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Electricity can be generated in many ways. In each case, a fuel is used to turn a turbine, which drives a generator, which feeds the grid. The turbines are designed to suit the particular fuel characteristics. Wind generated electricity is no different. The wind is the fuel, but unlike fossil fuels it is free and clean, and otherwise it is just the same. It drives the turbine, which generates electricity.

The politics and economics of wind energy have played an important role in the development of the industry and contributed to its present success. Engineering is, however, pivotal. As the wind industry has become better established, the central place of engineering has become overshadowed by other issues. This is a tribute to the success of engineers and their turbines. Part I addresses the key engineering issues:

  • The wind – its characteristics and reliability – how can it be measured, quantified and harnessed?
  • The turbines – their past achievements and future challenges; covering a range of sizes larger than most other technologies: from 50 W to 5 MW and beyond.
  • The wind farms – an assembly of individual turbines into wind power stations or wind farms – their optimisation and development.
  • Going offshore – the promise of a very large resource, but with major new technical challenges.

Part I provides a historical overview of turbine development, describes the present status and considers future challenges. This is a remarkable story, which started in the nineteenth century and has accelerated over the last two decades of the twentieth century, on a course very similar to the early days of aeronautics. The story is far from finished, but it has certainly started with a vengeance.

Wind must be treated with great respect. The wind speed on a site has a very powerful effect on the economics of a wind farm; it provides both the fuel to generate electricity and the loads to destroy the turbine. Part I describes how it can be quantified, harnessed and put to work in an economic and predictable manner. The long and short-term behaviour of the wind is described. The latter can be successfully forecast to allow wind energy to participate in electricity markets.

The enormous offshore wind resource offers great potential, but with major engineering challenges, especially regarding reliability, installation and access.

Part I explores how this new, vibrant and rapidly expanding industry exploits one of nature’s most copious sources of energy – the wind.

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