Wind Energy FAQ

[IMAGE]Wind in IowaWhy are we producing wind energy?

Wind is a natural, self-sustaining resource. Our use of wind to produce energy has already lessened our dependence on non-sustainable resources such as oil, gas, and coal.

Why Iowa?

Iowa led the country in wind power generation in 2013. Wind farms in north and west Iowa take advantage of the strong, relatively constant winds in those areas. Iowa economic and energy policies have a history of supporting wind energy. † citation

How much electricity does Iowa get from wind energy today?

In 2013, Iowa produced more than 27 percent of its electricity from wind power. That’s enough electricity to power 1,436,000 homes. New construction projects will boost Iowa’s wind energy capacity by more than 20 percent. † citation

Why is wind energy research part of Iowa NSF EPSCoR?

Wind energy is a significant source of renewable energy in the biosphere. Although wind energy technology has improved, reliability and energy grid management issues remain. Our researchers focus on Iowa’s energy context, in which wind energy plays a major part.

What specific areas of wind energy is Iowa NSF EPSCoR researching?

Our researchers are improving wind turbine reliability, modeling the best placement of wind turbines in the landscape, and finding new electric grid management techniques that will adapt to wind energy use and move the electricity to where it is needed.

How does this work relate to other wind energy research in Iowa?

Iowa NSF EPSCoR researchers work closely with the wind energy industry, other wind energy researchers at the Regent universities, and other organizations such as the Iowa Energy Center to ensure the research is need-based and findings will have maximum impact.

If wind energy is such a good idea, why is it just now catching on?

Wind power costs have decreased significantly in the last decade, thanks to a scale-up of improved and more reliable technology. Even without subsidies, the cost per kilowatt-hour of electricity from wind is now competitive with other forms of energy. † citation

What are the downsides of wind energy?

Wind farms require a large initial investment. Variability, intermittency, and lack of economical storage for the electricity generated relegate the resource to supplemental use. Social, environmental, and aesthetic concerns also limit placement opportunities.

What happens when the wind doesn’t blow?

Clearly the wind doesn’t blow all of the time. This is why we try to build wind farms in areas where there is fairly constant wind. Intermittency in production means wind energy needs to supplement other forms of energy.

Why don’t we just produce all of our electricity with wind?

Wind produces variable amounts of electricity and turbines cannot be turned on or up based on demand. Today’s technology is not able to store electricity in a cost effective way. These are problems our researchers are working to mitigate.

Why are wind energy researchers doing “energy grid” research?

Distributing electricity from wind farms is tricky because the amount of energy produced varies depending on the wind. Also, wind turbines are built where the wind blows strong and constant, often distant from large cities that need the electricity. Our existing power grid assumes we can control energy input levels and that we make electricity close to where we use it. Our researchers are proposing new and retrofitted power infrastructures.