Electricity from the Wind
Kid Reporter tours wind energy farm in New Mexico
Atop a tall mesa in the dry desolate desert of New Mexico stand 136 giant wind turbines, all in motion. The 210-foot turbines are part of the New Mexico Wind Energy Center 20 miles northeast of Fort Sumner—the seventh largest wind generation project in the United States. This wind farm provides clean energy to many surrounding towns and powers facilities and homes in Albuquerque.
"Wind farms are a clean source of electricity without a lot of environmental impact," said Cindy Bothwell, Manager of Integrated Resource Planning for PNM, the company that buys the wind power to sell as electricity to its customers. "Wind farms help our nation's energy supply without creating greenhouse gasses or other pollutants.”
Windy days are necessary for creating wind energy. The wind spins turbine blades like a pinwheel, turning a rotor at the top of the turbine that operates a gearbox, explained Brent Mitchell, site manager of the Wind Energy Center of New Mexico.
Behind the gearbox is a motor that generates electricity when it is turned by the gearbox. It sends the electricity that was made down the turbine, into the grid system. The grid system is run by PNM, which uses the wind power to provide electricity to its customers.
Wind farms also do not have a negative impact on the wildlife in the area.
"We hire people to study where birds fly and when we put up a wind farm, we put it where birds don't like to go,” Bothell told the Scholastic Kids Press Corps during a tour of the facility. “That way a bird wouldn't accidentally run into a wind turbine and get injured.”
Wind energy is also an effective use of space because wind farms are built on farmland. The turbines allow the landowners to continue to use the land as it was before the turbines were erected. If the wind farm project's productive life ends, it leaves no hazardous waste behind to be cleaned up.
The only problem with wind energy is that wind can be unpredictable. Just as bad as no wind is high-speed wind. The turbines are built to shut down if the wind speeds become too powerful.
"In the future we hope to find a way to store the energy so that the wind power could be available upon demand," Bothell said.
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Jacob Schroeder is a member of the Scholastic Kids Press Corps,