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Green Revolution: Wind Power

5 minutes

(Describer) In an animation, different colored icons include a car, a house, a model for hydrogen, and an arrow that looks like lightning. In another one, a woman connects cables. As she laughs and smiles, title: Green Revolution, with Lisa Van Pay PhD (Scientist).

(Describer) Other icons: winds blowing plus magnet times faces with negative signs equals question mark. Title: Wind Power.

(Describer) On an ocean, people windsurf, riding a surfboard and holding onto a sail, cutting through the water and flipping.

(Lisa Van Pay) Wind can be a powerful force.

(Describer) Hurricane footage is shown.

Even though it can be impressive, wind is really just air in motion.

(Describer) A kite takes off.

We can harness this kinetic energy and use it for cooking our food or running our washing machines. All it takes is a little science.

(Describer) Wires are connected on a tabletop wind turbine.

(Describer) Full-size wind turbines spin in different locations outside.

The beauty of wind turbines is that they're 100% clean. They don't belch out pollution or greenhouse gasses, like big power plants. But there's one big problem: no wind, no energy.

(Describer) Title: where can we find more wind? Kathryn Johnson, Electrical Engineer:

(Kathryn Johnson) The wind speed gets higher as you're farther from the ground. A taller turbine catches more wind because there's more wind up there.

(Van Pay) If it must be taller, we should make it bigger. Bigger blades catch more wind energy, yielding more electricity. But there are limits.

(Johnson) Turbines onshore have gotten so big, it's hard to transport them,

(Describer) Parts of the giant windmills are carried on ships.

so we'll put them offshore where we have big barges and bigger cranes and it's actually a little easier.

(Describer) Title: how does this work? Highs winds blow palm trees.

(Van Pay) So at what point does this become this?

(Describer) Two spotlights switch on.

As wind passes by the turbine, the blades rotate. This rotating action turns a magnet inside, which is surrounded by wire coils.

(Describer) The process is shown.

Each time the positive and negative poles of the magnet pass by those coils, they move electrons along the wires. Electrons moving in this way create an electrical current.

(Describer) Title: what if the wind isn't blowing? Lisa enters a building.

I visited the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado to see how researchers are studying wind.

(Describer) She shakes hands with Bill Mahoney, Atmospheric Scientist.

Okay, wind is free and great. How does what you do play into the wind energy story? Well, a very important part of wind energy prediction is trying to tell folks running the electrical system when the wind's gonna blow so they can utilize it. You must blend wind in with all the other power generation sources like coal and natural gas.

(Van Pay) What about regular weather predictions? Is that enough to say whether the wind will blow? Weather predictions on TV will discuss what the average daily wind is likely to be. But the power companies need specific information relating to wind farm location and the time of day.

(Van Pay) Scientists often make predictions based on models, whether they're physical or mathematical.

(Describer) She builds a turbine model.

Models help with predictions, because they can make complex problems simpler. The system we're developing is really special because it takes information from global and local scales in real time and processes all that data, generating a forecast specific to every single wind turbine.

(Van Pay) We know where to find the wind, how to change its energy into electrical energy, and we can predict when the wind will blow strongest. But it isn't always windy enough.

(Describer) Title: what if it were always windy? Clouds move through the sky.

Ever heard of the jet stream? It's a river of wind miles above us moving from 60-250 miles per hour almost always. Researchers are already thinking about ways to harness its energy using kite-like devices. Wind energy is becoming more common, whether it's a few small building turbines, or a huge wind farm helping power a city. Actually, wind is the fastest growing source of renewable energy. Some day, wind might provide all the electricity we could ever need. Or maybe someone will create a better idea. With science, the possibilities are endless. Next time you get yelled at for having your head in the clouds, don't worry, science happens there too.

(Describer) A kite flies against a background of lightning bolts.

(Describer) Icons: winds blowing plus magnet times faces with negative signs equals a wind turbine: three turning blades on a tall tower.

(Describer) Titles: Produced by Lisa Van Pay, Lily Whiteman In a logo, a gold fence surrounds a globe which has the white letters NSF. Funding to purchase and make this educational program accessible was provided by the U.S. Department of Education. Contact the Department of Education by telephone at 1-800-USA-LEARN, or online at www.ed.gov.

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Kathryn Johnson, an electrical engineer at the Colorado School of Mines, studies large utility-scale wind turbines. Kathryn’s research aims to make the turbines more efficient in order to capture as much of the wind’s energy as possible. Viewers also visit NSF’s National Center for Atmospheric Research, where scientists are working with local utility companies to create an advanced wind energy prediction system. Using data from sensors mounted on each turbine, the system generates a forecast specific to each turbine on a wind farm. This helps the utility company provide as much energy as possible from clean sources.

Media Details

Runtime: 5 minutes

Green Revolution
Episode 1
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 2
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 3
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 4
6 minutes
Grade Level: 10 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 5
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 6
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 7
6 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 8
7 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12
Green Revolution
Episode 9
5 minutes
Grade Level: 7 - 12