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Wind: Classroom Activities

The Location of Wind-Power Plants Relative to Wind Power Classes


Goal

To develop a better understanding of how wind power is distributed across the United States.

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Background Information

Wind turbines convert the kinetic energy of wind into electrical energy. The amount of power produced by a wind turbine can vary greatly, depending on the length of its blades and its efficiency. The speed of the wind is also critical. Wind power is economical only in areas with strong, consistent, and steady winds. When the wind speed falls below minimum requirements, people have to rely on backup systems for electricity, including fossil fuel-burning power plants.

Many regions of the United States have a lot of potential for wind power. However, the "quality" of the wind for power generation varies. Locations at high altitudes, such as the Rocky Mountains, generally produce the strongest and most consistent winds. Wind speed also increases over open areas that have no windbreaks, such as the flat Midwest states. The top five States with the largest generation of electricity from wind are Texas, Iowa, California, Minnesota, and Washington.

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Activity Overview

Students analyze a map that shows typical wind velocities in various parts of the United States.

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Materials and Equipment

Energy map (see below) - color copies or projected

Wind Energy Map
Source: The American Geological Institute, EarthComm: Project-Based Space and Earth System Science, 2nd Edition, Armonk, New York: It's About Time, 2012, pg. 785.

Activity

  1. Provide copies of the Wind Energy map to students. Alternatively, project the map for the whole class.
    Wind Energy Map
    Source: The American Geological Institute, EarthComm: Project-Based Space and Earth System Science, 2nd Edition, Armonk, New York: It's About Time, 2012, pg. 785.
  2. Have students examine the map and complete the following:
    1. Which parts of the country have the highest velocity winds?
      The highest velocity winds are in the west, in the Rocky Mountain region.
    2. Which parts of the country have the lowest velocity winds?
      The lowest velocity winds are found in the southwest and southeast.
    3. What is the wind potential of your community?
      Answers will vary.
    4. Which states have electricity-generating wind-power plants?
      According to the map, electricity-generating wind-power plants are located in WA, OR, CA, WY, CO, NM, TX, ND, MN, IO, NE, KS, PA, MA, VT
    5. Describe the relationship between wind velocity and the locations of electricity-generating wind-power plant sites.
      Electricity-generating wind-power plant sites are generally found in areas with relatively high velocity winds.

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