Wind energy is the kinetic energy associated with the movement of atmospheric air. It has been used for sailing, grinding grain, and for irrigation. Wind power is an ancient energy source that has moved into the modern era. Advanced aerodynamics research has developed wind turbines that can produce electricity at a lower cost. Wind energy systems convert kinetic energy to more useful forms of power. The kinetic energy of wind is harnessed and converted into electricity. The rotatory motion of the blades turns the turbine of the electric generator to generate electricity.
The term wind energy system is defined as “a system of components which converts the kinetic energy of the wind into electricity or mechanical power, and which comprises all necessary components, including energy storage, power conditioning, control systems, and transmission systems, where appropriate, to provide electricity or mechanical power for individual, residential, agricultural, commercial, industrial, utility, or governmental use”[i].
Additionally, a small wind energy system means a wind energy system having a maximum rated capacity of 100 kilowatts or less. And a large wind energy system means a wind energy system that is not a small wind energy system[ii].
The importance of wind energy is quoted in the statute as “the early wide-spread utilization of wind energy for the generation of electricity and for mechanical power could lead to relief on the demand for existing non-renewable fuel and energy supplies”[iii].
The most important characteristic of wind energy is that it is renewable energy. Wind energy is derived from air blowing with high speed. Wind energy is harnessed from the blowing of winds. The uneven heating of the earth’s surface by the sun causes wind. Since the heating of the earth will continue forever, wind energy will also be available forever.
There are limitations for extracting wind energy. One of the limitations of extracting energy from wind is that a windmill requires wind with speed greater than 15 km/h to generate electricity. A large number of windmills are required for this purpose and it covers a huge area. These energy sources will not be depleted because their supply is large and extraction of usable energy from these sources is negligible.
The main limitations for extracting energy from the wind are:
- wind energy farms can be established only at places where wind blows for the greater part of a year;
- the wind speed should be greater than 15 km/h for extraction:
- a wind farm requires a large area and the initial cost of establishing a farm is high;
- a wind farm requires high level of maintenance because the tower and blades are exposed to rain, sun and storm; and
- a wind farm requires a back-up with batteries for periods when there is no wind.
Nowadays courts are confronted with the question of whether the maintenance of a wind power facility causes nuisance to neighbors. A nuisance is anything which annoys or disturbs the free use of one’s property or which renders its ordinary use or physical occupation uncomfortable. A private nuisance is a substantial and unreasonable interference with the private use and enjoyment of anther’s land. It has been observed that a lawful business providing wind power facility which has been granted a siting certificate cannot be considered a nuisance[iv].
[i] 42 USCS § 9202.
[iii] 42 USCS § 9201.
[iv] Burch v. NedPower Mount Storm, LLC, 220 W. Va. 443, 457 (W. Va. 2007).