is that you can’t place them too closely together.
If you do, wind power generation goes down as each turbine will be blocking the other turbines.
On average, you should have about three blade lengths of space between each wind turbine.
Since some blades can be up to 50-feet in length, this means each pair of turbines will take up 250-feet of horizontal space, which isn’t all that much.
A lot of these wind turbines can be placed in locations that do not really hold that much value beyond wind generation.
For example, you will find them on many ranches in the US when the land has little value.
It is also one of the main reasons why you find them out there at sea.
The area isn’t being used, so why not stick a load of wind turbines out there?
While wind turbines can be built pretty much anywhere you want, there isn’t much sense in it.
A wind turbine built in the wrong location likely wouldn’t generate all that much in the way of energy.
Most wind turbine installers will spend well over a year analyzing a location to ensure that it is going to be suitable for wind turbine usage.