Wind turbines and wind pumps can be used to produce renewable energy. Wind power equipment ranges from small water pumps and chargers (used to charge batteries at remote locations) to large multi-megawatt wind turbines arranged in wind farms that supply power to the electricity grid.
This equipment has been developed to provide a range of power outputs, from under 100W up to 3MW onshore, and up to 7MW offshore. The overall reliability of wind turbines is high – over 97% availability is standard for modern turbines – and modern machines are designed to have a useful life of about 25 years.
When used for electricity generation, turbines can generate either direct (DC) or alternating (AC) current. The flexibility of design of individual turbine components means that machines can be matched to areas with high, medium or low average wind speeds, from the Arctic to the Sahara, and from mountain tops to locations out at sea.
Wind generation consists of turbines grouped together on one site to form a wind farm, either on- or off-shore. The power from the individual turbines is aggregated at a central point before it is fed through a power line to the point where it connects with the electricity grid. It usually passes through a transformer at the central point to match the voltage to that of the grid. The central point usually doubles as a command point, where computerised equipment can be installed to allow the remote operation of the wind farm. This is particularly important for remote and off-shore wind farms, where adverse weather may prevent access for long periods of time. The UK generates considerable electricity from offshore wind, with support from the Contracts for Difference (CfD) auctions, however onshore wind cannot currently access any direct support.
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