Wind energy is harnessed through a wind turbine that utilizes blades to generate mechanical energy. The blades are attached to a main shaft within the turbine that spins a series of gears linked to a generator that convert the mechanical energy into electrical energy which can then be used at the source of generation, or added to the gridded power supply.
The productivity of a wind turbine is referred to as the capacity factor, which is the amount of power produced in a given time compared to what the generator could produce if it ran at full capacity for that time. Typical capacity factors are 20 to 25 percent, and wind turbines are available in a wide range of sizes.
The most viable wind resources in Wisconsin are in the southern third of the state. According to the National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL), the statewide wind resource is estimated to be 103,757 MW at 80 meters of altitude. Wisconsin’s wind resources have the potential to provide over four (4) times the state’s electricity demand through utility-scale resource development. According to the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA), as of August 2011, there were 469 MW of wind capacity online in Wisconsin. In addition, there were 162 MW under construction and 908 MW proposed during the year. The majority of the wind installations in the state are owned and operated by utilities.
Wind turbines can power everything from lighting and air conditioning to an entire home, small farm, or business. Grid-connected systems are the most common form of wind turbines today. When more energy is produced than is consumed, net metering allows the electric meter to run backwards, crediting the customer for the excess electricity.
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