ENVIRONMENT: Harnessing the power of winds

Most of the electricity generated in the Philippines comes from fossil fuels. In fact, about 70% of it and 90% are generated from coal and oil resources, which are imported at varying prices from other nations.

“With fossil-fuel prices continually rising due to dwindling supplies and soaring demand, the cost of our electricity shall rise even further. The best solution is to use existing renewable energy resources to shield us from the cost volatility of fossil fuels,” said Atty. Angela Consuelo “Gia” Ibay, climate change head of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) in the Philippines.

According to WWF, the country’s continued reliance on imported fuel contributes to the high electricity rate in the country today.

As such, WWF bats for clean and renewable sources of energy. Among those that the Philippines have few competitive advantages – as the country has no significant deposits of fossil fuels are geothermal, hydro, wind, and solar energy.

One renewable energy source that the country should pay attention to is that of wind power. “Wind energy in the Philippines offers a clean, abundant, and economically viable solution for reducing reliance on fossil fuels and driving sustainable development,” wrote Princess Catherine Pabellano for billionbricks.org.

According to Pabellano, the most important geographic advantage of the country for wind energy is its location. “The country is located in the western Pacific Ocean, where the prevailing winds are strong and consistent,” she wrote. “This makes the Philippines a prime location for wind turbines, which can generate electricity from the wind’s kinetic energy.”

Another geographic advantage is its terrain. “The country has a diverse terrain, including mountains, hills, and coastal areas,” she explained. “These different elevations create wind patterns that are ideal for wind energy generation.”

Still another advantage: the water bodies that surround the country, referring to the South China Sea, the Philippine Sea, and the Celebes Sea. “These water bodies can also generate strong winds that can be used to power wind turbines,” she wrote.

“Across the developing world, countries are beginning to see the way the wind is blowing,” said Klaus Toepfer, former executive director of United Nations Environment Program (UNEP). “Once it was believed that only one percent of their area was suitable for wind power.”

Not anymore. “The serious development of wind power in modern times began in 1973 after the oil crisis shook the confidence of the developed world that oil was there for the asking,” said Dr. Leon Freris, a visiting professor of renewable energy at the Centre for Renewable Energy Systems Technology in Loughborough University in England.

“Today, wind power is the fastest growing energy source in several regions of Europe, with the United States and India following behind in total installed capacity. And the potential is enormous,” Dr. Freris added.

In Denmark, for instance, wind energy now contributes 13 percent of national energy consumption, the highest proportion of any country in the world. When the wind blows strongly, wind energy supplies more than half the electricity in the western half of the country.

Lester Brown, of the Washington-based Earth Policy Institute, said more than 70 countries are now developing wind resources. “Between 2000 and 2010, world wind electric generating capacity increased at a frenetic pace from 17,000 megawatts to nearly 200,000 megawatts,” he wrote in “Harnessing Wind, Solar, and Geothermal Energy,” a chapter which appeared in the book, World on the Edge: How to Prevent Environmental and Economic Collapse.

The Philippines, home to more than 7,000 islands, is following suit. In fact, wind power now makes up a small percentage of the total energy output of the country.

Onshore wind farms include Burgos Wind Farm in Ilocos Norte, Caparispisan Wind Farm in Pagudpod, Ilocos Norte; Pililla Wind Farm in Rizal, and San Lorenzo Wind Farm in Guimaras.

According to the WWF, there are more than 1,000 wind sites in the northern and central Philippines, with a potential capacity of at least 7,400 megawatts – enough to power 19 million homes.

Meanwhile, the Department of Energy (DoE) is reportedly batting for the development of offshore wind (OSW) power to ramp up local indigenous supply amid growing demand.

“Based on the Philippines OSW Roadmap launched in 2022, the country has about 178 gigawatts or GW of OSW potential,” wrote Daily Tribune’s Maria Bernadette Romero.

According to Romer, “the DoE has awarded a total of 79 OSW contracts with a total potential capacity of 61.931 GW, spread mainly North of Luzon, West of Metro Manila, North and South of Mindoro, Panay and Guimaras Strait.”

“Wind is the movement of air from an area of high pressure to an area of low pressure,” the National Geographic explains. “In fact, wind exists because the sun unevenly heats the surface of the Earth. As hot air rises, cooler air moves in to fill the void. As long as the sun shines, the wind will blow. And as long as the wind blows, people will harness it to power their lives.”

Today, people are realizing that wind power “is one of the most promising new energy sources” that can serve as an alternative to fossil fuel-generated electricity. Wind power is the conversion of wind energy into a useful form of energy, such as using wind turbines to make electrical power, windmills for mechanical power, wind pumps for water pumping or drainage, or sails to propel ships.

Wikipedia reports that people have taken advantage of wind power for thousands of years. The first known use was in 5000 BC when people used sails to navigate the Nile River. Persians had already been using windmills for 400 years by 900 AD to pump water and grind grain. Windmills may have even been developed in China before 1 AD, but the earliest written documentation comes from 1219. Cretans were using “literally hundreds of sail-rotor windmills (to) pump water for crops and livestock.”

The Dutch were responsible for many refinements of the windmill, primarily for pumping excess water off land that was flooded. The windmill was further refined in the late 19th century in the United States; some designs from that period are still in use today. The first large windmill to produce electricity was the “American multi-blade design,” built in 1888. Its 12-kilowatt capabilities were later superseded by modern 70–100-kilowatt wind turbines.

“Wind turbines for electricity generation are essentially simple devices, though their design requires deep understanding of the properties of wind, aerodynamics as well as mechanical and electrical engineering,” explains Dr. Freris.

The kinetic energy in the wind is intercepted by three or two rotating, slender blades. The action of these blades is to extract energy from the wind by slowing it down. This extracted energy first appears as mechanical energy on the turbine shaft and then as electrical energy from a generator coupled to the shaft through a gearbox.

“The power in the wind is proportional to the cube of the wind speed, hence doubling of the wind speed results in an eight-fold increase in electrical power generated,” informs. Dr. Freris. “Wind turbines are designed to stop if the wind speed becomes excessive and do not rotate if the wind speed is too low for useful energy extraction.”

Wind turbines are usually congregated in wind farms, consisting of few or as many as 100 machines. By installing several machines on a site, the costs of connection to the electricity grid and the operation and maintenance costs are reduced.

Wind energy is environment-friendly. “Wind energy can help to protect the environment by reducing air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions,” Pabellano wrote.

But of course, wind power should not be the only source of electricity. Generally, hydroelectricity complements wind power very well. When the wind is blowing strongly, nearby hydroelectric plants can temporarily hold back their water, and when the wind drops, they can rapidly increase production again giving a very even power supply.

The answer is not only blowing in the wind, but the future is based on it. As singer Peter Frampton wrote: “The future’s in the air, I can feel it everywhere; blowing with the wind of change…”


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