Many households and organisations are making use of renewable energy on a daily basis. Australia is quickly becoming a global leader in renewables thanks to falling solar energy prices. However, solar is not the only renewable energy source at work. We are also making use of wind power generation, but how are these tall turbines manufactured and how do they provide power?
Wind turbines work by converting kinetic energy from the wind into rotary mechanical energy. And this can be transformed into electricity with the help of a generator. All these pieces of machinery require specific metals and other natural resources.
Since the early days of European settlement in Australia, tall multi-vane wind turbines were used on farms and homes to pump water into the plumbing system of houses or into the watering trough of cattle, they were also used to grind grain.
By the 1970s, wind turbines were being used for generating electricity. The wind turbine models of today have come a long way since then thanks to advances in technology.
A single wind turbine is built with:
- 303 tonnes of steel
- 42 tonnes of copper
- 1,088 tonnes of concrete
- 72 tonnes of aluminium
- 8 tonnes of rare earth elements
Components of a Wind Turbine
A wind turbine includes the following basic components:
Tower – This is constructed with steel – an alloy of iron and carbon. Some turbines have a steel tubular tower with an inner ladder, while others use a steel lattice tower. The tower must be strong enough to absorb the heavy static loads due to the varying power of wind.
Rotor blades – These convert wind energy into rotary mechanical movement. Currently, the three-blade horizontal axis rotor is the most common arrangement of blades. The rotor blades are mainly constructed of reinforced carbon-fibre plastics or glass fibre. The blade profile is similar to that of an aeroplane wing.
Nacelle with drivetrain – All turbine machinery is held in the nacelle. This is the housing around the generating components of the wind turbine.
These components include:
- The generator – which is made with a copper wire and an iron core
- The gearbox – which is constructed from aluminium, stainless steel or brass
- The brake assembly – which is created with brass, aluminium or steel
Electronic equipment – The wind turbine’s electronic equipment is made up of many minerals. Copper is often used for its excellent conductivity and malleability. Nickel, chromium, aluminium, lead, silver, tin and rare earth metals are also used. These metals go into components such as resistors, capacitors and transducers.
Other components – The wind turbine includes components for heating, cooling, following wind direction, lifting gear and fire extinguishing equipment. The last two components are constructed using various metals including aluminium, copper, nickel, chromium and more.
The Future of Wind Turbines
There is constant research into improving wind resource knowledge, and enhancing machinery. The strong Australian winds are perfect to power wind farms across the country and into the future, with the resources needed to build them right at our doorstep.