Wind Energy: How does it work?
January 11 2017, 09:31 AM
The future of energy is changing, and we’re changing with it. We’re already planning for how we’ll meet New Brunswickers’ energy needs over the next 25 years. One key element of that is seeing how renewable energy sources fit into our generation mix.
Today in New Brunswick, there’s 294 MW of clean wind energy available to the power grid. This energy is supplied by 113 wind turbines located at 3 wind farms in Lamèque, Kent Hills and near Bathurst.
As we look ahead at the part wind energy could play in New Brunswick’s energy future, let’s see how it works.
Wind power is one of the simplest forms of energy and its plain to see how. You can even watch the spinning blades on top of the turbines while you are driving along the highway.
The blades on these wind turbines are similar to aircraft wings in their design, allowing the wind to move faster over one side of the blade to give it momentum. The blades catch the wind and spin, which then prompts a generator on top of the turbine to rotate, which then produces electricity.
Even though the blades may appear to move quite slowly from the road or ground, out at the tip of the blade, they can reach speeds of 300km/hour. That’s about the same speed as the race-winning car in the 1976 Indy 500. In other words- they move really, really fast.
Location is important for these wind farms- areas that naturally have higher wind speeds is the single most important factor in determining location. They also come equipped with sensors that turn the whole unit so it is always facing the wind.
Each of the 50 turbines at the Kent Hills wind farm, just outside Petitcodiac, has the capacity to produce 3 MW of electricity- 150 MW for the whole facility. It produces enough energy to power approximately 26,000 New Brunswick homes.
Supply and demand
Wind facilities run differently from traditional generating stations on our grid. Traditional stations respond to the demand for electricity and use more or less fuel to balance out that demand. Wind farms can only make power when it is windy – regardless of the demand.
Because of the variable nature of wind, operators at these wind farms work to predict the wind speeds a few days in advance so they can help energy companies like NB Power to put this energy onto the grid.
NB Power takes these predictions and balances other sources of energy to make sure there’s a steady supply of electricity for customers at all times, while making sure we get the most out of our clean wind sources.