Mike's Weather U On the Road: The Power of Wind, Part 2

The United States Department of Energy has a goal called 20 by 30. That's to have 20 percent of the United States energy consumption come from wind power by the year 2030.

Wind is a growing source of energy right here in Indiana and Michigan. It's something local researchers are also looking into.

The power of the wind is captured by these wind turbines in Northwest Indiana. With the help of government subsidies for research and construction, Indiana is leading the country in growing this alternative energy source.

“They are all 1.5 mega watts and one is 2.1 mega watts. But they are all
pretty close to the same sized tower,” Mike Schernecker from Horizon Wind Energy said.

While the tower and the blades are impressive from the ground you really don't get an idea of how big these blades are until you stand right beside them.

The cost to build them is big too, about $4 million per tower. Each turbine powers about 500 homes meaning the wind farms in northwest Indiana will power half a million homes by the end of this year.

Dr. Thomas Corke is a Professor of Aerospace and Mechanical Engineering at Notre Dame. He's been working with wind power for decades.

“The problem is you can only go so big and the weight of the rotor is getting so much that the cost of the wind turbine is getting excessive,” Dr. Corke said

“In one study we did, we increased the diameter of the rotor and then using flow control we didn't increase the weight. And so net cost per power is going down,” Dr. Corke added

The Government and private industry likes what Notre Dame is discovering. As a result, millions of dollars of research money has come to the School of Engineering. Next year, Notre Dame will install its own wind turbine.

“These wind turbines we are going to purchase will be the first outdoor application of these. One of the things we have to learn is how our flow control devices withstand the weather,” Dr. Corke said.

Farmer Keith Morgan watches the weather every day. He is also keeping records of the noise level created by the wind farm covering his neighbors land.

“Everyday I write the wind speed off my DTM, and write down noisy, real noisy, somewhat noisy,” Morgan said.

“For me the noise that they put off they should be zoned industrial,” Morgan added

“It's not so much the sound you hear but the sound you feel. There is some low frequency sound components to this that bother people. Some people don't like the appearance of them. So, as a result wind turbines are not located in high populated areas,” Dr. Corke said.

What about the population of birds flying around? Some say these 80 meter structures can be deadly to them.

“That's pretty much a myth. A thousand times more birds are killed by home pets that are cats than are killed by wind turbines,” Dr. Corke said.

Professor Corke is a proponent of wind energy and research also points in a positive direction.

“Wind energy is completely a renewable source, nuclear is not. Solar is renewable but is more expensive per kilowatt hour,” Corke said.

They have a long life time. They are warranted for 20 years and possible of lifetime of 30 years,” Corke added

What about the 20 by 30 goal?

“If that would go into effect that would save one billion gallons of water a year, that would otherwise be used to make electricity,” Corke said.

“It would require to purchase and install about 200,000 new wind turbines around the U.S. There is plenty of capacity of wind and plenty of places that this can be done,” Corke said.

In our area, LaPorte County is looking at putting up almost 100 turbines. Obviously, most American families cannot afford one of these wind turbines.

Thursday, Just Before 6 we go on the road and talk to a Michiana company, and ask why they're now selling wind turbines.

We'll also talk to a local family that has been capturing the power of wind for over a year now.

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